Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spoken Word Interlude: John Peel

John Peel and his favorite singleBeyond the tirades of profane baseball men and the clever movie dialogue, there is at least one more great class of spoken word often loaded onto Junior Jr., and that is those endlessly entertaining excerpts from the BBC One radio shows of the late great John Peel.

I used to run around saying that Brian Eno was my hero, but that was until I tried reading . . . the Vertical Color of Sound, and realized that saying so was unseemly when my intellect was so vastly inferior to Eno's.

Easier, then, I figured, to marvel at the life put together by Peel, who, while sharp enough, was no unassailable genius to us plebes, and became a beacon for the rest of us only through his enthusiasm for, and love of, music.

It's amazing how balkanized music can become, and how freely even the most passionate of music lovers will help the process along. The folkies wouldn't listen to psych, and the hippies wouldn't listen to folk. The punks hated the hippies, too, and would grow into their disdain for heavy metal. These days, music is either "urban" or not, and the twain don't often fuckin' meet.

John Peel says fuck youAnd we all know that guy who listens *only* to skacore, or to drone metal, or to reggae . . . .

Peel transcended all that bullshit. He was a champion of T Rex, and of Napalm Death, of Roy Harper and of Billy Bragg, of Robert Wyatt and Cat Power and Orbital and New Order and PJ Harvey and UB40 and The Fall, like mixing your peas with your mashed potatoes, Peel didn't mind 'cause it all went to the same place.

Peel loved music the way it should be loved, without prejudice, and though it's a struggle, ever since I became aware of the man, I have endeavored to follow his lead in that regard.

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John Peel spins some crucial waxThe other, funnier, thing about Peel after the shining example he set is that he was frequently a klutz on air, banging the desk, knocking over the mike, popping the wrong cart in at the wrong time, forgetting the name of that band's album. But it all emanated from his guileless enthusiasm, and was so therefore wonderful . . . and wonderfully hilarious.

Here are a few of my favorite Peel moments caught on air. They serve me well in traffic and at the grocery store, but I do not have an exceptional collection. You could probably spend your life finding more.

John Peel Bangs The Desk.mp3

John Peel Gets To Meet Genesis

John Peel Iced Towels.mp3

John Peel BLUUUARGH.mp3

Various bitrates don't matter for the okenspay ordway I don't think

File under: Spoken Word, Hero Worship


rastronomicals said...

I think I could have painted a more nuanced picture. Maybe I'll be able to when I become a better writer . . . .

I go head over heels sometimes, in pursuit of my point.

The thing is, in trying to make Peel a paragon, I gloss over the fact that he pretty much despised prog. That "John Peel gets to meet Genesis" thing is example enough.

"More of a punishment than a prize, I would have thought. . . "

I'm not the biggest Genesis fan, so I can laugh. And I get that bloat can be a problem.

Was a problem, which is why the Sex Pistols ever came to make sense. Or Paul Oakenfold, for that matter.

But you know, I wrote what I did, even though Peel really was prey to kneejerk reactions and prejudice, just like the rest of us.

. . . Yet somehow, perhaps I'm still not out of line when I suggest that someone like Peel could be somebody else's hero.

"Anarchy in the UK" was still making the Festive 50 in 1980, you know, and Peel made plain his dismay, the dismay he should have felt.

Kill yr idols as soon as you make them, y'know? No fucking golden calfs.

If he didn't--wouldn't--get prog, at least Peel understood that.

And he would go on if asked about how his listener's ballots for the Festive 50 were full of "whiteboys with guitars."

Shit, practically everything I listen to is whiteboys with guitars, if it ain't white chicks. But I get what he was saying.

It would have been better if he could have found it within himself to dig "Jerusalem." Still, John Peel was one cool dude, and I could do worse than to emulate him.

TAD said...

R: If you've got the time, Peel's book MARGRAVE OF THE MARSHES is pretty cool, & the best part of it is the 2/3rd's Peel didn't write!
Peel's wife paints a very vivid, loving picture of what it was like 2 live with this guy, who had 9 billion records in the house & played them 24/7 -- & they still had 5 kids 2gether. My copy is long gone, but it should B available fairly cheap from the usual sources. & Peel wasn't totally against prog -- he liked Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Syd Barrett....

rastronomicals said...

Definitely need to read the Peel book, and might make it the one to pick up after I'm done with The Windup Girl, which is more or less next.

I'm not sure about Syd Barrett being prog, and there's certainly a way to approach Wyatt from a non-prog direction, but there's no two ways about Soft Machine, and I'm glad to hear it.