Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do ye ken John Peel Day

For anyone of my age, it should be a national holiday. The anniversary of John Peel's untimely death is a celebration of the life that he brought to my formative years.

In these days of 'New Music', that is exactly what he played. He moved with the times and brought what was fresh and different to the Grundig Yacht Boy (my radio at the time). I started, like a lot of people, to listen in the days of Punk. I was in the sixth form at school and you were either into the Clash, Ramones, Stranglers or into heavy rock. Lucky for me that I chose the former and Peel's show was the source for what was cool.

He picked up the obscure and brought them to the masses - Wire, The Fall, Alternative TV etc. My friends and I would keep the local record shop in business, buying the latest picture or coloured vinyl 7" - all driven by what we heard on Peel the previous night. We belonged to a club which was open to anyone who had a radio, but he spoke to all of us individually, that was his broadcasting skill.

He kept it interesting by playing the widest range of music, reflecting his diverse taste and ear for the unusual. Who could forget Ivor Cutler, the scottish singer and poet, "Tales from a Scotch Sitting Room"? He even managed to get me to look at folk albums such as Dick Gaughan's. I mean folk! How was that compatible with Punk? In the wacky world of Peel, it made perfect sense.

I went off to University, and though I listened less, it left me with a hunger for seeing those Peel bands live. The Clash and Ramones had the sweat dripping off the ceiling, they generated so much excitement. Stiff Little Fingers generated a crush outside the gig that was ultimately fruitless - my friends and I didn't get in.

John Peel kept it real until his sudden death. No being put out to grass on Radio 2 for John, he stayed on R1 until the end. He was afraid that he would die suddenly. I remember hearing an interview with him where he explained the root of that fear. He had read of the death of Lenny Bruce (or another comedian - I don't remember that well), who had died when he bent down to tie his shoelaces. John had remained fearful of this for the rest of his life. Strange then that he was struck down at Cuzco in Peru by a heart attack. The shoelaces didn't come into it, but it was sudden.

We remember him on his day, 13th October. He'll never be replaced.

Sound of Teenage Kicks by the Undertones to fade...

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