When the BBC announced they were planning a John Peel tribute day on October 13th no-one could have imagined the national response that followed. Awards have been named after him, gig spaces and just about every city through out the country held some sort of tribute in his memory.

Here are a few of the highlights and some thoughts about what John Peel Day really meant to his fans.



Radio coverage of John Peel Day

“I had a phone call from a girl from The Daily Mail today. It was about that DJ chap who died recently.”

I am on the phone to my Dad.

While my Dad knows his Bach from his Britten, and there is nothing that he can’t tell you about his twin favourite classical composers, Beethoven and Brahms, he knows little about rock music. He, however, went in the late 1940’s and the early 1950’s to Shrewsbury, the same boarding school on the English-Welsh borders as John Peel. Although he remembers little about John Ravenscroft as Peel was then known, only that there was a boy of that name two years below him, it was an experience which, each of them sensitive and neither able to fit into its barrack room regime, both hated. The Daily Mail has ironically found my Dad’s name on a list of old boys of that era.

“His autobiography is just about to come out. Apparently he alleges that he was raped there in it. The reporter wanted to know if I thought that it was true.”

“And what did you say?”

“I told her that I would believe anything about that bloody place.”

Three nights later, as I sit at home listening to the bulk of the six hour Radio 1 tribute to Peel on John Peel Day, I recall this conversation.

There are live sets from Bloc Party, Half Man Half Biscuit and New Order who play old Joy Division songs. In between there are smatterings of conversation from the great man himself, and songs galore from many of the acts that he helped to break including Led Zeppelin, The Wedding Present, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Incredible String Band and Roy Harper. There are obscurities too from lesser known bands as well such as Steveless and The Caretaker.

It makes enthralling listening, maintaining a similar harmony to Peel’s own radio programme. While it is unlikely that every track will appeal to every listener, there is always enough there to keep it fresh, absorbing and thrilling.

Even now, a year on from his death, Peel continues to move and touch people, including my classical music-loving Dad, in the most varied and often surprising of ways.

John Clarkson


Peel Documentary

I can’t think that anything I’d have to say about John Peel would be particularly interesting, or would be any more than a rehash of things people have been saying now for over a year: "He was a legend", "there’ll never be anyone to replace him", "he changed the way I looked at music", etc. All true, but all pretty much covered, I should think.

So, I’m now left with the predicament of thinking of something interesting to say, a predicament which I also faced a couple of months ago, when I was asked to talk about what John Peel meant to me for a Radio 1 Documentary called ‘Keeping It Peel’.

You might wonder what makes me qualified to talk on a BBC documentary, and the answer is quite simply that there’s nothing at all. I’m sure anyone who was a regular listener to Peel’s show could have done as good a job or better. So, why me? The answer, my friends, is simple: I used to bombard the show with e-mails. After discovering the John Peel programme aged 16, I would e-mail every day with track requests, comments, or some random blathering, all of which led to the producers, Peely himself and even some listeners recognising my name (or at least my e-mail sign-off, Jamie from Kent). I was always exceedingly chuffed when John read out one of my messages, but my crowning glory was the time when, after having one e-mail read out every show for a week, Peel said "It seems that a show isn’t complete these days without a message from Jamie in Kent." It was the highly sarcastic tone of this comment which really made it extra special for me.

In the end, what I recorded for the documentary was cut down to just a couple of lines (I of course understand that this is completely fair and reasonable. People like Laura Cantrell and the Soledad Brothers would certainly have more interesting things to say) but to have just been a part of it was a huge honour and a privilege for me. If it wasn’t for John Peel, I wouldn’t be the same person am I now and a lot of the decisions I’ve made in my life would have been very different. And maybe you’ve heard all that before, but it’s the truth, and the fact the so many people feel the same way just goes to show how influential this man really was.

Jamie Rowland


John Peel Week in Carlisle

On October 13, music fans flocked out to gigs put on across the country to celebrate the life of the late Radio One DJ John Peel.
Carlisle’s own Brickyard was no exception, putting on a gig featuring Manchester’s Proud Mary, among others.

But the Brickyard went one better than most venues, putting on a whole week of gigs in the spirit of Peel, to introduce people to new and diverse bands.

Throughout the week, up and coming bands such as Envy and Other Sins and the Most Terrifying Thing, and more established acts like Monkeyboy and Skeletal Family appeard.

Unfortunately, the Brickyard had real trouble trying to get people to come along to see new bands, despite cheap ticket prices and drinks, which lead to the week ending on a bit of an anti-climax.

Monday

It’s the first night of the Brickyard’s week of gigs celebrating John Peel’s life, and the venue is almost empty.

You have to feel for the two bands playing tonight, Overdriven Unknown and The Most Terrifying Thing, but despite the very sparse turnout both give it their all.

Overdriven Unknown are on first, their music a cross between the garage rock of early PJ Harvey and the grunge riffs of the Stone Temple Pilots. Their singer genuinely seems to be enjoying herself, energetically dancing and throwing herself around the stage.

Ignoring the small crowd, the band makes a real effort to entertain those who have turned up.

Liverpool’s the Most Terrifying Thing seem (understandably) disappointed at the lack of punters as they take the stage, but they still play a great set.

Their discordant rock tips its hat to American indie rock bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Mudhoney, but the inherent Britishness of their songs also brings to mind a heavier Snow Patrol, 'Seamonsters'- era Wedding Present and current NME favourites Nine Black Alps.
The band play a short but sweet set, playing with passion and giving off plenty of energy despite little stage movement.

Playing to an almost empty room could easily drain the life out of a band, so hats off to these two for still going for it 100%. They may be slightly disappointed at the size of the crowd, but at least they can go home satisfied that they converted the few who did turn up.

Tuesday

The second night of the Brickyard’s John Peel week showcased three very different bands with one thing in common; they are from Cumbria.
The first was Whitehaven band The Marratimes. Their set went well apart from a snapped guitar string in the second half of their act.
As the lead singer took a moment to re-string, the band, who had played very country influenced songs up until that point, jammed out some instrumental rock that was actually a personal high light of their set.

The personality of the band definitely came from the bass player who had an air of the eccentric about him and really pulled the band together.

Carpathia followed with a mix of emo and metal music that was heavily influenced by the band Funeral For a Friend.

They played well and gave a very energetic performance that went down well with the audience.

Headlining band, Paper Shell, managed to maintain the energetic atmosphere starting their set with fast paced indie rock and then slowing down the pace after a more funky tune that had fans of the band up and dancing.

The female guitarist particularly stood out in this band, showing a lot of talent for someone who looked incredibly young.

More people turned out for the second day of John Peel's tribute
week showing strong support for the local bands, hopefully the crowd will continue to grow throughout the week.

Wednesday

The best night so far of the Brickyard’s John Peel week still failed to bring in a big crowd.

Four very loud and very distinctive bands put on a great show that was energetic, lively and diverse for the third night of the tribute week.

The turnout however was disappointing and all of the sets were kept short and to the point.

Multi Purpose Chemical kicked off the night with a heavy metal sound strongly influenced by the band System of a Down.

They were an entertaining watch with a great sense of humour, the lead singer worked hard to interact with the audience. A cover of Edwin Starr’s 'War' was a highlight of their set.

Second To Last were completely different, with a post rock instrumental sound.

They played their set to a backdrop of arty footage that showed people busily going about their lives.

They finished with all four members bashing out drum beats together. This worked really well and was a powerful end to their set.

Monkey Island got off to a slow start but were actually a really great band once they got going.

It is almost impossible to describe their sound; a mix of rock, blues and punk with stop, start rhythms and a finger picking guitar style.
A lot of their songs were instrumental and lead vocals came from the
drummer who sounded a bit like Mark E. Smith from The Fall.

Headliners Monkey Boy were the loudest band of the night, playing only drums and bass guitar.

They had a lot of theatrical energy on stage and one of the bass players kept lunging into a disjointed, frantic dancing and marching around the stage.

Thursday

The fourth night of the Brickyard’s John Peel week brings more great bands to Carlisle, and yet again, no-one turns up.

Stoke-on-Trent’s This is Seb Clarke are headlining tonight, with support from Envy and Other Sins and My Scarlet Darling.

Ex-pat Aussies My Scarlet Darling kick off their set to a practically empty room, but still kick ass with their Jam style tunes. There are also elements of noisy 80's post-punk in the mix, which works surprisingly well with their mod-punk sound. The Jam sound of their music is partly down to Andrew Petersen’s voice which has a nice Paul Weller-esque quality to it.

Dressed like working-class Victorian gents (only clean), Birmingham lads Envy and Other Sins go all out with stage props; old style paintings, lamps and fairy lights are scattered around the stage. They genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves too, despite playing to – yes, you’ve guessed it – an empty room.

Their music is quite simply ace; a mixture of Franz Ferdinand and Talking Heads disco punk and the romanticism of Jeff Buckley. Again, it doesn’t sound like it would work, but it really does, especially on epic closer 'Shipwrecked'. Envy and Other Sins have the kind of sound that could see them getting quite big – keep an eye out for them in the near future.

Headliners This is Seb Clarke are huge, literally – they are 12 men strong. The Brickyard is still pretty empty, but their fantastically raw rock ‘n’ soul actually gets those who are here up and dancing; a minor miracle in Carlisle, helped in part by the very energetic and slightly pissed dancing of My Scarlet Darling’s Andrew Petersen (he even did the bump with this reporter). If the Commitments was a real band and was a bit punkier, they would sound like This is Seb Clarke, and their energetic feel-good vibes are as infectious as influenza.

Along with Wednesday, this was one of the best shows of John Peel week so far. Those who stayed in and watched telly really missed out.

Friday

The fifth day of the Brickyard’s John Peel week sees the dismal turnouts reach a new low.

When we arrive at the Brickyard just after nine, only one paying customer had turned up.

More people thankfully do turn up, but by 11 headliners Skeletal Family cancel their set and leave the venue.

Before this, the Lap play a set of Deftones-influenced melodic metal. They don’t quite give it their all, but this is understandable, as they are obviously disappointed with the size of the crowd. That said, they still play a pretty good show.

Persistence find themselves in a strange place, having suddenly become the headliners tonight, but get several members of the crowd going with their angular, melodic indie rock in the vein of Biffy Clyro. In honour of Peel, they play a blinding cover of the Undertones 'Teenage Kicks', one of his favourite songs. It’s a fitting tribute, and gets people up and dancing.

Although it’s rubbish that Skeletal Family didn’t play to those who paid six pounds to see them, the finger of blame should really be pointed at Carlisle’s apathetic public.

The Brickyard’s John Peel shows were about introducing people to new music and different bands, but in general most people in this city don’t seem to be interested.

By the looks of the turnouts at these gigs, it seems that in Carlisle, John Peel’s spirit is as good as dead.

Mark Rowland and Sarah Johnson



What were we celebrating anyway?

Even my parents never objected to me staying up late in order to listen to Radio 1. It did not take that long to figure out that the John Peel shows were worth of my chronic lack of sleep. The few albums in my father’s collection included the ones I had bought before him after hearing about them on Radio 1, 1060 MW on Monday through till Thursday, 10 to 12 UK time. John Peel always was the one to highlight a certain style or artist first and months later the established music - or Hi-Fi in my father's case - magazines would follow suit.

John Peel moulded much of the music from the last three decades in the past century. Without actually ever producing music in his own right, John “Peel” ranks amongst the main influences and only crap musicians will disagree.

This leads to my main objection: John Peel's trademark has been registered officially, like we have memorials and stands at ‘Glasto’ named after the great man. How come no music library has been founded to preserve John Peel’s legacy? To me, it seems the most obvious tribute possible.

Instead we had a BBC Peel Day on October 13. Is that to celebrate his shows went back an hour, to coincide with John's 65 birthday? That was some present: reach home a full hour later, feeling more tired when you've already been diagnosed with having diabetes.

I shall not end this piece with a rant but with these two thoughts: do you really think John Peel would have cared about memorials held in his praise and do you really think any of the labels and artists deserve the credit they claim? Why don't all of you just volunteer for the John Ravenscroft Music Library?

Maarten Schiethart










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