Tuesday 25 October 2011

John Peel

Today is the anniversary of the death of John Peel, the legendary Radio 1 DJ, a man of the people, a man for the people.

Peel was a voice and an outlet for independent music of all kinds. He embraced bands that went on to be huge; Nirvana (with tracks from their sessions going on to be on Incesticide) and the White Stripes (for example) and he also loved more obscure bands like The Fall and it was through Peel that I got into The Misunderstood. They left their guitars feeding back during a Peel session and went outside for a smoke, picking up their guitars on return!

The Smiths and New Order are two other bands that benefitted from Peel's backing throughout their careers. Looking back through a list of Peel's Festive Fifty listings just makes me want to spend the weekend listening to music. Peel was the first DJ to play Joy Division, Bernard Sumner delivers a heartfelt thanks below.

As a kid I would listen to Peel's show semi-regularly. At times I would turn off, I didn't get some of the music he played. At other times I listened intently for sessions by PJ Harvey or enjoyed some obscure Jamacian dub record.

Peel Sessions were released on a tiny DIY label called Strange Fruit and I have many of them in my record collection. My favourite would be (not surprisingly) the Teenage Fanclub Peel Session. The guitar sounds are better than ever on 'God Knows It's True' and there is a fantastic version of 'Alcoholiday' (see below)

Peel gave independent Scottish music a national platform, one that has deteriorated rapidly since his death. Ally McCrae's weekly show is currently under threat and anyone that tunes into Radio 1 will realise who far downhill in terms of music. Peel could get something on to the A-list. Correct me if I am wrong but I think he was instrumental in Cornershop's 'Brimful of Asha' going to Radio 1's prime daytime playlist.

Ballboy, TFC, The Delgadoes, Mogwai, Arab Strap and Belle and Sebastian are a handful of bands that can thank Peel for a leg up in their careers. Check out some banter with John from his Christmas special with Belle and Sebastian below.

I also miss Peel on the Glastonbury coverage, somehow Fearne and Reggie don't seem to 'get it' in the way that Peel undoubtedly did. The Beeb used to cut to footage of Peel dancing in an obscure field to an obscure band with a smile on his face.

R.I.P John Peel

This was his favourite track, pure punk pop by The Undertones. 

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