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.
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….
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….
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….
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…
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: