October 25, 2010
There will be places around the Interweb today “Keeping it Peel”. It may be 6 years since the legendary DJ passed away but it must be 26 years since I last listened to a Peel radio programme from start to finish. In fact I think I can even recall the day. I’d made a rare visit to London and was driving north up the M1 so I was a captive audience. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t midnight, or even dark. Was his show on at 8pm/9pm at some point in the 1980s ?
It’s all well and good playing new music all the time but there has to be some quality control. He was lucky enough to receive a constant supply of free new records (and cassettes from unsigned bands) in the post. He must have had many many thousands of shiny black flat plastic round things with holes in the middle. I’m sure at some point he must have held a record ?? There is an old saying that everyone who bought the VUs first LP at the time of its release went on to form a band of their own. I have a saying that half of John Peel’s audience consisted of people who had sent him demo tapes and were waiting to see if he’d play them. In the days when the BBC held a monopoly of the airwaves there weren’t many other outlets. After the late 1970s the majority of the records he played did absolutely nothing for me. Although he may have seemed endearing when he played records at the wrong speed, if said record was by The Aphex Twin how would the audience even know ? Personally I always thought The Fall were vastly overrated and I even think I could come up with 100 singles that are better than “Teenage Kicks”. (Sorry if that offends someone but isn’t the whole idea of a Blog meant to be a place where you can voice your own opinion ?). Over the years I think Johnny Walker has shown the best taste in music. Over the last decade Radio 3’s “Late Junction”, Bob Harris and Mark Lamarr have produced the most entertaining radio shows around the midnight slot. But I do commend Peel for being an early champion of the genre known as Dub though. Along with his Producer John Walters he did enable 100s of young bands to get into a studio for a Peel session, most of which seem to be available from various sources. I think John Peel’s best broadcasting was in his later years for Radio 4’s “Home Truths” (and thinking about it, John Walters was an under-rated and overlooked broadcaster who should have spent far more time in front of a microphone rather than standing in the background).
Talking of things Peel I would love to replace my long lost copy of “There is some fun in going forward” which was the final LP release on John Peel’s Dandelion label. It was a compilation LP which I believe sold for 99p. There was a picture on the back of Peel in the bath with someone who may well have been the pig ? (his not particularly flattering nickname for Sheila). I know there is an expensive CD version (with extra tracks) available but I still like LPs. They’re collectible and some of them are pieces of art. And compilation LPs were a relatively cheap way to hear music from bands I wasn’t familiar with (stuff like “Picnic”, the two CBS LPs entitled “Rock machine turns you on” and the fabulous “The house that Track built” spring to mind).
PS: In hindsight, compared to the mass of inane babble produced by DJs over the last 50 years John Peel was an erudite and interesting broadcaster. He was a busy man. As well as gigs, record labels, TV documentary voiceovers and the (very) odd Top of the Pops presentations he wrote books and newspaper articles. In the early 1970s Peel even wrote a weekly column in the chart-orientated pop music paper “Disc and Music Echo” at the time when T Rex were appearing on the front page and co-incidentally no longer appearing on Peel’s radio show.