# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - Retrospective

  by Mark Rowland

published: 4 / 4 / 2005

Miscellaneous - Retrospective


In his 40 or more years with the BBC, John Peel launched the careers of hundreds of bands. Six months on his from the Radio 1 DJ's death Mark Rowland looks back on his life and the continued impact of his loss to the independent music world

In his 40 or more years with the BBC, John Peel launched the careers of hundreds of bands. Although he paid no attention to current musical trends, he inadvertently kick-started most of them since the early 70's. When he died, the impact he had on music was realised, as musicians queued up to pay tribute to him, either through statements, song dedications or tribute shows. Radio One’s 'Keep it Peel' tribute show was one of the best of these, featuring performances from well known acts and more obscure, out-there bands. The Wedding Present played a set at the show. Frontman David Gedge had known John since he first put a band together in 1986. “They said ‘Do you want to take part in this tribute ?’" Gedge said. 'And I said 'Yeah ,of course I will'. It was an odd night really. There was an invited audience there and the fans were all kind of excited, because Graham Coxon was there and PJ Harvey and they were saying ‘You must be really pleased you’re doing this’ and I thought 'Well, no, I’m not really. I wish I wasn’t doing it.' I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but it wasn’t an enjoyable situation. It was like being at the funeral again. I found the whole thing quite upsetting, but obviously I had to do it.” Like many other musicians in ‘Peel bands’, Gedge was a fan of John’s show since his teenage years and was influenced by a lot of the music that he played. “As soon as I was in a position where I was in a band and recording demos, the first person I wanted to send them to was him,” he said. “I had friends who were in another band called the Chameleons and they hung around outside Radio One and when he came out they gave him a demo tape and from that they were offered a Peel Session. Then they got signed to a label and got to release a record, so I thought to myself ‘I fancy a bit of that’. “We went down to Radio One and hung around with one of my inferior demos. I met him there and typically, being such a nice bloke, I think he realised we were fans and he asked us to come up to the studio with him and watch him do the show. So we went in and sampled the delights of the BBC canteen and basically watched him play records. He didn’t offer us a session then, but that was understandable because the early stuff wasn't that good.” The Wedding Present did eventually do a Peel Session and went on to do many more. Gedge became a friend of the Peel family and was invited to gatherings and birthday parties. “I always felt quite nervous in his presence, because I held him in such respect. I’ve said this before playing in front of 20 to 30 thousand people, I’m fine with that, I don’t get nervous about that, but Cinerama played at his 60th birthday party and the Wedding Present played at his 50th birthday party and the fact that he was in the room just made me far more nervous than anything.” For many bands, the John Peel show was the only place where they could get airplay - bands on small labels, making very different or challenging music. The Monkey Power Trio are one of these bands. A group that meets for one day a year, does not tour and releases one record of improvised music a year, they only have limited ways in which they can make themselves known. They sent their records to John without any high expectations, and were surprised to find that he was playing them on his show. It opened the band up to a wider audience in Europe. Dan Richardson is the guitarist in the band, whose members live in different parts of the US. “We never really thought he’d play [our records],” he said. “Maybe that he would just listen to them and get a chuckle or something.” The band did not become as big a part of his life as people like Gedge, mainly due to the fact that they were on different sides of the Atlantic, but still thought of John as a good friend. “He became like a buddy with great music taste that you could hang out, listen to music and bullshit with.” Like Gedge, the Monkey Power Trio loved Peel’s show and it meant a lot that he was championing them. “We felt like we were part of history just hearing our record on his show and hearing mention our name was like being deemed a “real” band. Bands worked to get their stuff played on his show, bands worked hard to get to do a Peel Session - he was an inspiration, simply because people respected his taste and his pure love for music. “I was selfish about [his death] at first - like, damn, we won’t get Monkey Power Trio stuff played on Peel anymore. We won’t ever reach that height - we won’t ever get another person in the UK or Europe to hear our stuff again. But then I just felt sad that there wouldn't be that show on anymore. Thanks to the internet and him playing our stuff, I had become a real fan.”

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors