Tag Archives: john ravenscroft

Keeping it Peel: Remembering John, a decade on

25 Oct

peelbigpic

Today – Saturday 25th October – marks the tenth anniversary of the day we lost John Peel, who, in the days before 6Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, YouTube and a myriad of music blogs from the shinily corporate to the shoddily pirate, showed the discerning music enthusiast a planet of sound quite often far removed from that on the daytime airwaves but also one that often was a window onto future popular taste.

Although eclectic radio shows are now another genre on yr TuneIn app, Peel almost invented the concept, with the aim of introducing the curious listener to new artists, bands and genres outside the traditional comfort zone. Similarly, Peel would seemingly be constantly reinventing the content of his shows: discarding prog rock for punk rock, snubbing indie guitars for dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass, irking the purists with his ambivalence towards The Stone Roses and Springsteen and his love of happy hardcore. Whilst apologising for being a slightly podgy middle-aged man who sometimes let studio technology get the better of him.

Like his beloved Fall, always different, always the same.

JohnPeel276

Many forget that Peel – in his later years and Home Truths days often considered The Greatest Living Englishman or something of a National Treasure – was actually quite a man of the world. As well as his celebrated night time Radio One programme, he also recorded programmes specifically made for German, Finnish, Austrian and Dutch audiences while additionally recording for Armed Forces network BFBS and also for the BBC World Service. He also cut his broadcasting teeth on KLIF, KOMA and KMEN in the US, the latter of which – despite sounding like a superhero legion or a niche magazine – was actually a radio station in San Bernardino, Californ-i-a. And as well as being broadcasted in various areas of the globe, Peel also played music from bands with unpronounceable names from Zimbabwe, China, Japan, Belgium and Wales.

He even played a Hindi cover of an ABBA song, which combined his love of songs in foreign tongues with his love of Eurovision.

With such a global reach, it may come as no surprise that there are pockets of Peel-respecting indiedom in places such as Yogyakarta, Indonesia or Chonburi province, Thailand.

Here he is a little closer to home, in Germany, in a TV special called John Peel’s Autobahn Blues, where he drives his ageing Merc between various German cities, visiting record shops, radio stations and even meeting up with Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle.




Out in the US Peel does have a vague cult following – having “broken” some American artists that could have stayed on the fringes of parochial sub-stardom if not for the exposure garnered by a few plays or indeed a session on his show, Nirvana and The White Stripes being just two better-known examples. This special – for “Big Apple” station WNYC – attempts to introduce the John Peel Archive as the hoardings of “Britain’s Supercollector”, with Tom from the Archive itself and Sheila (Ravenscroft – “The Pig”) on the blower and Lee Ranaldo out of Sonic Youth on hand to reminisce over recording various Peel Sessions.

* John Peel’s Record Collection on WNYC (2012) (stream or download)

Further afield, as well as the World Service programmes, Peel disciples got a treat when the man himdself turned up at an Auckland radio station when on holiday in those parts in 2002. New Zealand music, most notably The Go-Betweens and The Chills, had been given an international boost by Peel’s patronage, and luckily one listener taped the whole thing for posterity.

Our hero even got to visit Russia in the dying days of the Soviet Union to reveal the local music scene to be somewhat more than balalaikas and mulleted Deep Purple impersonators. The result was recorded for Radio One, and is now a fascinating document of Russian music culture before Putin and Pussy Riot.

* John Peel’s Russia (download only)

John’s linguistic prowess was – by his own admission – not impressive, but he usually made an effort to pronounce the names of at least the European bands and their non-English song titles that arrived on a variety of formats at Broadcasting House. German seems to be his most convincing attempt, oddly the same as Mark E. Smith of The Fall who claimed he himself learnt some rudimentary German in order to make sure the band got paid during his many tours of the country. It was a while before John discovered the meaning of Yo La Tengo, although that was only because Andy Kershaw, who apparently boasts a Spanish A-Level, told him.

Nonetheless, he often joked that his popularity in Holland came from the fact that the name Peel is a homophone for the male appendage in Dutch.

Additionally he regretted not being able to speak or understand Welsh, despite having a soft spot for Welsh-speaking bands such as Melys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Ahnreven  Anghreven Anngrvhin Gryff Rhys.

Japanese acts were also popular at Peel Acres, with John playing music by Cornelius, Shonen Knife, Melt-Banana and Polysics, as well as the inimitable Frank Chickens (who actually got a TV SHOW out of being Peel favourites, here’s an episode with Frank Sidebottom AND John Cooper Clarke .

* Frank Chickens Peel Session (download only)

Regrettably, it was a foreign trip to Peru that was robbed us all of the great man’s talents forever ten years ago to this very day, but thankfully we have the tapes, the uploads, YouTube, the Peel Wiki, The John Peel Archive  and Keeping It Peel to help us remember… along with a plethora of tweeters, bloggers and specialist radio stations.

And finally, here’s a smattering of the truly international world service provided by Mr. John Peel, yours to take away (apart from the video, obvs):

Firstly, the authentic Cold War Radio experience replicated, a Russian shortwave recording of a 1987 BBC World Service broadcast cassette, with godawful reception, bits edited out and everything:

* John Peel Show on BFBS Forces Radio (mysteriously undated)

* Peel on Rock Radio, Finland (1987)

* John Peel on Radio Mafia, Finland (1991) [may contain festive references]

* John Peel on Radio Eins, Germany (2003)

* Peel Tribute, Bayern Radio 2, Germany (2014)

Gone, but not forgotten.

Advertisements

Sheffield Peel: Part I – Pulp at Peel Acres

24 Oct

Well today is Keeping It Peel day, the anniversary of what some refer to as “the day the music died” – the day John Peel shuffled off his mortal coil (and no, I won’t make that 4AD-related quip again) – the day a lot of us abandoned Radio One for good. Well, at least after the tribute programmes that is.

We at We Love All That Towers  are not averse to a bit of calculated punnery, and so while our title cocks a sly wink (or what ever it is) at Joe Cocker’s 1982 album – and that the gravel-voiced Sheffielder recorded a Peel Session in 1969 – it is another Cocker that we wish to feature in today’s homage to Mr. Ravenscroft Sr.

Possibly the most determined band in the history of “alternative” music – Pulp, fronted by the inimitable Jarvis Cocker – took approximately SIXTEEN YEARS from their formation as “Arabicus Pulp” in 1978 to their first Top 40 hit with Do You Remember The First Time and the MTV Europe favourite Babies, the forerunners of Common People, Mis-shapes, Sorted For Es and Wizz, Disco 2000 and the rest – coinciding with the love-it-or-hate-it Britpop explosion the following year, the year from which our first audio takeaway is extracted.

Clipping filched from the more-than-thorough Pulp Wiki

Jarvis was always a huge fan of John Peel, and John was an ardent supporter of his band’s music, despite their persistent abject failure to develop anything more than a small cult following during Pulp’s first fifteen years or so. FIFTEEN YEARS. That’s the recording career of The Beatles PLUS the recording career of The Smiths. But without the hits or the fans or even the favourable reviews. Yet, ever a champion of the underdog (see Dandelion Records!) Peel kept playing the records and in turn Pulp kept putting them out.

So, at the height of their fame, instead of chumming up to the likes of Steve Wright or his cohorts on daytime Radio One, Jarvis and drummer Nick Banks (nephew of legendary England keeper Gordon Banks, footy fans) visited Peel Acres (one of the first musicians to do so… after David Gedge of The Wedding Present and “a Dutch band“, allegedly) and got a guided tour of the great man’s gaff before airing both highlights of the then-forthcoming “Different Class” (UK listeners’ exclusive first chance to hear the album… remember this was in the years before music blogs and online album leaks) and an unearthing of Pulp’s first recorded Peel Session – from 1981! , much to the embarrassment of Peelie who admits he’d presumed the band had recorded umpteen sessions for his programme since then, but evidently not (none at all in fact, between that ’81 session and 1993). Jarvis also admits to recording Peel’s shows off the radio and tries to find some Half Japanese on the hallowed record shelves. Björk’s house, breasts (in general, not Björk’s), Glastonbury, Scunthorpe baths and Jarvis’ estranged dad’s beard (and Peel’s) are also discussed, while early on it is revealed that Peel Acres is home to a dog called Bernard (after Mr. Sumner, perhaps?).

The genuine mutual appreciation – far removed the usual smug fakery often heard in popstar-meets-established-music-broadcaster that was par for the course in Britpop-blunted Britain – is evident, and shortly following Peel’s untimely death on this day eight years ago Jarvis went on to record a moving tribute to our hero which you can find on this old post I wrote when the Pulp frontman went round the countryside recording sounds for the National Trust. The clicky-clicky bit is at the end, and the last time I checked it, it still worked.

Anyway here is the Peel “Pulpathon” (his words, not mine), in an edited (but not very much) version fleetingly uploaded by the elusive das Boy to the general internet consciousness last month… and salvaged for posterity by yours truly:

Pulp on John Peel, September 30th 1995

Plus, here’s a YouTube-d up session that the band recorded when they returned to Peel Acres six years later, around the time of swansong album We Love Life:

Jury is still out on whether Jarvis’ beard is a sly tip of the “respect” hat to Peelie’s though.

But as an extra extra bonus here’s a clip of Jarvis reminiscing in a kitchen about handing the early Pulp demo tape over to John in person that won the band that first Peel session back in 1981, when Jarvis was just 17.

Looks like he was sprouting the beard already.

(Press clipping cheekily filched from the more-than-thorough Pulp Wiki)

Oh, and WATCH THIS SPACE today for “Sheffield Peel Part II”… with a few tasty take-aways!