Thursday, October 13, 2005

John Peel Was A Hell Of A Man...

It's John Peel Day 2005

"John Peel was a hell of a man" is a quote from Steve Albini in the 'End of Radio' track taken from the session recorded specially for the great man himself shortly after his untimely death...
There have been thousands of quotes about John Peel in the last year, but few have been as spot on as this...
Albini also goes on to not only dedicate the session to John Peel, but their entire career...
That is a mark of what John Peel meant to him, and it's not just Steve Albini that thinks of John Peel in this way... this is a feeling that hundreds of bands hold, and quite rightly too.

But it's not just the bands that owe so much to him, I'd go as far as saying the whole nation (and beyond) owes him a great deal...
Imagine a cultural Britain without having had the Peel show, how different would the music scene be without him playing and championing so many incredibly diverse acts...
It's been said that if there hadn't been John Peel on our radio's that someone would have done the same... what utter tosh!
In the whole history of broadcasting nobody has done as much for so many people, and changed as many peoples lives as John Peel, and no one ever will.

I'm not entirely sure that John himself would have liked the idea of John Peel Day, actually he wouldn't have liked it at all... especially some of the 'official' events that have been organised that seem to smack of corporate cash-in....
But I'd like to think of John Peel Day as a way of thanking him...
So this is our own little tribute to the great man and what he, or some of the music he introduced to us means to us....


John Peel - by Rowche

New Order - Turn The Heater On

This song was the first Peel Session that actually made my ears prick up, before then I'd listen to the show occasionally but it was always randomly frightening. To quote someone's Dad somewhere 'This isn't music, it's just a noise."
I actually heard this on an Indie Top 20 cassette that some old lag used to play at school. It was a relief not to have The Doors again. So then got into the habit of listening regularly and pretending I knew all about the bands to my great mates. "Yeah, yeah Guana Batz are OK but Stump are more visceral and theatre" said a 14 year old tosser once.
We used to lie in bed together top to tail to top and do John Peel accents and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. "And er this is the new one by Quim Biscuit with the romanesque titled 'Ere you nicked my pedal you cunt', quite."

Turn The Heater On was originally by Keith Hudson 'The Dark Prince of Reggae' who thankfully jacked in dentistry, became a roadie for Jamaican trombone king Don Drummond and and then sunk his earnings into his own record label, Inbidimts.
Keith was known for his trademark production style of groove-centered, bass/drum-dominated, lean and mean rhythms and I'm sure I heard somewhere that 'Turn the Heater On' was one of Ian Curtis' faves. New Order never played this song live and it's only available on the original Strange Fruit 12" and the recent'ish New Order Peel Sessions CDs.

OMD - Of All The Things We've Made

Poor old Paul and Andy, feeling a little bit down in the dumps they wrote 'Of All The Things We've Made' as the last song they'd ever write.
This was recorded for a Peel Session in 1983 and is available on the brilliant OMD Peel Sessions CD. You really should buy this album, collectively you, you should.
I always get a bit melancholy when I hear this song.

So there you go, two John Peel Sessions tracks that mean a lot to me...
without whom etc, etc, etc. you know... Good old John Peel. x.

Visit - Festive 50s
Visit - Peel Acres
Visit - Peel on Pirate Radio
Visit - Peel Sessions 1992 - 2002
Visit - John Peel Wikipedia
Buy - OMD Peel Sessions
Buy - New Order Peel Sessions

Red Rum! Red Rum! - by Mike

Pixies - Bone Machine

John Peel. Radio/Tape Recorder. TDK D90 Cassette. What does that lot add up to? The best roller coaster ride around popular culture available. And you chose the route.

Some of you will remember this cheery slogan on the inner sleeve of records: "Home Taping is Killing Music". I rooted out an old King Crimson album a while ago and there it was, just waiting to be scanned and slapped onto a t-shirt. By the way, Mr Peel played "In The Court of The Crimson King" on his show in its entirety when it was released.

Ok, to the point: I had tapes of rapid cut edits from one Peel show to the next, always the first 10 seconds of the track missing while I decided whether the thing was worth taping or not. I still judge music this way: if it doesn't grab me quickly, I don't care.

Slint were way in there. Polvo ruled. Aphex Twin. The glorious Butthole Surfers. The godlike genius of Bogshed. And heaps of others that have dropped out of my head, all slapped together on cassettes that became totems for me, something to define myself by.

Home taping is killing music! Really?

But to me the total Peel epiphany was at a friends house one wet winter Saturday. It was a hotel on the promenade with a real Shining feel to it. Big shiny kitchen. Lots of knives. Wild weather outside. We used to sit on bean bags down in the basement drinking coke and watching The Evil Dead.

This particular morning he was making fine use of the speakers dotted around the place by blasting out something that was just so sinewy and unhinged I had trouble getting through the door. Pixies, recorded the night before on Peel. Music for Mr Nicholson to hack doors down to.

I knew right there that music was never going to slacken it’s damned grip on my heart. Curses! It could have all been... so different... yeah, right...

Buy - Pixies - Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim
Visit - Pixies @ 4AD

The Invisible Line - by Bobby

Nina Nastasia – Beautiful Day

It's the last night of my first visit to New York. I've wandered down to the Knitting Factory to catch a gig. A woman with a guitar walks onstage with a band including viola, saw, accordian and double bass. What happens next moves me like few live shows ever have – a series of the most exquisite songs, all wrapped in brooding, baroque arrangements and graced with the sweetest, coolest and purest voice. It is perfect.

Her name is Nina Nastasia, she has one CD for sale – her first album, 'Dogs'. I buy it and chat to her partner/manager, Kennan for the rest of the night. The CD, released on Kennan's label, Socialist Records, is a work of art in itself: beautifully packaged with the kind of care that you rarely see – expensive card and paper, hand printed, individually mounted photographs. Kennan tells me that they lose money for every one they sell. But god it's beautiful, put together with endless attention to detail – anyone who owns this CD surely can't help but treat it with the same love and care that has clearly gone into its creation. I notice with interest that it's recorded by Steve Albini – I can't wait to get home to London to hear it... and when I do, I'm almost in shock – the combination of those songs and the predominantly acoustic instrumentation with Albini’s multi-mic mastery is almost too good to be true.

Since then, Nina has released two more incredible Lps ('The Blackened Air' and 'Run To Ruin'), on Touch and Go (who have also reissued 'Dogs'), and built a sizeable worldwide following. Two figures in particular have been quite vocal in their appreciation of Nina's music. One is Albini himself, who said in a Mojo Collections interview: "Of the couple of thousand records I've been involved with, [Dogs] is one of my favourites and one I'm proud to be associated with. [It is] a record so simultaneously unassuming and grandiose that I can't really describe it". The other is John Peel, who originally heard 'Dogs' after Albini sent him a copy and described it as "astonishing". John started to feature 'Dogs' heavily in his show and Nina figured highly in the Festive 50 for 2002 and 2003.

Nina recorded six Peel sessions, but none have been officially released. This recording was made on 03-05-02 and broadcast on 04-06-02. It features her full band (including Dirty Three drummer, Jim White) and is unmistakably engineered by Albini. You can hear the full session on the BBC website - see the link below.

Listen - Nina Nastasia – Full Peel Session
Buy - Nina Nastasia – Dogs
Buy - Nina Nastasia – The Blackened Air
Buy - Nina Nastasia – Run To Ruin
Visit - Nina Nastasia – Touch and Go Records
Visit - Nina Nastasia – Biography

John Peel Was A Hell Of A Man... by Simon

Shellac - End of Radio

I originally posted this track earlier this year but am re-posting it here purely because it captures Shellac at their stunning best. It was recorded as a 50 minute live tribute show for John Peel, and was aired a couple of weeks after his death. And as tributes go it's possibly the one that John would have truly loved.

One of John Peels greatest regrets was that he never got to see one of Albini's previous bands Big Black live.

The Fall - Blindness (Peel Session)

I can't go without leaving you with a track from John Peel's all time favourite band... The Mighty Fall.
We've all harped on about The Fall here on SVC many a time and no doubt will continue to do so, but for the time being I'll leave you with a track that was recorded for what turned out to be the last ever Peel Session they recorded in August 2004.
This is a direct from radio copy with John making a customary mistake at the begining... And no session would be complete without John missing a cue, or playing something at the wrong speed now would it?
The Fall recorded a grand total of 24 sessions for John, every track of which can be found on the quite frankly stunning 6 CD box set 'The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004'
This specific track was also recorded for their most recent studio album 'Fall Heads Roll', which if you haven't got yet then you really really should as it's one of the best albums of their career, although the version of Blindness that's on it is brilliant I prefer this Peel version, the vocals are far punchier and although it doesn't have the great keyboard line of the album version it more than makes up for it with more noise... and it's generaly a better performance.

Buy - Shellac - 1000 Hurts
Visit - Shellac Bio @ Southern Records
Visit - Shellac Fan Site
Buy - The Mighty Fall - Fall Heads Roll
Buy - The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004
Visit - The Mighty Fall, about the best website in the world with a million things to read and listen to and watch... It's my second home.

Here's a bunch of quotes from the great man himself (remember to read them in his dulcet tones) thoughtfully compiled by Proober Glombat...

After an expansive, brain-frying track by someone like Spacemen 3 or Flying Saucer Attack:
"I'm beginning to suspect their spirit of adventure has driven them to experiment with states of mind well beyond those traditionally associated with the consumption of three pints of Old Peculiar."

After Morrissey's falsetto wailing at the end of 'What Difference Does It Make?':
"Ah, the sound of distant seagulls"

On the digital audio revolution:
"Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don't have any surface noise. I said, "Listen, mate, *life* has surface noise."

"If Elvis were alive today, I think he'd really understand happy hardcore."

After talking to someone who was somehow covered in fur on Home Truths...
"I wish I was covered in fur...or feathers...or something more interesting than just fat"

Peel's compering debut on TOTP:
"In case you're wondering who this funny old bloke is, I'm the one who comes on Radio 1 late at night and plays records made by sulky Belgian art students in basements dying of TB."

Another TOTP classic, after a particularly dismal Duran Duran video:
"Well that was the best song I've heard since...well, tea time. Mind you, I had a late tea."

After a set from Coldcut:
"If you've just missed that, I'm sure someone was taping it, it'll be in Camden market any day now".

On legal warnings:
"It is my duty to warn you that in the next few hours you may be exposed to language and concepts you find unsettling. If this is the case I suggest you turn over [track starts] And here's Fuckatron, on Cunnty records, with "I Sodomised My Dad""

Some advert on his show, for some other awful daytime dj like gary davies said "Gary Davies, playing the best music in the world"...
To which John replied "oh, he plays the Butthole Surfers does he, I must give him a listen"

"And that was Bon Jovi - "You Give Music A Bad Name."

Cueing up Nick Lowe's "I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass" for the first time:
"I've not actually heard this yet, so let's hope it doesn't have any Rude Words in it."
"Starts very quietly."
(another pause)
"Good so far..."

On Chris Moyles:
"When he came to radio 1, I thought about strapping explosives to myself and taking us both out. I'm an old man now, it'll make little difference."

"Apologies for the slighly chaotic nature of the preceeding link, it was accomplished with rising panic...."

"When we were coming back from Frank Freeman's, he [Don Van Vliet] asked if he could listen to a tree. I've always thought that's a really strange thing to have done, but of course it could have been his way of saying that he wanted a pee? probably was. He might have said 'listen to a tree', because it rhymed with 'having a pee'. His thought processes were not like those of other men? you could well believe that he wanted to listen to a tree.
If anybody else had said it, I would have said 'stupid bastard' under my breath. But with Beefheart you thought, well, he knows more than I do and if he wants to listen to a tree, and I'm in a position to enable him to do so, then I'm going to give him a chance to do it, because it would be quite wrong not to. So he got out of the car and disappeared. It was one of those things where Pete Frame ought to have arranged for a plaque to be put there. Beefheart probably just went and had a pee, I don't know. Or he may have just listened to a tree. I'd like to say that I can see him silhouetted against a gibbous moon with his ear firmly pressed to a fine old elm, but I just don't know."

Another one from his appearances on Top of the Pops:
"That was Big Country there, the band that put the 'Tree' in country!"

John Peel was a hell of a man indeed...


Further John Peel rhuminations elsewhere:-
We Love 1997 - Mr.Woodshed has been posting tracks from John Peel's festive 50 from 1997.
Keeping C86 Alive - Tom has posted a track from Peel favourites The Cuban Boys.

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