Miscellaneous - Terry Reid

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 5 / 11 / 2010

Miscellaneous - Terry Reid

In his 'Gimme Indie Rock', in which he examines the best of alternative music, Jamie Rowland upon the sixth anniversary of John Peel's death writes about 70's cult artist, Terry Reid


This year marks the sixth anniversary of the death of renowned radio DJ John Peel. Like countless others, I spent three evenings a week of my teenage years sat by the radio listening to Peel’s show, eagerly jotting down band names and song titles as my musical horizons were stretched out like a pair of well-worn slacks. If I had liked music before, I was in love with it after I discovered the John Peel show. The key, I think, to the wide-spread appeal of John’s radio programme was that he was genuinely passionate about what he was playing – it was less like broadcast entertainment, and more like swapping music recommendations with an old friend. Peel had an emotional connection to the music he played that was infectious, and it helped that his tastes were so eclectic; there was literally something for everyone (everyone worth counting, anyway). Not a week went by when I wouldn’t hear a song that sent shivers down my spine, forced a smile on my face or swelled my heart like love. You might think that sounds over the top, you might well say “Come on, it’s only music!” But it wasn’t “just music”, and it never is. Music gets into everything and every life has a soundtrack – particular songs remind you of particular people and places, moments both good and bad. You can travel back forty years in the space of three minutes. At its best, music will send you places, and never have I travelled so far so frequently than when I was sat in my room with my notepad and pen, listening to John Peel on the radio. In the spirit of Peel and his programme, I want to write about an artist who has exactly that kind of special meaning for me. When I come to look back at my relationship with my parents in years to come, I have no doubt that some of the most significant memories will come from the very few evenings I have spent staying up late talking to my dad about songs and artists new and old. As we talked, he would get some of his old records out and play tracks to me and I would fetch albums by contemporary artists I thought he might like and we would exchange opinions on each others’ tastes. On one occasion, my mum was also chatting with us, and as I pawed through my parents’ record collection I pulled out an album at random. The album was named after the artist. “Who’s Terry Reid?” I asked. My mum’s eyes widened at the memory. “That’s mine,” she said. “God, I haven’t listened to that in years! I saw it in a record shop when I was a teenager, I only bought it because of the picture of him on the cover” Indeed, Mr Reid looks quite the handsome man on the cover to his self-titled, second album. The record’s appeal is, however, by no means skin-deep. The music contained within is astonishing and gripping in a way that makes you question why Reid isn’t a household name. His voice is absolutely astounding, which might explain why Jimmy Page approached him to be the vocalist for his band the New Yardbirds – who of course would go on to become Led Zeppelin (Reid turned it down as he was already commited to supporting the Rolling Stones on tour). The fact that Reid instead followed a solo career is a blessing in that it produced the frankly superb album which I pulled from my parents’ dusty record box that night, some years back. You only need to hear the immense ‘Rich Kid Blues’ once to know that Reid’s songwriting talents are above and beyond. Other treats include ‘Silver White Light’ and the blazing ‘Marking Time’, not to mention his blisteringly good cover of ‘Stay With Me Baby’ – for my money, it’s better than Janis Joplin’s version. While I don’t think Reid ever bettered his second effort, his third record 'River' is also very good, while 1976’s 'Seed of Memory' also contained some absolute belters; ‘Faith to Awake’ and ‘Brave Awakening’ are particular favourites, along with ‘Ooh Baby (Make Me Feel So Young)’. The best recommendation I can give to Reid – and this brings us back to what I was saying about John Peel and the power of music – is that when I put that album on and listened to it with my parents that night, my mum was in tears before the first track was over. Immediately she was a teenager again, sitting in her room by her record player, dreamily looking at Terry Reid on the cover of his album, and having her tiny mind blown by the power of his music. As a side note, I’d like to mention that I saw Terry Reid perform earlier this year at the Pavement-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties and he remains astonishingly good. See him if you can!

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