Looking thorugh the John Peel-related posts on the BBC’s website, particularly relating to the Festive Fifties, it’s kinda interesting to see what gets thrown up, in terms of the bands you rediscover, never heard, or are surprised to see in there. It’s good to see stuff that comes round again…or should. Today’s post is actually quite heavy on 1993, a time when I listened to John Peel’s show pretty regularly, taping it (no podcasts then!) and trying to stay awake until 2AM on Friday and Saturday nights, something that I didn’t manage very often. It’s also interesting to note just how much good stuff there was, and looking back, thanks to John Peel, the NME and Melody Maker, the local library and Radio 1 finally moving forward, just how much aware I was of quite a few of these at the time.
What was it about his show? Oh heck…his enthusiasm for music, the sheer diversity of the music, the fact that he knew so much about music, you felt he was teaching you just as much as your own teachers were. He was cool to me, not in a silly way, but just managing to have his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Or something. When John Peel died in 2004, my mother and another friend were very quick to ring up and see how I was. It’s fair to say no other DJ could make people act this way.
Anyway, on with the music…
Laura Cantrell was a favourite of John Peel and no fewer than three songs from her album Not The Tremblin’ Kind made the Festive Fifty in 2000. These definitely tend towards ‘Country’ rather than ‘Americana.’ This is my favourite of those three:
Laura Cantrell -Two Seconds.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.27)
Of course, there were some very angry Americans on there too, perhaps typified by the Dead Kennedys twenty years previous to Laura Cantrell;
Dead Kennedys -‘Holiday In Cambodia.’ mp3 (1980 Festive Fifty no.6, 1981 Festive Fifty no.9, 1982 all-time chart no.14, Millennium all-time chart no.14 )
And it wasn’t all singing either:
Pigbag -‘Pap’s got a Brand New Pigbag.’ mp3 (1981 Festive Fifty no.39,)
I wish I could claim that the first time I ever heard Billy Bragg was on John Peel’s show, as a very clued-up, cool ten year old. That would be a lie, however. I actually first heard this on Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 8 (also featuring the Pet Shop Boys, Run DMC, Cameo…and Nick Berry). Oh well.
Billy Bragg -‘Greetings To The New Brunette.’ mp3 (1986 Festive Fifty no.41)
The first time I ever heard PJ Harvey was thanks to a free cassette (this was 1992, free CDs started appearing a year or so later in the UK),on which was her Peel session version of Water, on a compilation free with a magazine called VOX (a nineties magazine largely written by NME writers), called Radio Daze. A year later Peel played the corrosive and scary 50FT Queenie (including when he hosted a lunchtime show for a couple of weeks), and then one night in early 1995 ‘Down By The Water.’
PJ Harvey -‘Sheela-Na-Gig.’ mp3 (1992 Festive Fifty no. 2)
PJ wasn’t quite a riot grrl (sic) per se but pre-Britpop, there was a lot of angry, politicised music, and no lack of things to get worked up about, and there were a lot of bands leading the way. I remember scrawling Cornershop on my school-bag, much to the complete disdain of my school mates. Bet they all brought ‘Brimful Of Asha’ especially for that line about bosoms. Hmm. Anyway, five great tracks from the 1993 Festive Fifty:
Chumbawumba and Credit To the Nation-‘Enough Is Enough.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.1)
Madder Rose – ‘Swim.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.2)
Voodoo Queens -‘Supermodel Superficial.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.6)
Senser – ‘Eject.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.21)
Credit To the Nation -‘Call It What You Want.’ mp3 (Festive Fifty no.24)