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Delirious With Weird

Tuesday, October 26, 2004  
Sometimes you just write and you don't really know what or why, you just have to type. Other people will say it better, more knowingly, more profoundly, but this is my two pence.

John Peel would, I’m sure, appreciate the fact that radio Five Live has just followed a tribute to his life and a commemoration of his death with an article about what kind of biscuits British people like to dunk in their tea.

I never really liked punk, and, if I’m honest, I probably only ever listened to Peel’s programme on Radio 1 a few dozen times. I did often catch the first ten minutes or half an hour or so of it in recent years as I drove home from football on a Tuesday night, but in recent months we’ve been finishing at 8.30pm and Peel had been bumped back to 11pm, so those few, warm moments of bumbling, endearing, unprofessional passion disappeared. But Peel wasn’t just about punk. The only Peel Session CD I own is by Boards Of Canada. He was the first Radio 1 DJ to play reggae, ska, krautrock, electronica, hip hop, everything.

“Teenage Kicks” and “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)” have been all over Radio 1 this afternoon, and every time I hear either I well up. He didn’t influence the choice of music I listen to, but he did influence the philosophy behind why and how I listen to music. I love the fact that his favourite single was released when he was in his late 30s and he still got it, the rush, the push, the adrenaline, the buzz of hearing a great song and feeling as if you’re about to pop. Who else now is going to play the music that no one else will touch?

Part of me worries that, as someone on ILM pointed out, some people at Radio 1 will secretly be saying “well that’s that problem solved”.

Possibly what I liked most about Peel, disregarding philosophy for a moment (never stop; never be comfortable; always move on and look for new things; help others if you can; enjoy life; be nice; you can be a normal, unassuming person and enjoy cutting-edge art and culture; everyone can enjoy art, as long as they get a chance to appreciate it; everyone deserves a chance; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera), was Home Truths on Radio 4. I remember vaguely crossing swords with Momus on ILX about it; he complained, said “who wants to know about the normal people, who cares about the average; I demand the exceptional!” but I saw Home Truths as being about showing how exceptional even the normal people are. The item I remember most from that programme was about a pub in Brighouse, and a group of local men who would go there on a set night every week and take their wives, and the wives would sit at one side of the pub and the men at the other and each group was like a different club having a meeting; if a man was going to be absent one week then he had to bring in a note from his wife giving permission. The situation reminded me of the Sunday night regulars in the pub where I used to work. I found it heart warming; just another example of the silly little things we do, the games we play, to pass the time, to make our lives that bit better, that bit more fun.

“Celebrity” deaths don’t generally phase me at all. Joe Strummer dying upset me, as he was on the mental checklist of musicians I would like to meet, to have a beer with and chat to (alongside Bill Drummond and Mark Hollis). Peel was on the other mental checklist; the list of “good guys” (and girls). You never, ever came across anyone saying anything bad about John Peel. Negative or critical maybe, but never bad, not with feeling.

Rest in peace, John Peel. We love you.


10/26/2004 10:55:00 pm


Blogger Ian - 2:01 am

You put it far better than I could have. His is the only "celebrity" death that's shaken me up aside from Jim Henson, Joe Strummer and Douglas Adams. And all those were sudden, too.


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005