So we get this review of our first single in the NME and the next thing that happens is I hear it on John Peel. Men and some women of a certain age (You have to be over 40 ) who listened to John Peel in their youth will know what this means. In essence it is the equivalent of the Apollo moon landings. I do not exaggerate. It is something that one dreams and has fantasies about but never actually believes can come true. Soon if not already there will be teen, youth, twenty something’s buying alternative rock, indie something’s into today’s cutting edge music, a non mainstream generation who will never really know what listening to John Peel meant. Sure Peel will have a certain iconic reverential status to today’s kids, bit like England winning the world cup in 66 I suppose, but to know to really know you had to be there in a certain time a certain place. Perhaps the kids have their DJ equivalents out there, somewhere? As I am no longer a youth I can’t connect or reconnect. Perhaps someone can tell me who, where I should be listening and if it is the same as landing on the moon? But in the same way that we no longer live in the age of going to the moon maybe the age of Peel has gone. So what a write below is a glimpse, a crumb of that time.
The reason hearing my song on Peel was more important than Neil Armstrong taking one small step for mankind was for these reasons:
After some close brushes with arson, mindless fights and a lot of my friends entering the borstal system I wised up. In a place like Avonmouth it always meant I would never have any real local friends because to wise up meant you would be ostracised . Not to be part of the gang meant you were a freak, weird and snobby. I no longer went out and created havoc. My exile coincided with an increasing interest in music, hairstyles, clothes and thinking I was different and cool. I was 11 and the next few years saw me slip away from what was in front of my nose. It also coincided in going to St Bedes Roman Catholic secondary school. I met kids from different backgrounds. To my surprise I got on with some of the snobby kids who liked to talk about music, clothes and hair. It was a strange time because part of me wanted to let rip and a voice in my head was telling me now is the time to embrace culture. When I say culture that’s with a small c, an invisible c, a miserable pathetic c, Ah but Peel! Let’s get back to Peel! Stop this retro self analysis!
No music on telly except the Old Grey Whistle test and there is zero chance that my dad is going to let me watch that as he hates long hair whispering and anyone called Bob. So I’m stuck in my bedroom with my glam rock records ( Sweet, Bowie Slade and the unmentionable, the man written out of musical history, the one we used to call the leader) wearing them out each night. When I am told to turn the noisy shit off and get to sleep, under my blanket I listen to the sound of audio waves, floating in and out of range, beautiful waves that I recorded on a mono cassette tape machine . This is how my musical education begins.
Peel plays old stuff, new stuff, stuff that don’t even sound like music to my ears (it took me a decade to get Captain Beefheart) but it makes me feel like Peel knows, he just knows! He knows that music is the most important thrilling magnificent addiction that a dysfunctional boy can have. It is entirely possible that without listening to John Peel I may never have heard. (In no particular order) Captain Beefheart, Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Damned, Clash, Gang of Four, Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen, Elvis Costello, Can, Viv Stanshall, The Jam, to name but a few.
I met John Peel the once. Chris comes around to my house and says ‘you won’t believe this John Peel rang me mum, he says he’s coming to Bristol tomorrow and do we fancy meeting up for a pint. ‘ I says bollocks he repeats story again. Claims Peel telephoned his mum. ‘Why would he phone your mum Chris? Is she like his hotline to what’s hip and happening in youth culture?’ ‘No because we left her telephone number on the biog we sent to him with the record’. I still didn’t believe him. Even when we were on the 28 bus heading into town and Chris was telling me Peel was doing a ‘Disco’ at Redland Poly I still didn’t believe him. Even when Chris uttered those words for the very first time’ I’m on the guest list’ I did not believe him. Even when we were both drinking pints and starting to get drunk because there was no way we could meet Peel without having a few pints, I still didn’t believe him. At no point did I believe him. Even as I was talking to John Peel about toothpaste ( yes we talked about toothpaste. Peel had forgot his and for some odd reason he shared this with us and a conversation about toothpaste ensued) I still did not believe him. What are the things that stick with me about Peel? It’s so difficult to remember I was so star stuck! What I do remember is that he seemed a bit shy but then again we were so inarticulate he could have just been talking to us like we had learning difficulties; you know pausing a lot so we would remember each word. He was actually quite easy to talk too, toothpaste for Christ’s sake! He didn’t slag anyone off, he was staying at a nice hotel in Clifton. We laughed a lot, in fact I was laughing my fucking nitrous oxide head off.
That meeting was so giddy that I can’t remember most of it and I might be getting confused but I think that his disco was as support to U2 playing Redland Poly around the time U2 put out that album ‘Boy’ So if I could be bothered I could look up the year and get some accuracy here, but I can’t be bothered. I do remember me and Chris watching Bono and thinking what a showman, there was only about 50 people watching them and he was still giving it some, that was impressive. We agreed the music was awful, they were pretty fucking awful really, they were lucky we were giving them 10 minutes of our time, they were major label dross that no one would remember in 3 years. Ho hum.
A strange thing just happened. The Radio is on 6 music, Steve lamacq is a running a trailer for Tom Ravenscrofts radio show. That voice, ghostly, familiar and comforting but different, It’s been raining all day and now bright sunlight is coming through the widows, warm and strange.