Alternative music reviews

John Peel

Memories Oct 2004

I've just heard about John Peel's death. I'm sad in a way that I could never be if it was just a famous actor or even singer. John's always been there for me since I became aware of music. From Peter Hammill solo piano sessions in the early seventies, through the glorius days of the post-punk explosion with bands like Swell Maps and the Desperate Bicycles, and more recently the glorious White Stripes live show. But it wasn't just the music - it was the man. He never spoke down to us. He seemed to instinctively know that he was not talking to an 'audience' but thousands of individuals, all with their own problems and concerns and joys. He was always sympathetic to students revising hard for exams,and young bands starting out. He was deeply cynical about the music industry but deeply enthused by the thought of people making music. One simple thing to point out is that John Peel never spoke over the records he played.

...the shows from Peel Acres where he always sounded his most relaxed and enthusiastic and very special sessions from Laura Cantrell and Calexico.

...hearing first the rumours and then the confirmation of Ian Curtis's death.

...Peelie playing a electronic dance track at 45rpm, expressing doubt that it was the right speed, so he played the whole thing again at 33rpm just because it sounded good like that as well.

...receiving a copy of the Fall's Slages, Slates mini album and another single with the message "Dear David, two presents, John Peel"

...the two shows with the Rezillos where they brought in their own strange and very funny collection of records.

...feeling the tension of the impending births of his children and then sharing in his joy after the event.

...hearing the first lines of 'Karen' by The Go-Betweens, spinning round in may chair heading for the record button on the tape recorder, and ending up sprawling on the floor. It took about 4 years before I finally got a copy and could hear the first verse.

Good memories of someone who cared about people and cared about music in a way that us fans also care about it, and he was always searching for some new sound, some new approach. I'm lost in admiration and choked up that he's gone. I'm glad I've still got tapes of the Peel show scattered around in the car and in plastic bags around the house - but even without them, I would never forget him.


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