Search results for: John Peel

Quote of the Day: A Salutory Lesson from John Peel

My favourite LP of that era [late 1960s] really was and remains, Country Joe’s Electric Music For The Mind And Body, and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t in the charts, ‘cos everybody I knew had a copy of it. But, of course, it was actually that everybody who had a copy of it was somebody that I knew – John Peel

Behind the self-deprecating sense of humour and the semi-obscure 60’s musical references, Peel had a point. We’ve all done it in our own lives; got so caught up in our immediate surroundings that we forget to keep an eye on the bigger picture, not thinking about the importance of the wider context of our selves and our societies.

Incidentally, I have particularly noticed this tendency in politicians (where it often runs side by side with a damaging short-termist approach to politics). MPs and ministers are all so convinced that their party, their policies are right (welfare reform, anyone?) that they fail to notice that those on whom such policies will impact the hardest really don’t see or experience things that way….

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John Peel’s Record Collection goes online

Music geeks the world over will be rubbing their hands together with glee at this news – I certainly am! From now until October, The Space website will be releasing parts of the legendary John Peel‘s equally legendary record collection onto its site, at a rate of 100 records a week. This is, and can only be, just a fraction of the great man’s enormous and eclectic collection, as his wife Sheila told Alexis Petridis in The Guardian yesterday:

Peel’s is probably the most celebrated record collection in Britain: 26,000 albums, 40,000 singles and countless CDs, which spread out of Peel’s office and took over a variety of rooms and outbuildings in the home near Stowmarket he invariably referred to as Peel Acres. The singles and CDs, [Sheila] Ravenscroft says, were filed alphabetically, but the albums were a different matter. “They are all filed numerically and cross-referenced with a very old filing cabinet, full of small filing cards that John hand typed himself on his old Olivetti typewriter. The way you access them is that you look in the filing cabinet, find the file card alphabetically, and on the top corner there’s a number.”

These filing cards have now formed the basis of The John Peel Project on The Space, an Arts Council-funded pop-up website, which launches this month and runs until the end of October. Every week, for the next 26 weeks, users will be able to browse the first 100 cards from each letter of the alphabet, with one album pulled out for special attention. “We will try to get a film of the artist, show old clips of them, look into what they are doing now,” says Ravenscroft.

I love the idea of being able to rummage through Peel’s record collection, and I love the sheer geekiness of his filing system! It is such a treat to get this unprecedented access to the arch-uber-music geek’s very own tunes, and I can’t wait to see more. The ‘A’s’ are already available to browse on The Space (there’s even an ABBA record!), with the ‘B’s’ coming next week…

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Keeping It Peel: John Peel Day 2011

Today is the seventh anniversary of the DJ, broadcaster and all-round music legend John Peel‘s unexpected and much-mourned death in 2004. As one of the many, many music fans of all ages who loved his Radio 1 show and were inspired by the incredibly varied and hugely eclectic music he played, I still can’t believe he’s no longer with us; no longer playing strange records at the wrong speed and introducing an extremely unprepared world to the musical delights of death metal and the likes of the Aphex Twin. So, today I’m celebrating John Peel Day, and #KeepingItPeel in order to honour the great man’s memory and legacy….

It’s possible that John can form some kind of nightmarish career out of his enthusiasm for unlistenable records and his delight in writing long and facetious essays… – RHJ Brooke, John’s housemaster, in one of his school reports.

Born John Ravenscroft to a well-off family in Cheshire on 30th August 1939, he spent his youth at Shrewsbury, a well-regarded public school, where he fell in love with 50s rock ‘n’ roll (much to the annoyance of some of his teachers!), before going on to do his national service in the Royal Artillery – which he didn’t enjoy very much at all:

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#KeepingItPeel 2017: Soundgarden (1989)

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the death of John Peel, so I’m Keeping It Peel with a choice session from his long-running Radio 1 show. Since we also tragically lost Soundgarden’s astonishing vocalist Chris Cornell earlier this year, I decided on this, recorded by the Seattle band in 1989 – just before the grunge scene exploded into the mainstream.

This session shows Soundgarden in a slightly different light to their usual downtuned metal-influenced rock, featuring as it does unexpected and rather fun versions of Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)’ and John Lennon’s ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)’.*

As always with Soundgarden, I recommend you crank the volume up high – and while you do that, I’ll be off to play Badmotorfinger at the wrong speed in tribute to Peel and Cornell; two men who shaped my musical taste at a formative age.

Until next year, keep it Peel…

*If you fancy more unexpected and frankly odd cover versions, head over to Twitter and follow @UnlikelyCovers.

#KeepingItPeel 2014: Peel Sessions Playlist

#KeepingItPeel - October 25th (image via http://keepingitpeel.wordpress.com/)NOTE: As of October 2015, a lot of the videos featured in this playlist have sadly disappeared from YouTube. However, I’m leaving it up for what’s left, and because there are a number of other sites linking to it.

It’s hard to believe that it’s now ten years since John Peel died. It’s still hard to believe there will be no more listening to his show on headphones, half-asleep under the duvet: no more sessions from obscure and noisy bands from the middle of nowhere making you go ‘wow!’, no more grinning as Peel played yet another record at the wrong speed, no more cheeky on-air references to his beloved family and equally beloved Liverpool FC.

For the generations of music fans who grew up on John Peel’s legendarily eclectic and very human late night Radio 1 show, he opened the door to a whole new world of music – the kind of stuff you’d never hear on daytime radio, let alone find in mainstream High Street record shops. For all sorts of young and up-and-coming bands, it became a badge of honour to be invited in to do a Peel Session, and, although quite a few of these acts never went much further than the famous Maida Vale studios, many of the bands he championed did go on to much greater things.

Personally, off the top of my head I can think of at least a dozen very different successful bands and artists I love who I first heard on Peel’s show. So, to celebrate this year’s #KeepingItPeel, I put together this playlist of great Peel Sessions (below) from every decade of his broadcasting career, along with a few moments from the man himself (including his fascinating 1990 Desert Island Discs and the famous moment on air when he played The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ twice in a row).

Compiling this playlist was a real labour of love – there were sessions I vividly remember, sessions I’d forgotten, and some superb ones I’d never even known about in the first place. And on many of these recordings you can hear the voice of Peel himself, crackling out of the ether ten years on. I hope you enjoy my choices, and be sure to let me know if there’s something I might have missed. Send me any interesting links in the comments here or on Twitter and I’ll check them out.

Now crank up the volume….

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‘Teenage dreams/So hard to beat’: #KeepingItPeel 2013

#KeepingItPeel - October 25th (image via http://keepingitpeel.wordpress.com/)Nine years ago, on 25th October 2004, one of music’s great spirits left us. The word ‘legend’ is bandied around a great deal, but John Peel really was a legend – indeed, if you are a serious music fan, I can guarantee that a large percentage of your collection wouldn’t actually exist without him. He is still held in such affection by so many music lovers simply because he was one of us. He just got lucky and ended up on the radio, sharing his passion for music with generations of fans who religiously tuned in to his late-night Radio 1 show to hear what wonderful strangeness he was playing this time (often at the wrong speed – gotta love that vinyl!)

And his influence continues to this day, which is why Peel fans everywhere celebrate #KeepingItPeel every 25th October by posting something Peel-related online to honour his memory and legacy. This year, I decided to keep it simple and post the video to his favourite song ever (in fact, the opening lines to this glorious slice of pop-punk are carved on his tombstone) – and a truly classic song it is too….

Recommended Viewing: Documentaries on Music – Your Choices

I knew you wouldn’t let me down! Just as it was with the music books, I’ve been sent so many suggestions of must-watch music documentaries that I’ve had to compile a separate list. And there’s some fantastic stuff here – almost every musical genre you can think of is represented on your list; pretty much something for everyone, whatever your tastes run to.

Again, we’d be here all night if I were to list everyone who contributed to the list (there were a lot of you…). You all know who you are – a big thank you to everybody involved, on and offline! If, after perusing these selections, you still think there’s something missing, have a look at my original list of documentaries first. If it’s not there, then please feel free to leave a comment or tweet me, and I’ll add it to this list.

As before, the list is arranged in alphabetical order by title, followed by the director’s name (if known – I have been unable to track down the director details for some of the BBC productions), the year of the film’s release, and any other necessary information. Some of these are straight-up documentaries, others are tour or concert-type films with a documentary aspect. One or two have a fictional and/or comedy element – this list does indeed go up to eleven… Most (but not all) of these films are available on DVD or can be downloaded/streamed online, and quite a few of them are also on YouTube.

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Recommended Reading: Books on Music

I’m often asked what books I would recommend to someone wanting to delve deeper into the history of the various popular music scenes of the past fifty years or so. That’s an interesting question, as there are so many fascinating volumes out there (and a fair few blatant cash-ins too, which really aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on). Rummaging through my own now-sizeable collection of music books inspired me to put together this list  – that and being a total listoholic, as regular readers will know!

When it comes down to it, I’m not necessarily saying these are the ‘best’ books on music ever because that’s such a subjective definition – I’ve chosen these books because I have read and enjoyed them all, and because I think they would be of interest to those music fans wanting to learn more about the music they know and the music they don’t. Most of them will be easy enough to find – your local library or bookshop should stock many of these titles – but you may have to track down one or two online. They’re worth the effort though…

The list has been divided into three sections for ease of perusal. Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs contains exactly that – books written by or about a band, artist or music industry insider. Scenes, Eras and Places lists volumes covering specific times, locations and musical movements that have had an important impact in some way. Finally, Collected Writings covers more general texts, and compilations of music journalism and other writings. Each section is listed in alphabetical order by the author’s surname and the date given is that of first publication, where known.

22/05/15: Having since read yet more books on music, I decided to update my list with some new additions, which are in bold type. If you’d like to contribute to the really quite brilliant crowdsourced list of music books which resulted from this original list, please do get in touch here, or tweet me. Thanks!

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Wibbling Rivalry – Slight Return

“That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’ll be the best band in the world, because I fuckin’ hate that twat there. I fuckin’ hate him. And I hope one day there’s a release where I can smash fuck out of him, with a fuckin’ Rickenbacker, right on his nose, and then he does the same to me, ‘cos I think we’re stepping right up to it now. There’s a fuckin’ line there and we’re right on the edge of it” – Liam on Noel, Wibbling Rivalry, 1994

“I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that’s nasty” – Liam, 2008.

You know, I think I would care more about Noel Gallagher quitting Oasis if he were actually leaving a half decent band. No, really. I mean it. It’s not like they’re even anything special these days – they started out as a halfway fun and definitely second-rate bunch of Beatles copyists, and have ended up as a fourth-rate, washed-up parody of themselves, as postmodern as that sounds.

Admittedly, I remain rather fond of their first two albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, mainly because they remind me of a long ago and far away period of my life when I was young and naive and British pop music ruled the world (again). These days, however, I would argue that ‘Britpop’ is a distinctly lazy descriptive; the only commonalities shared by the bands lumped together in that scene were that they were all guitar bands of some sort and that they were all… er… British. Unlike most bona fide music scenes, none of the first generation of Britpop bands actually sounded anything much like each other, or even really came from a common set of influences. In fact, most of them didn’t even sound like the swingin’ sixties pop scene the media supposed they were emulating.

But Oasis had clearly grown up on a steady diet of The Beatles and punk, and this showed in the swagger and arrogance of their unfeasibly tuneful early releases. They may have been spectacularly ripping off Lennon and McCartney via the Pistols, but they had the balls and vicious charisma enough for that not to matter. And the regular and very public punch-ups between Noel and Liam made the band all the more attractive to the media right from the very start.

It is common knowledge that feuds and tensions between fellow band members can produce some remarkable results. Faith No More spent most of their career hating each other, and are, in fact, widely acknowledged to have produced some of their greatest material during the period when they had both a gay man and a somewhat homophobic redneck among their line-up, with all the unpleasant tensions that naturally entailed. Brothers Ray and Dave Davies of the quintessentially English and truly god-like British Invasion band The Kinks spent much of the sixties and seventies utterly despising each other (to the point of physical violence) – yet this was the period that produced some of the band’s most enduringly classic and influential songs. Mark E. Smith of Peel favourites The Fall has fallen out with an almost countless number of different musicians over the band’s thirty-three year history (most fans have given up counting, anyway), but The Fall remain a vital and visceral presence on the British music scene. And that’s just three examples from an industry that seems to thrive on antagonism and antipathy.

It was always different with the Gallaghers, though. The chaotic lifestyles of the brothers (and the rest of Oasis) alongside the notoriety spawned by the constant brotherly bickering actually distracted from the music, which rapidly deteriorated and soon took second place to the scandal and bad behaviour in the eyes of the band as a coherent entity, as well as in both the tabloid and the music media. And there was always a slightly cynical element of class about it all. Now as then, the music media in this country, in particular, is predominantly southern, very middle class and almost entirely male, and the countless articles recounting the antagonistic fraternal squabbles between these two working class Mancunian siblings were always shot through with a patronising amusement. Watching the Gallaghers slug it out was, it seems, inherently funny in a way that the equally stupid bullshit spouted by the likes of Damon Albarn wasn’t – which probably accounts for Fierce Panda’s release on vinyl of Wibbling Rivalry; a recording of a 1994 interview by the journalist John Harris with the Gallaghers, which almost immediately deteriorates into a huge, fiery and very, very sweary argument between the brothers (see the quote above).

All this leaves me thoroughly unsurprised that Noel has jumped ship – after all, he’s threatened to quit on numerous occasions in the past. And his reasons for leaving are even less surprising. In a statement released on Friday, Noel describes how things had finally come to a head, and that “the level of verbal and violent intimidation towards me, my family, friends and comrades has become intolerable.” This comes as no shock when one realises that rather unpleasant stories of Liam publicly questioning the legitimacy of his niece Anais (Noel and ex-wife Meg Matthews’ young daughter), and very deliberately not inviting his older brother to his wedding, have been circulating for a number of years now.  This long dysfunctional relationship between the two brothers seems to have finally broken down, which is certainly sad for them on a personal level – but it may yet mean the end of Oasis, something which should have happened years ago. The band should have retired gracefully when they had the chance, leaving behind an at least partially valuable musical legacy instead of finally imploding like the last great Britpop joke.

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