John Peel's Sunday ritual usually included spending his morning listening to Radio 4. Invariably this meant The Archers omnibus and Desert Island Discs. On this day, the castaway was Elvis Costello. For anyone unable to hear the repeat scheduled for the following Friday, and with iPlayer Radio a mere fantasy at the time, Peel passed on a quote from Mr. MacManus which had stayed with him from that day's broadcast, "Sometimes music doesn't seem to have a place in the [record] industry's plans". Tonight, my Twitter feed has seen people sounding off about X-Factor contestant, Honey G. I haven't seen or heard her, although she visited my workplace just a week or so ago, and colleagues went to meet her. They came back genuinely excited to do so, despite being in unanimous agreement that she had no musical talent. The producers of that show, who to a large extent are the music business now, would probably feel that the being of Honey G, and the reaction it engenders, would be more than enough to validate Costello's statement. This is nothing new of course. Just the presence of Beatles, Stones, Michael Jackson, Prince - hell even the recently departed Leonard Cohen would whip people in to a frenzy. But it was about what they could do, just as much as who they were that mattered. It felt like the music industry understood that. If Costello was talking, a quarter a century ago, about the focus shifting more to marketing, then at least it was marketing artists who had produced music that merited whole floors of record companies discussing image rights and advertising deals. Whereas now, you can have the X-Factor treatment and a whistle-stop version of what Madonna would have been actively controlling, at least till the end of the series. And then when your second record dribbles out with no promotion, and you're reduced to PA spots at a local Center Parcs for the whole of a summer season, and you look to the music business to help - they will simply ask, "Well, what did you do before we found you?"
Selections from this show came from a 92 minute file that caught different halves of the show. Tracks I would have liked to share, but couldn't included:
Big Chief - Bong Wrench/Into the Void/Destination Poon [Peel Session]. The Ann Arbor - any band from Michigan which Peel played that didn't come from Detroit usually came from Ann Arbor - band had already made an impression with Reduced to Tears on 7/12/91 but this session was tremendous comprising a muscular rocker, a Black Sabbath cover and a wonderfully powerful instrumental. All that and they managed to work a Simon Bates jingle advertising Radio 1's discontinuation of broadcasting on medium wave to play simultaneously alongside them during Bong Wrench. Peel was impressed, "I wonder whose idea that was...."
Gush - Hell I - or Hell 1 as Peel pointed out. A short burst of tremendously powerful, loud and thrilling, female Japanese noisecore. And it led into another Japanese based artist, albeit one working a different style of music to Gush....
Tokyo Original Don Gorgon - Junk Rock - in the words of Peel, "Japanese reggae; we don't hear nearly enough of that...a concept almost too bizarre to grasp". This tended more towards the full brass section side of the genre, with a "sweet sweet" refrain which had it come out a year later could easily have sat alongside Oh Carolina/Mr.Loverman/Informer in the top end of the charts. A shame because this is pulled off really rather well.
Peel again played Gejo by Knowledge Kunenyate and Kasongo, but as on 15/12/91 this lovely African tune has not turned up.
And then there were those that were in, but when it came down to it, they were out:
The Gories - Telepathic - this garage blues tune had a question mark next to it when I first heard it and it stayed there after listening to it again. I liked the very end of it though. Recommended, if not included.
Strobe - The Cry - The Hitchin based space-rockers were getting correspondence from places as far-flung as Israel apparently. "Blowing minds to a rainbow" according to Peel with a phrase he can't have used since 1969, at least not without smirking. Unfortunately, I found this too much of a space rocker noodling though empty blackness instead of catching the tail of a comet.
Curve - Lilies Dying - a case of diminishing returns for this listener. Peel had caned the Doppelgänger album over previous shows and maybe Curve fatigue was beginning to settle in.
Bunny General - Mek Them Rock - although not quite as objectionable as the explicitly anti-Asian track, Pon Mi Border, its talk of forced integration made this feel like Norman Tebbit's Cricket Test transposed to the Carribean and set to music. I could not support it. "I seem to have a lot of Bunny General records to play you at the moment". Yes John, but how closely did you listen to any of them?