Saturday, 21 April 2018

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Friday 10 April 1992)

John Peel
“Do you ever have days where you feel you got out of bed on the wrong planet?  This is one of those, I think.”
His opening words to the show on 10/04/92 showed that Peel was taking the events of the previous 24 hours hard.  The Conservative Party, under John Major, had confounded predictions and won the 1992 General Election.  The IRA commemorated a fourth term for the Tories by exploding 2 bombs in London; the second one, at Staples Corner, going off while Peel was on air.  There were times in his life when Peel felt that what he did for a living was excruciatingly superficial when set against the hostile realities of life and a melancholy air hung over the programme on this night - even though he had a guest in to try and gee his spirits up.
A few tracks from previous months - selected for this blog too - turned up on Peel’s playlist tonight.  There was “a final play” for Don’t Want to Be Grant McLennan by Smudge as well as Gag’s far-sighted warning about Donald Trump, The Corner Hot Dog Stand.  Also getting an airing was an acetate of  Hippy Gumbo, recorded by John’s Children and given to Peel by Marc Bolan prior to him starting Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Peel was also enduring further anguish as he had a deadline approaching for a magazine article which he had been asked to write about football songs.  Having received a letter that evening by “George from Swindon” about Elizabeth Archer’s pregnancy, he now wanted George to write back to him with advice on what to write, perhaps lacking courage in some of his own recent choices.
On a depressing evening, small victories had to be found where they could.  Peel had been in a correspondence through the week with Earache Records about the speed at which Stranger Aeons by Entombed should be played at.  The label said 33rpm but Peel had doubted this when playing it at home.  He phoned Earache who told him that it was definitely 33rpm.  However, the next day, they contacted him again and told him, “rather shamefacedly” that he had been correct and that it should be played at 45rpm.  It had originally been on my list of inclusions, and maybe if it stayed at 33rpm it would have featured here, but listening to it again it fell away in a heap of steaming “meh”-ness.
There were a few others that fell from favour and in a couple of cases, I think I might have made mistakes:

Afghan Whigs - This is my Confession - I should have been well disposed towards Afghan Whigs considering they recorded tracks from Jesus Christ Superstar, of which more if and when this blog ever gets to 1996, but despite the strong start to this track, interest dribbled away very quickly.  However, I owe a big apology to...

The Hair & Skin Trading Company - Elevenate - who yet again found my wavering thumb ultimately pointing downward, despite coming up with a track that went in a number of surprising directions but ultimately failing to convince me.

Hyper - U - Demonic S-Cape - a track which covers similar ground to In the Name of the One by Prudens Futuri and ultimately comes off worse.

There were a couple of tracks I would have included but couldn’t get hold of:

Stare - Work - described in my notes as “an excellent protest song requested by Felicity of Wood Green”.

Krispy 3 - Harder Times - Still brilliant.  Still unavailable.

All other selections from this show were taken from a full 3 hour recording of it.  The next evening, Saturday 11 April 1992, would be the first not to run alongside Oliver! It featured sessions from
Jacob’s Mouse and a repeat of Robert Lloyd’s Terminal Hoedown session from two months earlier.

Full tracklisting

“He’s a born undertaker’s mute/I can see him in his black silk suit/ Following behind the funeral procession/With his features fixed in a suitable expression” (That’s your Funeral from Oliver! Words and music by Lionel Bart).
To have both a show and a general election in the same week was a combination that I have never experienced since April 1992.  I had watched the previous night up to the point where the famous Basildon result was announced, but the significance of it was lost on me despite the ballyhoo that accompanied the declaration.  When my father woke me for my paper round and  told me that the Conservatives had won again, I was mildly perplexed rather than majorly put out as I wasn’t eligible to vote until the next election anyway.  Like many others though, I did wonder whether I would ever see a Labour government, more out of curiosity than political conviction at that point.  My seat of Falmouth and Camborne, which the Liberal Democrats had targeted, was held by the Conservatives and was represented by former Olympic champion and World Record holder, Sebastian Coe.  Later that year, my parents would escort him and his then wife when they were guests of honour at an Atheneum Club dinner & dance, my father being president of the club over 1992.
As I say, I had no influence over the election, but Oliver! went extremely well running from Tuesday 7 April to Friday 10 April 1992.  I won’t be going into extensive reminiscence for a show that no one reading this (outside of any Facebook friends who were in it and may be looking in) ever saw.  Suffice to say, my main business as Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker, was wrapped up inside the opening half an hour.  I sang That’s Your Funeral without any problems and blundered by wearing white socks under my undertaker’s costume.  This was nothing new as I continued to wear white socks casually until well into my early 20s.  In mitigation, I worked a period of that time in a sports shop, so it was expected.  The textiles teacher, Mrs. Slater, told me about the socks but no-one gave me any black ones to wear.  Indeed, it wasn’t till the final night that anyone gave me prop money to pay for Oliver, up till then I mimed handing money to Norman Selwood as Mr. Bumble.   Once young Oliver Twist ran away to join Fagin’s gang, my appearances were more sporadic:  A Bow Street Runner at the end of the first half who catches Oliver and starts his journey towards safety and respectable society whereby, through one of those “only in a musical” coincidences where Oliver has the whole of London to pickpocket but ends up getting caught by trying to steal from his own
grandfather, Mr. Brownlow; a tavern drinker in The Three Cripples joining in with Oom-Pah-Pah and
then cowering with all the other drinkers from the fearsome Bill Sikes - a classmate of mine was most jealous and put out that a girl he fancied had to spend these scenes sat on my lap and cuddled up to me.  I told him he should get into acting, then it might be his turn to enjoy such accidental pleasures; I also sang the Knife Grinder’s part in Who Will Buy, which in a sense I enjoyed more than Sowerberry’s song because a) Who Will Buy is a much better piece of music and b) many of the subtleties in That’s Your Funeral went over my head.  I wasn’t even aware of the meaning of the title and my performance was less sepulchrally gloomy than may have been required.  Instead, I ended up in a kind of vaguely pissed off middle agedness mixed with a touch of henpeckedness.  In other words, if I did the part again now, I would do it very differently.  But that’s true of most of the performances I gave between 1992-97.  I finished my nights’ work as the Bow Street Runner again, raiding Fagin’s place after SPOILER Bill Sikes is killed and Nancy murdered.  Applause was long and loud.  Colin Leggo was cheered to the rafters as he came out to sing a reprise of Consider Yourself on one leg after suffering a broken kneecap in a PE lesson at the start of the week.  Friendships that had been bonded together over 6 months endured in some cases, and faded away in
others.  I went away from it all, about an hour before Peel would begin his long 3 hours of the soul,
determined to try and do well enough in my GCSEs so I could do A-Level Drama.  The director, Jane
Stevenson, also Head of Drama, told me that the school was going to perform Carousel in 1993.  With a bit of luck, I could be doing all this again within a year, but in the event, I was back into rehearsals for something completely different by the start of the following month...

....but before this blog moves on to the Peel show playlist for my next show, the Oliver! posts will wrap up in the next few weeks with reflections on the Oliver! soundtrack itself and finally the ultimate Oliver! mixtape from Peel’s shows from 2 November 1991 to 10 April 1992.

I’m the man in black....

Photo courtesy of Jane Stevenson

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