Friday, October 14, 2005


Too focused on the past, too hagiographic, the sort of thing he would have hated. For all the quibbles about the John Peel night celebration, what were the shows actually like?

We've only listened to the first chunk so far. Listen Again seems to have got muddled, not listing the first segment but misattributing the two earlier segments to the wrong bit; luckily, Take Your Medicine have an easier-to-use bunch of links.

The first surprise is that Colin Murray and Edith Bowman are doing a segment - certainly, they're being pushed by Radio One as their bright new stars, but surely there must have been more appropriate presenters? We can't imagine that Peel felt any more warmly towards Murray than he did to Simon Bates or Tony Blackburn - indeed, even Murray seems to be surprised to be anchoring the show, recounting Peel's last words to him. (On spotting Murray's broken arm, he asked "Was that a punishment for crimes against music?"). One of Colin's first contributions to the proceedings is to hyuk-hyuk that it's going to be a "bad night for anyone protesting against binge drinking." Yes, puke your guts up over the streets of Britain. It's what Peel would have wanted.

The evening has a feel of election night, with calls going out to teams of presenters scattered round the country. Zane Lowe comes the closest to getting into the spirit of what Peel meant to those of us who actually listened to his show, opting to hoof around London to take in as many gigs as he can; the person in Belfast simpers that it's astonishing there are so many events taking place in Dublin "in a country which doesn't receive Radio One." Maybe not officially now - although it does seem to be available online - but up until fairly recently Radio One went out on a Medium Wave frequency and, as such, would have been fairly easy to pick up throughout much of Southern Ireland. And Peel did World Service shows, too, of course.

Up in Liverpool, Mary Anne Hobbes pictures Peel enjoying the events of the night, "sitting at God's right hand." Really? This would be Peel who said that he "didn't really believe in God", would it? Wouldn't it be a more fitting tribute if people didn't just assume it was okay to throw him into some sort of theology he wasn't a part of? (It might seem a small point, but it's kind of akin to someone bursting out during John Paul's funeral "well, he'll be enjoying this now, sat in Valhalla with Odin..."

Another curiosity is that nobody seems to have ever listened to the programmes, much less what he said in interviews. Several times, chart positions in the Festive Fifty are offered as evidence of how much John valued this band or that act - but the Festive Fifty was voted for by the listeners and usually pushed forward such a bland, safe selection of songs that Peel would spend most of the Christmas shows complaining about our tastes. Take the measure of the man from the Fifties, and you'd get the impression of a bloke who loved white boys playing guitars, with very, very occasional forays into dance music, and who spent most of the 1980s and 1990s steadfastly refusing to listen to any black music at all.

On the bright side, there were some well-chosen tunes: the whole thing paraded off with Status Quo - although "down, down, deeper and down" might not be the best sentiments for remembering a friend buried less than a year ago - and Stanley Winston's No More Ghettos In America sounded just as fine as the first time we heard Peel play it; and looking ahead in the setlist we see there's some of those acts who are just so indivisible Peel: Kanda Bongo Man and Ivor Cutler. You almost wonder if they'd not have been better off dropping all the hoopla and the gigs and the binge drinking, and just played non-stop music for six hours. Somehow, that's what we really suspect John would have wanted.

1 comment:

Tane Piper said...

Some UK podcasters also released a show together as a tribute to J.P.

It's avalible at

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