With Chris Evans being currently in the news after the announcement that he is to be the new ‘Top Gear’ presenter, I thought it was apt to illustrate this blog with a copy of a Fax (emails were in their infancy then) I received from Chris back in 1996 after a TV appearance, asking me to appear with him on the Radio 1 Roadshow and for me to call him on his mobile. Would that happen today? Probably not!
I first realised that I had this rather peculiar ‘talent’ of being able to speak backwards at around the age of 10, when I started reversing friend’s names. A new lad started at my Junior School in King’s Lynn, we all had nicknames, he needed one, so I suggested to call him Kram, because his name was Mark. A simple reversal, but it worked and it’s my first recollection of me being able to talk backwards fluently.
A few years passed and I thought not much more about it. Then one day at age 16, I read in the Sunday People newspaper about a woman in America who claimed that she could read, write and speak backwards. I thought, ‘well I can do that, what’s the big deal?’ I thought, if they want to print stuff like that, then at least involve someone from this country, so I wrote a letter to said newspaper, they sent a reporter and photographer down to interview me (not much internet or webcams in those days). My story appeared in the following week’s Sunday People, then it went crazy. A big TV programme at the time was a show called ‘That’s Life’ fronted by Esther Rantzen. They came down to my home and did a feature which was great fun. They filmed a typical day in my life, then reversed the film with hilarious results. I appeared on many local news and radio shows, Nationwide, a current affairs show on BBC TV and suddenly I was the proverbial ‘famous for 5 minutes’.
In the years that followed I did loads of work for BBC Radio 1, working with all the top DJ’s of the time, Steve Wright, Bruno Brooks, Mark Goodier, Peter Powell, Simon Bates, Nicky Campbell, Chris Evans and appearing on many Radio 1 Roadshows that visited Tenby every summer, as well as travelling to London to participate in many shows in the studios and around London too for other BBC stations, BFBS Radio and many local UK radio stations including lots of work for BBC Radio Wales with Roy Noble and Owen Money.
The TV shows also came thick and fast too with appearances on ‘Wogan’, ‘Jonathan Ross’, Motormouth, ‘Tell The Truth’, Various SKY TV appearances, ‘Record Breakers’, ‘The Big Breakfast’, ‘Michael Barrymore’, ‘Gloria Hunniford’, ‘Russell Harty’ (big stars of the time), plus shows around Europe which gave me many travel opportunities including Amsterdam and Singapore where I appeared in the ‘Guinness World Of Records’ exhibition, doing 6 ‘Talking Backwards’ shows a day for 10 days plus many TV and radio interviews whilst there.
Another highlight was when Disney flew me out to Florida to appear on ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ which was filmed in the Disney MGM Studios, a fantastic experience. It was quite surreal as whilst we were filming in the studio, tourists on guided tours were way above us looking down on the proceedings through the glass windows. The big deal for me was that Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were at the beginning of their careers and they appeared with me on the show as they were ‘Mousketeers’ (though not famous at the time). Great fun and wonderful experiences and all because of a useless talent of being able to speak backwards fluently. Crazy world, eh?
It was, of course, as previously mentioned, on Simon Mayo’s Radio 1 Roadshow in Tenby that I set my first World Record. This gave me the opportunity as a World Record holder to enjoy all these wonderful experiences and to meet some amazing people who were also guests on the same shows as me, like Malcolm McLaren and Screaming Lord Sutch, popstars of the day like Adamski and Betty Boo, Johann Cruyff, and, of course, Steve Woodmore, the World’s Fastest Forwards Talker with whom I appeared on many TV shows. The great thing is that Steve has now become a very good friend and although we live many miles apart, we still enjoy a good old chat now and again. You should just hear us blabbering on together, the mind boggles, I’m sure!
I was proud to be invited by ‘Guinness’ on several occasions to make the opening speech and engage in interviews on their behalf to launch the Guinness Book of Records for that year at places like London Zoo and Lords Cricket Ground. A big honour and a terrific opportunity to meet other world Record Holders too. I have a good story to tell about the late Roy Castle, a lovely man, but it’s a story that I only recount in person, not in print!!
So, talking backwards, for me, great fun, it’s given me many opportunities and experiences and continues to do so. I have always dreamed that one day this, some may say, ‘useless talent’ may lead to me making some money from, say, a TV advertising campaign, but, alas, I’m still waiting. However, people still love it when I’m working as a DJ or otherwise, it’s a great conversational topic and a great source of amusement with children and adults alike, so who am I to complain at being saddled with this ‘completely useless talent’? It’s a part of my life that I am happy to blog about. To hold a World Record for anything is a bit special and, for me, it’s given me so much out of life and long may that continue. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed recalling the memories and many experiences too numerous to mention in a blog. My wife Linda keeps telling me that I ought to write a book one day. We’ll see!!