Over three decades ago now, the future BBC Director General and then MD of Radio Ian Trethowan accused Sir Jimmy Young of putting “forty percent effort” into his Radio 1 shows and challenged the housewives favourite to pull his finger out.
“You put the records on,” growled Trethowan, “then sit back and read the paper.” Somewhat slighted, Jim rose to the bait and declaimed from the Broadcasting House rooftop garden, “I want to be free to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, as long as my gut feeling tells me it will interest my listeners!” As we know, said gut feeling ultimately turned into a hip complaint, which subsequently shuttled him off air at the end of 2002. At the time, Creamguide paid tribute to the mobile commode ((C) T Wogan) maestro in a salute to what Ian Trethowan initially wanted to call The Jimmy Young Programme With Jimmy Young:
* The very first Jimmy Young Programme was broadcast on July 2nd 1973, and just two days later Jim had already acquitted himself to unsheathing life’s particularly delicate problems. “Is the most widely used method of contraception still the condom, Dr Smith?” Jim quizzed a visiting GP. “Do you by any chance mean the French letter?” came the doctor’s stern response, to which a weak-kneed Jim could only reply, “Erm, yes, I suppose I do.” “Well if you mean French letters, why don’t you say so,” snapped the Doctor. “I had learned that people don’t want to be ‘protected’ from the truth,” reflected a sadder but wiser Jim later.
* Jim decided to spend the show on Friday 23 November 1973 celebrating a particularly notable occasion. It was, of course, the first appearance by Uri Geller on the British airwaves. Jim has always made great play of the fact that Geller made his debut in this country on his show and not, as is always claimed, on the small screen. “In fact, we had already stopped Britain’s clocks and bent Britain’s forks many hours before television tried it, as Uri makes clear in his book My Story.” Sadly the object Jim utilised to secure this claim to fame was his chief researcher’s front door key, who was later arrested trying to climb into his flat via a balcony window.
* In January 1976 a witness giving evidence in Bedford Crown Court claimed he was sure he had spotted an accused man at the time he said he had because he’d heard a time check on Jim’s show. The defending barrister added, dryly, “And Jimmy Young is, as we know, extremely reliable at giving out the time.” “Who is Jimmy Young?” muttered the judge. Suffice to say it was headline news in the following morning’s Daily Mirror, which Jim quoted from at length during that day’s show. Several times.
* Jim had spy holes fitted to the front door of his house after a woman discharged herself from a nearby psychiatric hospital, marched round to Jimmy’s place, rang the bell and as he opened the door barged past announcing “I’ve come to stay with you and the children.” “Everyone seemed to think it was very funny,” snorted Jim later, “which it wasn’t. The general line was, ‘If she’d been eighteen and 36-24-36 I’ll bet we’d never have heard a peep out of you.‘”
* A listener called Charles Roberts appeared on the show to claim his tomato plants had grown to their impressive stature thanks to being exposed to Jim’s dulcet tones. Moreover, when the Programme wasn’t on the air the eponymous vegetation withered and died. “Just fancy,” Jim later quipped to the Sunday Mirror, “I’ve been talking to a load of sensitive adolescent tomatoes for months and I never knew.” A million readers responded: and the plants?
* In the old days when the “Prog” used to be on just after Wogan, Jim’s bantering and bartering with Tel supposedly even got Her Majesty tuning in. “Within a week we were discussing suspender belts; during week two, the merits of cammi-knickers as opposed to knickers with tight gussets.” The upshot was, naturally, a novelty single: ‘Two Heads Are Better Than One’, which, naturally, failed to chart.
* Jim had a very direct approach to dealing with his engineering team. On being repeatedly hailed “JIMMY – COME – OUT – HERE – NOW!” he simply “put down the key on my side of the glass and say, equally slowly and loudly, ‘ALAN – PLEASE – DON’T – BLOODY – SHOUT!‘” It never failed. “It never fails!” Thanks Jim.
* Lest we forget, Jim’s eye for the ladies did, at one point, become a topic of conversation amongst the largest population in the world. While attending one of BBC executive Aubrey Singer’s legendary receptions for Chinese dignitaries, Jim was accosted by one of the guests with a gag. “I know what you should call your show,” began the Chinese gentleman. “The current *affairs* of Jimmy Young!” How everyone laughed.
* Lastly, Jim was also one of the hosts of the first ever UK Telethon – on Thames Television – in 1980. Held at Wembley Conference Centre, the occasion was memorable for Jim leading his co-presenters Rolf Harris and Joan Shenton through the musical number ‘You gotta make those telephones ring’; Paul Daniels addressing a member of the audience “OK Sandra, you’ve got a lovely leg. What a pity about the other one too”; Petula Clark singing, “God bless the child who can stand up and sing”; and Rolf repeatedly accosting passing celebrities with the salutation, “Your blood’s worth bottling!” As Clive James wrote, “As for the handicapped children, they gain some of the means of life – but life in what kind of world? To do what? To watch Bernie Winters host a darts competition?”