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…
Although 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?
There 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 Fall – Grotesque (1980)
“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
Click here for venue and travel details.
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