October’s Record Club: JOHN PEEL NIGHT

GRCJohnPeelposter copy

Glossop Record Club returns on Thursday 9th October for JOHN PEEL NIGHT, curated and hosted by record club regulars Gavin Hogg and Steve McNamee.

We’ll be playing two albums in full – Grotesque by perennial Peel favourites The Fall, and the winner of the poll (see below). There are ten albums to choose from – Ivor Cutler, Captain Beefheart, Half Man Half Biscuit, Cocteau Twins, The Wedding Present, The Undertones, Joy Division, Misty In Roots, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The White Stripes. That’s quite a choice. We’ll also be playing a specially compiled tape of Peel show highlights and sessions. And as ever, bring along any Peel related records you wish to share.

This October marks the 10th anniversary of Peel’s sudden and unexpected death whilst on a working holiday in Peru. Since the launch of BBC Radio 1 in 1967, Peel was the one constant. Always there, exploring the fringes of popular music and bringing the best of what he found to subsequent generations of listeners (many of whom would often be poised at a tape recorder, ready to capture some hitherto unknown and life-changing gem). He is still greatly missed, but for those of us who were at one time or another dedicated listeners, he instilled in us an open and inquisitive nature when it comes to music, and that is surely his greatest legacy.

That I own records by Wire, The Fall, The Wedding Present, The Colorblind James Experience, Dinosaur Jr, Beck, The Dirtbombs (and many more) is a direct result of listening to Peel’s radio show, something I first discovered in the summer of 1985, aged 11 (almost 12), staying up just that little bit later and fiddling with the tuning dial on my Amstrad radio alarm clock. It was a voice I recognised (thanks to his occasional stints on Top Of The Pops), but the music was unlike anything I’d encountered on TOTP, or daytime Radio 1 for that matter. I didn’t quite get it at first, but I kept coming back, and by 1987 I was hooked, filling blank C90s at a regular rate and expanding my musical horizons in the process. I lapsed over the years (the schedule changes to mid-evening and weekends didn’t help) but I would always tune in every now and then to hear what he was playing. Fast forward to the late 90s and I was listening more regularly again, only this time filling blank minidiscs instead of tapes.

Since his death on 25th October 2004, the anniversary has been marked each year by John Peel Day, with events up and down the country featuring live bands and DJs. So, this is our tribute to the great man and his legacy, albeit on the second Thursday of October, ’cause that’s when record club is, innit.

Anyway, I shall now hand over to Gavin and Steve. Read on…

SG

GAVIN’S BIT

gavinAlthough it only seems like a short time ago when Peel’s Radio One show was the staple fixture of both the cool kids and music geeks’ evenings, it’s hard now to imagine that such a time ever existed. Music is ubiquitous now and self-generated eclectic mixes are only a mouse-click away. Back in the 80s, in my formative years, it was only Peel who was playing such a broad range of music and, more importantly, doing so with real enthusiasm and passion. I remember reading something he’d once written with genuine disdain about a fellow Radio 1 DJ who didn’t even own a record player.

We recognised Peel as one of us; a genuine music fan who would puncture the glossy bubble of Top of The Pops at any opportunity with his asides (“…that was George Michael and Aretha Franklin – do you know she can make any old rubbish sound good … and I think she just has”), who was responsible for getting The Fall on live TV for the one and only time, who was still excited to discover new bands and who would give out the addresses for fanzines written by students in northern Polytechnics. Would Peter Powell, Dave Lee Travis or Tony Blackburn have done any of these things?

 

STEVE’S BIT

steveThere can be no question – John Peel is without doubt the most influential person in the development of the UK music scene. Countless great acts over the past 50 years got their first break through his encouragement and persistence whilst the rest of the world was often showing complete indifference. As a teenager he shaped my tastes too – many of the acts I still love today like Julian Cope, The Pogues, Orange Juice and The Smiths first came to my attention when they recorded sessions for Peel. I spent many a night crouched over a radio with my fingers hovering over the Record button of a cassette player when I really should have been doing my homework, but listening to Peel was a musical homework which has paid dividends in spadefuls ever since, and for which I will be eternally grateful.

 THE MUSIC

The Fall – Grotesque (1980)

grotesque“I cannot imagine ANY circumstances under which I would get fed up listening to The Fall” said John Peel of his favourite band, so it’s only right that we celebrate Peel  by playing one of their finest albums.

Grotesque was The Fall’s 3rd album (another 27 have followed, plus countless live albums and compilations) and it’s their first truly great album. Apparently it only cost £300 to produce (and at times it sounds like it) but it is chock-full of songs which have gone on to become Fall standards.

Grotesque contains some of the group’s most musically accessible work; for the unititiated, it’s a great place to take your first tentative steps into the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall. But what stands out on this album is the remarkable quality of Mark E Smith’s lyrics – he was producing incredibly imaginative material which put him leagues ahead of his contemporaries . New Face In Hell is the tale of a CB radio enthusiast who intercepts state secrets over the air and is then framed for his neighbour’s murder by the government – all driven by a riff played on, of all things, a kazoo. English Scheme is a withering look at what was going wrong in Britain (“if we were smart we’d emigrate”) whilst Container Drivers exposes the dull life of waiting in car parks and at customs checks over a pounding rockabilly beat. Towering above them all is the epic  9 minute album closer The NWRA (The North Will Rise Again), about the North staging a takeover of the South which goes wrong.

References to ‘mithering’ and Lancashire towns like Haslingden only added to the sense of real Northern-ness that enveloped The Fall on this album – they really couldn’t have come from anywhere other than the North West.

When Grotesque came out in November 1980, Abba, Dennis Waterman and Barbra Streisand were all in the Top 5 singles chart. Meanwhile, here was MES ordering us to “pay your water rates” or else you’ll wind up on a “debtor’s retreat estate”. The Fall, as ever, were a world away, marching to their own beat.

So, Grotesque is an album that covers all the bases: it is musically accessible (by Fall standards!), melodic, lyrically fascinating and it never ceases to be interesting. At times it is also baffling, murky, weird, downbeat and experimental, and you might just wish that you could skip a few tracks.

In other words, it’s just like a typical John Peel show. And there can be no greater compliment.

ALBUMS IN THE POLL (vote for as many as you like)

Ivor Cutler – Jammy Smears (1976)
Ivor recorded more Peel sessions than anyone other than The Fall. John introduced many people to the off kilter world of Mr. Cutler and plainly saw it as an act of public service – which it undoubtedly was.

Capt. Beefheart – Safe As Milk (1967)
Peel first met the good Captain in California in 1966 while he was working as a DJ over there. They continued their friendship into the new millennium with regular telephone calls, the contents of which must have been fascinating.

Half Man Half Biscuit – Back In The DHSS (1985)
The album that kickstarted a career of sorts, that’s still going strong today. With their arcane and caustic pop culture references sitting on top of a rudimentary DIY musical backing, HMHB were always destined to be favourites of Peel.

Cocteau Twins – Treasure (1984)
The Cocteau Twins made music that created its own woozy atmosphere and pretty much single-handedly invented the genre of ‘dream pop’. The best band to have named themselves after an obscure Simple Minds song by some margin.

The Wedding Present – George Best (1987)
Like Ivor Cutler, the Weddoes were also runners up to The Fall, not in the amount of sessions recorded but in terms of the most success in the Festive Fifty charts. Peel was quoted as saying this about Dave Gedge, the band’s singer – “The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!”

The Undertones – The Undertones (1979)
14 perfectly formed speedy pop nuggets, only half of them breaking the  2 minute barrier. Still sounds like a breath of fresh air and hits you like a smack on the nose.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)
The band famously hated Martin Hannett’s mysterious and claustrophic production, but it’s precisely that which gives it the timeless, dark & gripping quality that has made it a bedsit classic.

Misty In Roots – Live at the Counter Eurovision 79 (1979)
Barely any Peel show would pass in 79-80 without hearing a track from this classic roots reggae album and it remained one of his favourites to the end. Probably the finest British reggae album ever.

The Jesus & Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)
The Mary Chain would arguably go on to record better albums than this, but none of them could ever hope to reach the iconic status of the debut – a violent firestorm of white noise & feedback, yet full of beautiful melodies and Beach Boys-inspired songwriting.

The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)
A stripped down, raw and primitive  collection of garage rock that gave the Stripes their breakthrough. Probably Peel’s last great obsession  – 10 of their singles were found in his legendary Record Box.

Glossop Record Club’s JOHN PEEL NIGHT
Thursday 9th October, 8-11pm
Glossop Labour Club, Chapel Street, Glossop, SK13 8AT
FREE ADMISSION

Click here for venue and travel details.

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What happened at MADE IN SHEFFIELD

It was an evening of firsts. Our first film night. Our first time playing a cassette. And of course, Glossop Record Club’s first birthday.

In the last 12 months we’ve played full albums by Roxy Music, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Rodriguez, The Velvet Underground, The Everly Brothers, Ultravox, David Bowie, The Beatles, Rockin’ Horse, The Kinks, Marvin Gaye, Mark Lanegan and The Cramps, and we’ve heard from lots of others (The Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Bruce Forsyth spring to mind). We’ve had 45s, 78s, flexi-discs, picture discs, coloured vinyl, reel-to-reel and cassette; Bowie buns, veggie burgers, popcorn, free tapes and northern soul dancing; visits from writers, filmmakers and music historians; we’ve been in the local papers, on local and national radio and in magazines…

We’ve covered a lot of ground since our first session, but we’ve barely scratched the surface!

Thanks to everyone for their support over the last 12 months – whether you’ve just been to the occasional session or haven’t missed a single one. Also, thanks to all those who have shared info about GRC, whether telling friends, sharing links or simply hitting ‘retweet’ (never underestimate the power of a retweet!). It really is appreciated.

And that brings us to our first film night and an answer to the question – why cassette?

Well, the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Vice Versa and B.E.F. all put out cassette-only releases during the era the Made In Sheffield documentary covers (roughly 1978 to 1082). So in keeping with that era, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to roll out my old Sanyo personal stereo (also from the same era) and put it into service. And it didn’t let me down. 32 years old and still going strong! The prominence of cassette in that era also accounts for the free tape we gave away.

As for Made In Sheffield… We were lucky enough to have the person who made the film, Eve Wood with us on the night (along with her husband Richard) to introduce and talk a little bit about it. It gave us a fascinating insight into the whys and hows the film came to be made, what came after and what’s coming next. If you want to find out more about Eve’s three films on the Sheffield music scene, take a look at the Sheffield Vision website.

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Some nice comments on Facebook and Twitter…

“This months was superb pulls it out the hat again”

“Great night, brilliant idea to get the film AND director.”

“Great film at last nights club. Fascinating portrait of a city’s music scene and also of the human desire to create. Loved it.”

“Thanks for the tape and poster! Had really good night.”

“This free Sheffield electronica tape from is bleeping marvellous. It scared the wife & kids too!”

“Discovered Artery last night. Class band.”

And one from Eve:

“Thanks everyone for coming yesterday. It was nice to meet you all.”

We’ll be back on Thursday 9th October for JOHN PEEL NIGHT. Full details soon.

MUSIC PLAYED

sanyoandvinylHEAVEN 17 – Penthouse And Pavement (Virgin, 1981)
Pavement Side: (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang/Penthouse & Pavement/Play To Win/Soul Warfare

MADE IN SHEFFIELD compilation tape
The Human League – Being Boiled (Fast, 1978)
The Future – Pulse Lovers (from The Golden Hour of The Future)
Cabaret Voltaire – Nag Nag Nag (Rough Trade, 1979)
Vice Versa – New Girls/Neutrons (Neutron, 1979)
2.3 – All Time Low (Fast, 1978)
Comsat Angels – Independence Day (Polydor, 1980)
I’m So Hollow – Touch (Illuminated Records, 1981)
Clock DVA – 4 Hours (Fetish Records, 1981)
Artery – Into The Garden (Armageddon Records, 1981)
Pulp – Refuse To Be Blind (John Peel session, 1981)
Heaven 17 – Height Of The Fighting (Virgin, 1981)
ABC – Tears Are Not Enough (Neutron, 1982)

MADE IN SHEFFIELD documentary (Sheffield Vision, 2002)

MadeInSheffieldDVD

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Reproduction (Virgin, 1979)
Side One: Almost Medieval/Circus Of Death/The Path Of Least Resistance/Blind Youth/The Word Before Last/Empire State Human

KRAFTWERK – The Man Machine (The Man Machine, 1978)
TONY CAPSTICK – Capstick Comes Home/The Sheffield Grinder (Dingle Records, 1981)
CABARET VOLTAIRE – Yashar (Rough Trade, 1982)

ABC – The Lexicon Of Love (Neutron, 1982)
Side One: Show Me/Poison Arrow/Many Happy Returns/Tears Are Not Enough/Valentine’s Day

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Dare (Virgin, 1981)
Side One: The Things That Dreams Are Made Of/Open Your Heart/The Sound Of The Crowd/Darkness/Do Or Die

Listen to digital highlights on our Mixcloud page.

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