Posts Tagged 'john peel'


“Sunday morning is everyday for all I care.
And I’m not scared.  Light my candles. In a daze cause I’ve found God.

Yeah yeah yeah yeah…..”

From “Lithium” by Nirvana.

Pop culture and rock music seems to be measured by high water tides, be it the Beat Poet movement, the Summer of Love, the Spirit of ’76 or a whole host of other things.  The recessionary environment and bleakness of the late 70’s and early 80’s produced some great music too.  I wonder how the present global economic situation will inspire new expressions of what it truly is to be human?  It is often cited that this recession has brought a new moral awakening as we are more informed of the impact of our consumption on other world regions.

Throughout generations, music has defined movements, has soundtracked events and captured emotions and memories.  Can we imagine a musical history without icons like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley or the Sex Pistols?  And whilst the influence of such artists is all around us, they aren’t the ones that defined my generation.  Do we make idols of musicians or do we somehow find a sense of something bigger than us through their art?  Something spiritual?  Something of God? And yet a previous generation often frowned and claimed it was all of the devil – even Cliff Richard!!!  Well maybe there’s some truth in that…

This week I discovered a couple of clips that appeared on one of the few TV programmes that covered the indie music scene of the early ’90’s.  They all came from a single episode of Rapido which I had videoed at the time and had watched umpteen times.  On watching it this week I was amazed at how I could virtually recite the journalistic commentary that accompanied the clips together with much of the band’s own conversations.

The first clip is extraordinary.  Nirvana in the UK literally weeks after the release of “Nevermind” – an album which was scrappy, messy, full of contradictions and which was yet deperately urgent and vital upon it’s release.  I listened to it last night for the first time in years and it sounded like a great commercial rock album.  So much subsequent music has been influenced by it.  How the landscape has changed forever even though Kurt claimed he was just ripping off The Pixies. 

This clip shows a band unaware of just how they were going to rewrite rock and it’s a rare insight into a moment in time when NME and others were getting excited about something that was literally destroying the banality of the early ’90’s music scene.  Nirvana were playing to modest sized crowds many of whom were curious.  I still can’t believe I turned down tickets to see them at Calton Road Studios in Edinburgh in November 1991…

The second clip is from a very young looking Teenage Fanclub discussing the success of “Bandwagonesque”, another album that I still listen to all these years later.  Teenage Fanclub’s music has grown over the years and is still hugely treasured by me.

Last but not least, My Bloody Valentine discuss the seminal “Loveless”.  I just couldn’t get my head around this record in 1991.  Was it genius or did you have to be out of your head on some sort of substance to “get it”?  Eighteen years later I still listen to it regularly and whilst I’ve found many of the songs lurking in the strange soundscape, it still doesn’t sound dated to me.  Despite many pale imitations, nothing sounds quite like it.  Oh and it made me nostalgic and happy to see the late John Peel give his tuppence worth too.  

Queen Bee

So, I recently asked what single song would always make your playlist and why?  You can link to that particular post inspired by John Peel here.  My own response is posted here.

The thing I love about music, is that I am always coming across stuff I’ve not heard before.  Some of it will resonate with me throughout the seasons of life and other songs just tarry for a while or mark a certain time or place…

So what’s got heaviest rotation on your mp3/CD/turntable/boom-box these days?

For me, it’s “Queen Bee” by Neil Halstead.  It can’t help but put me in a good mood and the attached video makes me want to make music with friends and freewheel down a hill on a bike without a care in the world…enjoy by clicking the arrow below.

Walk into the Sea

“I could walk into the sea
And choke away the memory
Do I have to stay alive
Just to keep our dresses white?

You come to me in dreams
With all the other pretty things
You tell me about a Savior
And how the soul lives on forever

And time is just a hunger
It bleeds us out to nothing
And when it finally takes us over
I hope we’ll float away together

Yeah, time’s the great destroyer
Leaves every child a bastard
When it finally takes us over
I hope we’ll float away together”

From “Walk Into The Sea” by Low

Low are one of my favorite bands.  I hold them in such high regard musically and in terms of how they seem to conduct themselves in the music business.  I was saddened to hear of the difficulties lead singer Alan Sparhawk was going through a few years back, but given my recent feed of posts on the importance of John Peel, I thought I’d include another story in which his legacy lives on… 

I have seen Low play live more times than I remember.  I am so glad Alan has sought help and battled his demons and I think of this story every time I see them.  I think of the importance of his music to me and countless others.  I think of his wife, Mimi and their two kids.  I think of all the good causes he champions.  Life can be real dark at times, but I think we both believe in a saviour… 

Low’s Alan Sparhawk cancels tour because of mental instability


Get well, Alan. We’re all big fans.

From the band’s messageboard [Via OneLouder]:
dear friends,the following is a lot of sentences starting with “i”. i’ve heard this is bad form and it tends to paint a very egocentric picture of the writer. good thing i’m a musician…

low has to cancel the shows we have booked in may and june – perhaps beyond. i have always tried to extend true respect to the fans of our music. it would be very easy to just cancel without proper explanation, and hope that the rumors tipped our way, perhaps adding to some crafted mystique. but, i’m a coward and i’ll leave that to the true artists.

i have not been very mentally stable for the last while. due to this, touring at this time has become too much of a burden on everyone involved. my current problems and instability create undue and unnecessary stress for everyone close to me, especially on the road, so despite coming back from several months of shows we have thoroughly enjoyed playing and being a part of, i have to respect their best judgment. those last several months have been some of the hardest to live through, and it is too much to ask those around me to have to put up with that any more.

for those of you who cling to details and think information is power; i have been speculated/diagnosed with everything from post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, bipolar whatever, suicidal depression/anxiety (“here’s some pills, call me if you are still alive next week – oh, wait, sorry, your small business insurance plan doesn’t cover all this…”), to paranoia, laziness, OCD, and good old-fashioned two-faced asshole-ness. i know – “big deal, who doesn’t have problems? you have a great and easy life! how bad can it be!?!” i wish i was a better person, and i’m working on that, much in the same way everyone else does. unfortunately, for one reason or another, that battle for me right now abruptly demands some drastic effort, sacrifice, and change – and that’s just to stay in the game… i feel like i’ve come through the worst of it, by there’s nothing uglier than lips speaking vain promises, so forgive me if i’m reluctant to be the cheerleader this time. i need to get healthy, and it’s apparent that something about touring right now is doing more damage than good.

several months ago, amid a couple “bad days”, i found myself standing in front of a photo of John Peel, on the wall outside one of the BBC studios on london. the image of his face in this photo is an image that exposes fools. i was ashamed to even look into his eyes. still, seeing his calm, wise face made me realize i had been letting my own selfish battle with sanity get in the way of the gift of music that i and we all are so privileged to be even a small part of. my thoughts raced.


i remembered being in the man’s home and meeting his family. if there has ever been an example of a selfless man, he surely was/is. yet, it hurt more than looking at the sun than to look at him on some piece of paper!?!… in that instant, i knew i was a fool, and that i had become the enemy. to many this may sound like a very weird and/or dangerous realization, but i have a feeling that that moment will be one i will look back upon someday as “where things changed.” – where the eclipse peaked and began to wane. God bless the breaks my heart. i love playing music and i love being able to play it for people, but i love the people i play music with the most. do the math. you have been so kind to us and the people we work with have been patient and selfless through all this, so despite complete faith that everyone probably understands and at least respects our decision, i still wish to extend my deepest apologies to all.
now, to wrap this up, a word or two regarding the individual inconvenience and monetary loss involved: i know this sounds a bit assuming but, in a cosmic, semi-mentally-ill way, i feel every subway fare spent to go downtown to buy and now refund the tickets, every plan made and day worked extra so the day of the low show would be open, every broken heart that was looking forward to feeling my righteous guitar riffs up close and live, and every dollar that will have to come out of the pockets of the promoters of all these shows (i’m serious… despite all the sleazy stuff that goes on the music biz, most of the promoters we work with are very honest people who are not getting rich off what they do, but they still do it because they love music and the community they live in… please go easy on ’em.)

thank you, and again, i am very sorry. i suggest that instead of going to the low show, go for a walk with a friend or two that day – somewhere where there’s trees or rocks and dirt or plants. i plan to do the same, each of those days, right here in beautiful duluth… or at the funny farm – who knows? either way….

and please please please go out and get the M.I.A. cd!

peace be with you.

g. alan sparhawk

Freak Scene

Following on from my recent post on John Peel Day, I thought I’d answer the question I posed.

Q: What record would always make your playlist and why?

For me the answer would always have to be “Freak Scene” by Dinosaur Jr.


I associate it with the summer I graduated from Uni and was looking for my first job.  I had reluctantly cut my hair and shaved my goatee.  I feared losing the person I had become during my student days in order to pretend to be someone I didn’t want to be.  I dreaded the notion of a conveyor belt of pristine “yes men” desperate for their first chance to impress in the corporate world.  That wasn’t me and isn’t me.  I wanted to stand out rather than fit in.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do and didn’t have a clue where life was headed.  Few firms in the field I had studied in seemed to be recruiting as the market was in a slump.  I was living at home and there was real tension in the house.  I don’t think my parents could believe that a University education didn’t lead to a guaranteed job. 

Up until that point life had always had a routine…get up, go to school or uni, hang with friends, work, rest and play.  All of a sudden the comfort of that was gone and the great unknown loomed big on the immediate horizon.  My girlfriend at the time (who would later become my wife) had finished up her course and was leaving town to enroll on an art degree at Duncan of Jordonston and I didn’t know what city I’d be living in or what I’d be doing.  Unlike previous years I didn’t have a summer job, wasn’t earning and felt guilty about how I was spending my days.  It was a very confusing, stressful and difficult period.

Mudd Club was the choice of venue for a Monday night after a get together at Ma’Camerons.  It was an alternative music night that had run for years.  In the midst of all of that conflict, I remember dancing away with one of my longest standing friends who I consider to be a brother that I never had.  The sloppy guitar of Dinosaur Jr’s “Freak Scene” came on and it sounded like the sort of music that anyone could make in their bedrooms – loose, messy and fuelled with emotion.  As we shook our hair around on the dance floor the closing lines blared out of the PA and, as I looked my buddy right in the eye, I experienced a defining moment in life.  In that instant I just knew that a lifelong vow of friendship, commitment and accountability had been made during the song’s last few seconds…The words may not have been the way we would have articulated it, but the sentiment was and still is there.  The smiling and shrugging at the mess all around and my, seemingly, powerlessness to change any of it combined with my recognition that I couldn’t do it on my own.  The words and the sound actually seemed a truer refelection of what I felt than any of the ways I might have phrased or penned or said it aloud:- 

“Sometimes I don’t thrill you

Sometimes I think I’ll kill you

So don’t let me f–k up, will you?

Cause when I need a friend it’s still you.

What a mess….”

All these years later, that commitment to friendship and support remains as the two of us have journeyed on.  Keith bro’, you know that this one’s for you.

So, here is a brilliant live version of the song which captures all the shambollic sloppiness and chaos that makes it so important to me.  The clip is introduced by indie music demi-godess, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth no less…raaawwwwwkkkk!

Teenage Kicks

I need excitement, oh, I need it bad

And it’s the best I’ve ever had”

From “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones.

Today is the fourth anniversary of John Peel’s death.  I didn’t have a blog back then, but the photo is taken from a scrap book we were keeping at the time.

I still miss “The Peel Session” on Radio 1 and “Home Truths” on Radio 4.  I feel nostalgic and happy and sad all at the same time if I ever hear his voice broadcast.

Many of us will have our favourite Peel moments.  For me they include:

  • His broadcast of the Chemikal Underground Records 10th anniversary party where my mate’s band were introduced as “Cumbernauld’s number one death metal band” (no surprises to learn that they were neither from Cumbernauld nor death metal);
  • Dave Gedge of The Wedding Present’s brief chat with Michael Aspel on “This Is Your Life” which appears half way through this short you tube link after Mark E Smith of The Fall; 
  • My friend, Andrew, getting his first 7″ single played by John Peel;
  • Aereogramme’s live set at the Gronegan festival in Holland which had a particularly amusing bit when Peely was interviewing the band wherein some punters in the background started shouting, “John Peel – we’re not worthy!”, to which he dryly chuckled, “No, you’re not”.

The lyrics at the top are from what is famously known as John Peel’s favourite record.  Exact Science mentioned it in passing on a recent comment on my blog by noting, “Just to touch on John Peel, cause you mention him. In referring to Teenage Kicks he said that he didn’t think there was anything you could add or take away to make it better. I think that is the crux of all great art.”

John Peel carried a copy of “Teenage Kicks” with him everytime he was DJing at some event. 

What record would always make your playlist and why?


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