Saturday, 25 October 2014

From Inside The Pod Revisited #5: Keeping It Peel

Today is Keeping It Peel Day. Some of you will know that for the past few years, our good friend Webbie has been running #keepingitpeel, a blogger’s tribute to the late, great John Peel. Alongside his always entertaining Football and Music blog, Webbie runs the #Keeping It Peel blog which details all the events taking place to mark John Peel Day.

I took part in this celebration for the first two years on my old blog From Inside The Pod, compiling two Peel-related podcasts. To mark this year’s event (which incidentally takes place 10 years since Peelie sadly left us), I thought I’d repost one of them along with the notes I strung together to accompany it. I remember Webbie offering some very kind words when it appeared first time around. I hope those of you who missed it back then enjoy it now as much as Webbie did!

pod 08: #keepingitpeel - the podcast
(first published: 25 October 2010)

Today we celebrate Keeping It Peel, a special day of tributes to the late great John Peel by bloggers around the world. It is surely an acknowledgement in itself that one extremely humble man is deemed worthy of an internet tribute of this nature, and that his name is known and revered so far and wide.

Enduring an entire John Peel show was often just that - an endurance. But then, John Peel was never one to make it easy for people. The music he played was the music he liked, whether it was the jangliest indie, the hardest drum & bass, the heaviest grindcore, or the deepest, bassiest, strangest reggae.

One thing was guaranteed though - each show was infused with the love, passion and belief in music that John exuded in enormous quantities. We frequently talk of artists' influences, citing numerous other artists they may have taken inspiration from. But let's not forget, John Peel was himself a massive influence on many. Had he not persisted in bigging up reggae throughout the height of punk, would bands like the Clash or the Ruts have been inspired to dabble with the genre? Would acts like the Kills or the Black Keys have received much in the way of attention had Peel not almost single-handedly built the White Stripes up to near global stardom?

OK, you can argue about that as much as you like. In the meantime, I have compiled a special Peel-themed podcast. In truth, this could have contained 100 tracks and still not have been fully representative of the man. I mean, there's no Captain Beefheart, Nirvana, Misty In Roots, Joy Division, Extreme Noise Terror... the list goes on. Maybe next year. But these ten include some of his favourite artists and records. More than half of the artists on here owe their subsequent success to John Peel as no one else at the time was ever likely to play their records. Since his passing, no one has taken up his mantle, which is actually pretty depressing.

1. PJ Harvey Fountain (1992, Dry)
Peel voted PJ Harvey's debut single Dress Single of the Week in Melody Maker, commenting "the way Polly Jean seems crushed by the weight of her own songs and arrangements, [it's] as if the air is literally being sucked out of them." She remained a fave of his long after her ascent into the big time.

2. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci Patio Song (1996, Barafundle)
Peel was about the only British DJ who would play Welsh language music (save for a handful in Wales itself) and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci were one of the acts he championed from their early days. Gorky's have the ignominious distinction of being the only group with eight UK Top 75 singles without ever making the Top 40. This track ranked #8 on John Peel's 1996 Festive Fifty countdown.

3. Don French Lonely Saturday Night (1959, single)
A box of 7" singles was found when John's family was sorting through his belongings after his death. It was a personal collection of the records he would save should his house catch fire. Contained therein were some extremely rare, obscure gems such as this. Don French, a singer so unknown that even a Google search proves virtually fruitless, released only two singles of which this was the first. Peel owned two copies.

4. The Fall Free Range (1992, Code: Selfish)
It's common knowledge the Fall were John's favourite band, being the only act to have its own space in his immense record collection. They recorded 24 Peel sessions in 27 years, a feat no one else came even close to matching. The utterly brilliant Free Range is my fave Fall track by far, but Peely was less discerning when it came to his heroes: "With the Fall you never knew what you were going to get. It may not be what you wanted, but it's the Fall, they're all you need."

5. Bridget St.John Curl Your Toes (1969, Ask Me No Questions)
London singer-songwriter who touched Peel so deeply, he not only produced her debut album, he also set up a record label so it could be released. He once described Bridget St. John as "the best lady singer-songwriter in the country", and her popularity peaked in 1974 when she was voted fifth most popular female singer in that year's Melody Maker readers poll.

6. The Wedding Present Come Play With Me (1992, Peel Session)
Championed by Peel shortly after their debut single back in 1985, David Gedge and his cohorts continued a long association with the great man right up to his untimely demise 20 years later, recording numerous sessions, including three comprising entirely of traditional Ukrainian folk songs.

7. Stanley Winston No More Ghettos In America (1965, single)
Another of those obscure gems unearthed in John's record box. "It genuinely brings tears to my eyes," he confessed. "Don't bother trying to find a copy, I've got one of the few that were ever pressed and I won't be selling it to anyone."

8. The White Stripes Lord, Send Me An Angel (2000, single)
Peel was the first, and for quite a while, the only UK radio DJ to play the White Stripes. Even after the band attained global success, they remained close friends with Peel right up to his death, even playing a show in his living room for a live broadcast. This interpretation of Blind Willie McTell's 1933 classic remains unavailable on any White Stripes album and was ripped from my own scratchy 7" vinyl copy, hence the ropey quality...

9. The Misunderstood I Can Take You To The Sun (1966, single)
Californian pioneers of psychedelic rock. John Peel managed the Misunderstood and produced their records, championing them throughout his entire career. Shortly before his death, he stated, "If I had to list the ten greatest performances I've seen in my life, one would be The Misunderstood at Pandora's Box, Hollywood, 1966. My god, they were a great band!"

10. The Undertones Teenage Kicks (1978, The Undertones)
Yeah, I know it's predictable, but no Peel tribute can be complete without it. In 1978, he was reduced to tears upon hearing this record and went on to play it twice in a row on his show. Peel often rated new bands' songs with 1 to 5 stars. He awarded Teenage Kicks 28 stars! In 2008, a headstone engraved with the line "Teenage dreams, so hard to beat" was placed on his grave.

1 comment:

  1. Good to see this again !

    (Playing catch up here, as soon as I've had some coffee I'll add this to the listings)