Thursday, 20 October 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Saturday 22 February 1992)

February half-term week in the 1991/92 academic year which means Oliver was now getting in sight of its opening night.  I have a very distinct memory of that half-term, one of sitting at home listening to South Africa thrash Australia in the cricket World Cup.  A further reminder of a distant time in which the Springbok return to world sport seemed a further reflection of a world at peace with itself and committed to throwing off the poison that seemed to have infected 20th century politics from between the end of the Second World War up to around late 1989. I'd fallen for a girl that I was in the show with and was writing down my reflections on it while listening to South Africa knock off the runs with ease, and felt excitedly and contentedly happy.  However, I won't dwell on the girl that much, because as soon as she got wind of my interest, her previously friendly demeanour towards me was replaced with something close to utter terror.  I backed off, mentally kicking myself to pieces and trying to pretend that I knew this would happen all along.
But that was all in the future during that half term.  I'd also bought my first compilation tape of a particular band.  Not anyone contemporary, but rather Birmingham's finest band of the 60s, The Move.  A love affair brought about by being utterly beguiled by their rendition of Blackberry Way on Sounds of the Sixties.  It must have made an impression given that the same episode also featured memorable performances from The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and The Mothers of Invention.  Needless to say I caned the tape over the summer and beyond - and even thought that doing an exaggerated impression of singer Carl Wayne's dancing would be a way to impress women.  They laughed all right, but whether it was at me or Carl, I could never be sure.

In the here and now of 22/2/92, John Peel permitted himself a little bit of nostalgia with an Otis Redding track which you will notice by its physical absence as you scroll down through the selections from the 3 hour show.  It holds the record, a mere 48 hours, for fastest takedown of any track that I have put up on this blog.
Peel had started the half-term admitting to problems sleeping because his eldest son, William was away on a skiing trip in Austria, though he suspected that the Austrians had more to fear from William than the other way round.
Radio 4 presenter, Libby Fawbert dropped her future colleague a recording of the announcer at Birmingham New Street Station, who she claimed sounded the spitting image of Peel.  He played the recording and there was a definite similarity.  Peel felt the announcer had a much better radio voice than he did and followed up with a session track by Loudspeaker called It Wasn't Me.
Peel had friends all over the world, some of whom would correspond with him through his show.  One of these, Ahmed, wrote to tell Peel that he was moving from Cairo to Newfoundland. Peel greeted this with dismay given that he doubted that any records Ahmed sent him from Newfoundland would be half as good as the ones he sent from Cairo.
The recording featured a nice bit of ephemera.  Given our digital radio present, it was interesting to hear a trailer featuring Tommy Vance promoting increased FM coverage for parts of the country that had not previously been able to hear Radio 1 through it.  "We're coming soon to the Channel Islands".  Hopefully this increased coverage meant Peel regained some of the listeners who lost contact with him when Radio 1 switched exclusively to FM frequency circa 1988.  Peel having received letters about it, as referenced in David Cavanagh's Goodnight and Good Riddance.

By the time I worked my way through the full show, I had 23 selections that were vying for inclusion.  The ones I haven't been able to share are:

Kar - Take Control - there should be an umlaut in Kar's name.  This horn led tinkly techno track was, according to Discogs, the only release that came out under this act's name.

Loudspeaker - It Wasn't Me/Strip Mind/No Time (Peel Session) - as you can imagine from their name, Loudspeaker specialised in loud, bluesy, bar room rock.

Flying Saucer - Sandy Says - With that name, I had expected Man or Astro Man style dynamics, but instead got Velvet Undergroundesque balladry.  Very nicely done and Peel called it his favourite record of the moment.

Burnout - Lounge - This blistering rocker was on a consignment of records from Drag City record label out of Chicago, all sent on vinyl. "No CDs for these blighters".

Sweet Sound and Dance - Zimbabwe - a tribute to a country which in those pre-Mugabe-losing-his-mind-days, Peel described as a place he would happily move to with his family if he could conquer his fear of flying.

And then there were the tracks which fell from favour on second, third or even sixth listen:

Bunny General - Pon Mi Border - initially I was quite taken by this reimagining of his own Played By This Ya Sound but as time went on, I got more and more uneasy that it was using its "reggae is better than Bhangra" theme as an unsubtle cover for more offensive sentiments.  "Tell them don't cross over" and talk of murder after crossing the border is too close to the bone in 2016 Britain, even with near 25 year old recordings.  If I've misread this or am barking up the wrong tree, then please feel free to correct me.  For now, Pon Mi Border is beyond the pale.

Babes in Toyland - Catatonic (Peel Session) - this track trailed the imminent release of their Peel Sessions album on Strange Fruit.  Cherry Red would subsequently release a complete collection of Peel Sessions in 2001.  Peel anticipated that this would be his favourite Strange Fruit release to date, but to me Babes in Toyland continue to be an exam question which Peel has set and which I cannot find a credible answer to except in acoustic form.  I see why Peel was attracted to them given the Slitsesque vibe, but all I hear is three girls screaming unintelligibly up their cunts and daring the listener to feel the art.

Billy Bragg - The Marriage (Peel Session) - in recent weeks, I've celebrated my first wedding anniversary and seen my wife's sister get married, so while I may have been initially taken by the Bard of Barking's dismissal of matrimony in comparison to straightforward living in sin, it's sentiments palled on me when it came to writing about it.  All that and the fact that Billy delivers a really annoying vocal here.  I mean it's Dolores O'Riordan levels of irritating.

Sideshow - Right - this sounded OK on the radio, but came across as lumpen and stodgy on subsequent hearings.

Cherry Forever - Cherry Forever - the opening dynamics of this track aren't bad, but those weak vocals kill it.  Besides, you can never trust a band which writes a song named after a character from Porky's.

Peel signed off ahead of the next night's show, promising to be "so unrelentingly cheery, I'll get a daytime programme out of it".

How many of these would the announcer at Birmingham New Street Station have played?

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