What more can you say, or write that has not already been said or written about the late, great John Peel.
Well, I can only add from a personal perspective.
It is well documented that his career in UK radio spanned over 35 years. In fact longer if you take into account his top 40 DJ work in the USA when in his very early twenties.
In all that time he never stopped bringing to the radio new, exciting some downright challenging music that he was clearly passionate about and hoped we would be too. I will be totally honest here, on several occasions he totally lost me. I just didn’t get it.
That said, looking back on my own Jukebox. Set me thinking.
I wondered how much of my own musical taste(s) were directly or indirectly influenced by JP. I have taken that ‘viewpoint’ to produce ‘playlists’ that get played to this day.
The uncompromising approach that he had to his much loved radio show(s) made the John Peel experience what it was. He had a somewhat, totally unique talent for spotting, nurturing and bringing to people’s attention (well anyone who was at all interested) musical talent months and in some cases years before the rest of the radio world caught up.
It is this aspect coupled with my own musical journey that we will be concentrating on in this blog. The ‘Peel’ dynamic with me as a pop music/radio ‘school kid’ was one of John P as an older brother, away at Uni.
(I was an only child, just go with me on this one)
So although not around in any physical sense. He kept me updated on all things happening in his (more grown up) music world.
We begin in 1967:
‘The summer of love’ I’m a 14 year old at school.
The only statement/contribution that I could make to this new blossoming ‘Peace and Love’ movement while at school! The occasional flower ( may possibly have been a weed) in the buttonhole of my blazer.
This act of young teenage rebellion lasted until a teacher (correctly) pointed out, it didn’t conform to school uniform regulations, and so therefore should be removed immediately!!!
Still, this whole ‘flower power’ thing is really kinda cool to a still at school teenager.
Pop music generally around at this time is growing up fast.
We are still however, months away from a ‘national’ pop music station.
Pirate Radio had been with us since 1964, back then I hadn’t yet got my hands on my first transistor radio.
Fast forward to July 1967, and to one particular ‘Pirate’ who was now working for Radio London.
This loved up buccaneer didn’t sound at all like any pirate, he is a fully flowered up hippy.
The Peace and love vibes are spreading far and wide.
The DJ who is leading this particular radio revolution, John Peel.
While the rest of the pirates are riding the waves. In May of 67, JP is taking a stroll in ‘The Perfumed Garden’ (Title of his late night radio show on Radio London)
The ‘Summer of Love’ as it became universally known, did not unfortunately, extend as far as the top brass at the BBC. They were far from enamoured. They perceived the Pirates as more of a thorn in their broadcasting side, and so put pressure on the Government of the day.
Ultimately, they both wanted the Pirates shut down.
By introducing the ‘Marine Broadcasting Offences Act.’ They did just that.
On August the 14th 1967 John Peel broadcast his last show from the Galaxy floating in the North Sea. He was on air from Midnight to 5.30am.
In amongst many of my favourite tracks by The Beatles, Stones, Donovan, Hendrix.
3 songs played by JP on his last show for Radio London struck a chord with me.
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.
Grace Slick sang, “Feed your head” well it got the kids in school talking on some ‘interesting’ levels!
Desdemona by John’s Children.
“Lift up your skirt and fly” also got the kids in school talking. The selfsame lyric also earned it a ban by the BBC. Written by Marc Bolan who was in John’s Children at that time. John P will later steadfastly champion Marc when he later forms Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Granny takes a trip by The Purple Gang.
it was some time later that the crowd of boys and girls that I was happy to call my friends adopted this piece of musical whimsy. Peel was playing it in 67.
Still raises a smile to this day.
The ‘National’ Pop Music station that I referred to earlier, finally arrived!
On the 30th of September 1967 everyone could listen to ‘Onderful’ Radio 1 (247 Medium Wave)
Ironically, quite a lot of these ‘trailblazing’ new DJ’s were actually Pirates who no longer had ships from which they could broadcast.
Amongst the household ‘names’ that joined the Radio 1 team that September in 1967.
Bottom right sat down. John Peel.
The only DJ remaining at Radio 1 from the above cast in the year 2004. John Peel!
(How many ‘DJ’s can you name?)
The guy right at the back behind the DJ’s, is Robin Scott.
(He ‘blue-printed’ Radio 1 and launched it six months later.)
In the coming months I will share some of the tracks that made my Juke Box, thanks in no small part to JP.
Coming up: 1967-1969.