Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Don't Walk Away In Silence (Redux)

I guess I won't be the first or last blogger to pay my respects to veteran broadcaster John Peel who has died suddenly of a heart attack aged 65 while on a working holiday in Peru. It's certainly something that merits coverage, unlike the 'Ashlee Simpson caught miming brouhaha' (reality show pop star lip synchs shock horror - good grief, wake me up when Dubya converts to Islam).

I've never met Peel, but having listened to his shows consistently for near enough 30 years, I still feel like I knew him. In the late seventies and early eighties, in those days before mass media and a more 'overground' alternative culture, Peel's show offered pretty much the only opportunity to listen to new bands during such an exciting era. Aside from the much-quoted 'Teenage Kicks' Peel was the first to expose me to some of my all-time favourite songs - 'California Uber Alles' by The Dead Kennedys; 'Another Girl Another Planet' by The Only Ones and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division particularly stick in the mind. Indeed, in my teens I used to take my transistor radio into the toilet with me just in case I missed the first playing of an indispensable tune on his show. Peel's tastes were mostly more diverse than his listeners, and very few could claim to universally like all the songs he played in any one show, with reggae, bluegrass and abstract electronica all thrown into the mix. But occasionally this diversity helped break through such curio hits as 'Uptown Top Ranking' by Althea & Donna and 'O Superman' by Laurie Anderson.

At a time when such news rarely broke into mainstream media, Peel was often the bearer of such bad news as the shock deaths of Ian Curtis and the lead singer of The Ruts and I still find it hard to believe I won't hear his dour but engaging voice enthusing over the latest release from his beloved The Fall ever again. He effected lasting change on the musical landscape of his time, and will be genuinely irreplaceable. He trailblazed for generations the notion that it wasn't embarrassing for a grown man to retain his youthful enthusiasm for a constantly evolving music scene, and many forty and fiftysomething music geeks will be chilled with a glimpse of their own mortality with his passing.


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