John Peel Day: Remembering Peel, Keeping His Legacy Alive
Today is John Peel Day. The enormously influencial and popular Radio One deejay died one year at the age of 65, after suffering a heart attack. Tribute is being paid to Peel in a variety of ways, including hundreds of gigs in the U.K. and a radio documentary called "Keeping it Peel" (i.e. keeping his musical legacy alive).
The tributes began last night with a concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. On the bill were some of Peel's favourite bands, including New Order, Super Furry Animals, and the Fall. Following an introduction The Undertones' Fergeal Sharkey, New Order played a set consisting entirely of Joy Division songs, the first time New Order has done so. (Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980). Before the show, bassist Peter Hook explained, "we thought he [Peel] would have liked it that way." Singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner told the crowd the group would have got "nowhere" without Peel.
At the same concert, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker credited Peel with giving him his musical education and said Peel inspired him to "make music my life."
In addition to the performances, the concert included video tributes from artists such as Jack White, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, and Billy Bragg. In 1983, after Peel said on the air that he was hungry, Bragg drove to the station with a mushroom biryani and a copy of his record. At the time, he was unsigned...
Other artists who have said Peel significantly helped their career include David Bowie, the Smiths, the White Stripes, the Sex Pistols, the Cure, Orbital, and the Clash, among many others.
His love for the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" is one of the best-known facts about him. He also did the mix CD thing, and it's an appropriately ecclectic mix, given his wide-ranging tastes. The introduction is especially unusual: the sound of football (or soccer, if you must see it that way) player Kenny Dalgish scoring a goal opens the album. If you read the Wikipedia entry on John Peel or any one of a number of articles about him, there are a lot of cool, somewhat eccentric stories like this that add to his likeability -- playing the whole side of a record because he loved it so much, that sort of thing. Okay, he also chose to interrupt "Love Will Tear Us Apart" on that mix CD with the sound of a goal being scored... and... eek. I love that song so much. Perhaps there was some significant, somehow football-related memory attached to that song that explains that. Have to give him the benefit of the doubt).
In 1989, he chose the following songs as his "desert island discs":
Handel's Zadok the Priest as recorded at the coronation of George VI
Roy Orbison - "It's Over"
Jimmy Reed - "Too Much"
Misty in Roots - "Mankind"
The Undertones - "Teenage Kicks" (which he named as his choice if he only could pick one)
Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto
The Fall - "Eat Y'self Fitter"
The Four Brothers - "Pasi pano pane zviedzo"
Again, ecclectic... I think it's a great thing, to be able to appreciate many different kinds of music. As part of Peel Day, we're asked to think about how to keep his musical legacy alive. Perhaps one way to do so is to try to broaden our own musical horizons... To download something you might ordinarily pass on, check out a reggae CD at record store's listening station, if you don't ordinarily think of yourself as liking reggae... How to try to carry out John Peel's legacy in some small way is something for music bloggers to hopefully think about as well. Writing about, and posting songs by more unsigned artists, is one approach (Overplay is a great place to find such artists. I'm pretty sure non-music-blogging "civilians" are allowed there too).
mp3:The Undertones - Teenage Kicks (from The Undertones)
mp3:The Fall - Eat Y'self Fitter (from Perverted Language)
mp3:Joy Division - She's Lost Control (from Unknown Pleasures)
mp3:Pulp - Common People (from Different Class and Hits)
mp3:David Bowie - Boys Keep Swinging (from the Sound + Vision box set, etc.)
mp3:Billy Bragg - Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards (from Workers Playtime)
mp3:The Cure - In Between Days (from The Head on the Door, etc.)
mp3:The Cure - The Walk (from Staring at the Sea: the Singles, etc.)
mp3:Meg - Patch (I have written about Meg before, and in the meantime you can check them out at their their website, or, yep, at Overplay... but an interview with Rob Geraghty, Meg's singer/guitarist, and more music from Meg and from Rob is forthcoming... That aside, it just feels right to include a song by a great unsigned band in a John Peel tribute post)