John Peel & Me

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Apologies for the lack of updates of late. I’ve been a little busy over at Gamestyle putting the hours in on Yakuza 3 and Way of the Samurai 3. So I guess my next game will have a ‘3’ in the title although what it is remains to be seen.

There was one thing I did want to write a few words about and it’s a subject close to my heart and a void that’s never been filled. Yes, I’m talking about John Peel.

The debate about Radio 6 recently and its forthcoming closure prompted me to change channels on the DAB radio and check it out. Sadly it is far from the fertile oasis of musical unknown and undiscovered. It may have found favour with some listeners, but not in my household.

Tony Naylor has an interesting piece over at the Guardian on both Radio 6 and John Peel. I’ll leave the debate open to all but here I wanted to talk about John Peel in my life. Last week I was filling up a picture frame to hang on a blank space in a spare room. I decided what better option but to collectively fill it up with concert ticket stubs that have been lying around in various boxes and record sleeves. Fond memories and a few mistakes; soon to appear in the sequel I suspect!

Pride of a place in the frame goes to a Simon Bates BBC postcard that John Peel used to respond to a query I had concerning a record he had recently played. It was very helpful and something I’ve always treasured. The fact he took time out from his schedule to provide details about a record when the world was pre-internet meant a great deal and it said a lot of the man himself. I never did track down that record but as time passes I feel compelled to put it right and complete the journey.

The way he was treated by the BBC towards the end of his career is a real sour point. I can still remember stumbling across his show one night whilst scanning the airwaves as a teenager. The mix of unknown bands, records and sheer lack of rules blew me away. Throw in having special sessions from those said bands when they visited these shores was a real attraction. Of all the shows I experienced over the years I probably only liked 15% of the records he played and of those managed to track down 5% of the vinyl. This was the era of finding an importer or stuffing an envelope full of foreign currency and waiving goodbye as you prayed for a reply. Those who funded the independent labels always struck me as courteous and welcoming to foreign mail.

John opened my eyes to the rich stream of music outside of the mainstream and today he is still sorely missed. Who else would play an album in its entirety and then set off on a quest to track down those responsible? I doubt the current roster of BBC1 DJ’s look further than the PR release sat in front of them.

Thanks John for the memories, music and passion.

EDIT: The power of the internet as after posting this I did a quick search on the said record (My Dog Popper) and the blog Making Time For Thoughtcrime has an evaluation link for the said LP. Time to fill this gap in my life and then track down the original!!

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