almost top of the pops – kenny

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

12th April 1975

Kenny

‘Fancy Pants’ was the second of four chart hits for Kenny, the band who four months earlier had peaked at #3 in the UK charts with their version of ‘The Bump.’ We’ll come back to that, shall we?

As with their other three singles successes, ‘Fancy Pants’ was written by the successful Bill Martin and Phil Coulter partnership. It was they who had penned Sandie Shaw’s 1967 Eurovision Song Contest winner, ‘Puppet on a String,’ and Cliff Richard’s runner-up the following year,‘Congratulations.’ So, a decent pedigree, then.

The band though were not all they seemed.

Let’s take a step back.

In October 1974, the Bay City Rollers released what would become their fifth hit, ‘All Of Me Loves All Of You.’ The B-side, which was also written and produced by Martin and Coulter, was ‘The Bump.’ However, it did not feature the band playing their instruments. Instead, seasoned session musicians were used.   

Bay City Rollers earlier version of ‘The Bump’ – though attributing it to them may be stretching it a bit.

Around that time, an Irish vocalist from the Martin / Coulter stable decided to retire. His performing name was Kenny. The writers then opted to give some of their songs to a ‘band’ and used their former artist’s moniker as a vehicle for their own compositions. One of the first they released was ‘The Bump.’

With the song already known and having had airplay as the Bay City Rollers’ B-side, it sold well and entered the charts in December of that year. Success though brought the necessity of promotion and public appearances. But of course, there was no such band as Kenny. And the track that had proved so popular was actually just the backing track from the Bay City Rollers’ version, with new vocals added! (You see, The Rollers hadn’t played on their version either!)

So began a frantic search for a band to ‘front’ the song on Top of the Pops and other shows / teen magazines.

What led Martin and Coulter to a banana warehouse in North London, I have no idea – but that’s where they found a bunch of likely looking lads rehearsing under the name Chuff.

Kenny (and bananas.)

Signing them there and then, changing their name to Kenny and bringing in a new lead vocalist in Richard Driscoll, the writers / producers managed to secure them a contract with Mickie Most’s RAK label, and they were off. Their other three singles of the time hit the higher echelons of the chart: ‘The Bump’ reached #3 in December of ’74; ‘Baby I Love You OK’ (which I’d completely forgotten about) peaked at #12, and ‘Julie Anne’ at #10.

You’ll recognise it when the chorus kicks in!

In all, they spent thirty-nine weeks in the Top 40 between December 1974 and August ’75 – there was some overlap between ‘The Bump’ and ‘Fancy Pants,’ just in case anyone was counting!

Their success was short lived, but for most of 1975, they were everywhere. I remember their pictures on my sister’s bedroom wall and their catchy, bouncy, fun songs were hugely popular at the school disco.

They released one album towards the end of 1975 which was basically made up of their singles and some ‘filler’ material. Interestingly, one track is the original version of what would later become a #1 for Slik‘Forever and Ever.’ Indeed, Slik frontman, Midge Ure, would later confess his surprise that all he had to do was sing over the top of the same backing track the Martin / Coulter session musicians had produced for the version on the Kenny album!

What was it Johnny Rotten once said: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

However, as they didn’t write their own hits and didn’t play their instruments on their hits, there was very little money to be made. They tried to break free from the Martin / Coulter arrangement, and a court case ensued when the writers stood firm on their assertion that they ‘owned’ the band name ‘Kenny.

The court ruled in favour of the band though, and freed of their shackles, they signed with Polydor, released another single ‘Hot Lips’ and an album ‘Ricochet’ – before vanishing completely. (Although they did rather ironically, provide the backing to the theme tune of ‘Minder’ over which Denis Waterman sang the lyrics.)

Kenny had surfed the tail end of the Glam Rock wave. I have to say, I’ve always enjoyed a bit of cheesy glam. They were fun while they lasted, although with all the controversy over not playing their instruments on their hits, I can sympathise with the words of Vernon Joynson who states in his excellent ‘Tapestry of Delights’ book … ‘they are eminently forgettable.’

A tad harsh, methinks, for this day in 1975, Kenny and their ‘Fancy Pants’ were ALMOST Top of the Pops.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – April 2022)



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