Monday, 10 May 2021
Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Sunday, 2 May 2021
I know I usually save this until the end of the housekeeping notes about the various John Peel programmes which provide selections for this blog, but the most striking thing about this Peel show was just how many tracks I initially slated for inclusion on my metaphorical mixtape, only to reject them when it came to revisiting them. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind on quite so many tracks from a Peel playlist before. Those who lost their appeal (in every sense of the phrase) included:
Pavement - Frontwards - My notes tell me that I heard the last minute of this track from their Watery, Domestic EP, so it had to give it a chance in case the majority of the song was worth keeping. But over all it was fairly desultory stuff and for the second time in a fortnight, I proved to be immune to something from Pavement’s latest EP.
Bourbonese Qualk - Knee Jerk Reaction - This was a borderline miss as it had meditative qualities amid its motorik beats and deconstructed techno sound that I found quite appealing. It would have made for a decent split single with Disemboweled Corpse for its ability to pull some kind of order out of musical chaos. But it lost out because it ultimately wasn’t anywhere near as memorable for me as Cesspool of Sorrow had been. Nevertheless, Peel had some kind words to say about the Knee Jerk Reaction EP and Bourbonese Qualk’s move into dance music, especially when comparing it to some of their previous releases which he summarised as a lot of burbling and squirting; electronic stuff of a, by and large, unlistenable nature.
Rat Patrol - Use and Forget - Despite taking their name from a 1960s American TV series, Rat Patrol were a Dutch punk band hailing from Groningen. Peel had made a first visit to Groningen during his Grand Tour of Europe the previous month and had loved it, describing it as the kind of place where his eldest son, William, would like to go to university.
Sonic Youth - Ca Plane Pour Moi - I appreciate this will make me sound like an old stick in the mud but I hate Ca Plane Pour Moi, a 1978 hit for Plastic Bertrand so much, that simply hearing the original makes me want to break out a Barclay James Harvest anthology in retaliation. I think my liking of Sonic Youth was what initially inspired me to include their cover of it, which can be found on an album of contemporary bands covering New wave era tracks called Freedom of Choice. However despite their best efforts, they were still, in my opinion, attempting to put glitter on diarrhoea.
Big Black - Crack Up - I think this made it onto the list originally because every time I hear Peel play Big Black, I optimistically hope that he will be playing something which has the mesmerising wallop of a track like Kerosene, only for such optimism to be misplaced. Peel appears to have included this track due to having read a possibly inaccurate report that Steve Albini was going to scale back his production work on other artists’ material. This led Peel to hope that Albini would strap on his guitar and start playing again.
Bimbo Shrineheads - Separating Your Face From My Windshield - Peel confessed that he would have played this track regardless of its quality, due to its unforgettable title. You might be expecting something death-metalish but instead it’s closer to Goth-folk. I was initially taken by it but ultimately the rather brittle-sounding production put me off.
Drop Nineteens - My Aquarium - Eminently forgettable sub-grunge, albeit given a twist with the boy/girl shared vocals, which might have distracted me from the ironing when I first heard it but failed to stand up to a repeat listen
The Attack - Anymore Than I Do - From 1967. The Attack were one of those bands grouped together with The Creation or The Idle Race as one of the great “lost mainstream” bands in that it scarcely seems credible that they never had a big hit. However, a listen to this single shows that this may have been because they sounded a little bit off the shelf in comparison to the more idiosyncratic and bespoke sounds of bands that their disciples consider them to be superior to such as The Who or Small Faces, while they found themselves being outflanked by the likes of The Move, whose eclecticism managed to combine the best of both the UK Mod-Soul scene with the American West Coast Sound. When he was working for Radio London, Peel used to loop the opening riff of this track as the musical bed for trailers. That riff was most likely played by Davy O’List, who would go on to play guitar for one of Peel’s favourite groups across 1967/68, The Nice.
The programme featured several records by several future mainstream chart acts including Hotstepper Returns by Ini Kamoze Was he really singing “Noel Edmonds in the morning”, Peel wondered. Also getting a spin was the latest single by Chumbawamba with its chorus refrain of “Someone always telling you how to behave” When you’re a child it’s your parents, and when you’re a parent it’s your children. It’s most irritating. I have terrible rows with our William, who’s 16, because temperamentally we’re very much alike. And we have huge rows, 2 or 3 times a week and we usually end up weeping and making up and being best pals again, until something else comes up.
He apologised for sounding slightly manic at the start of the programme, which was nothing to do with a row with William, but rather due to the stress of driving into London. It’s a terrible place! If I didn’t have to work here, I’d never come here.
Had I been listening to this show at the time it went out, I would have been saddened to hear the news that Milk, whose excellent track Claws was a big favourite of mine in the early days of this blog, had split up. However, as one Milk was poured away, fresh Milk was delivered in the form of an American band of the same name. Peel played a track from their Making the Most of Limited Hearing EP called Hunting Like Animals.
A letter from Hamburg asked him to play something by the cultiest of cult comedians, Ted Chippington and he was happy to oblige.
But the most surprising track on the playlist - even to Peel himself - was the version of Arthur McBride as recorded by Bob Dylan on his new album, Good As I Been To You. Over the previous couple of years, Peel had been handing on, unheard, new Dylan albums to a friend in his village. He had only listened to the album, the day that the programme was recorded, so that he could counter Andy Kershaw’s inevitable praise for it. However, he was genuinely surprised by how much he had enjoyed the album, appreciating both the stripped down production/arrangements and the tracklisting, which was predominantly made up of covers and which featured, what Peel perceived to be a bit of a Lonnie Donegan influence due to the presence of several tracks which he had recorded such as Frankie and Johnny and Froggy Went a’Courtin
I didn’t include it because I couldn’t get on with Dylan’s vocal, which provided a great example of what Peter Baynham once described on The Saturday Night Armistice as him ...going up to the microphone and just going “HNNNNNNNUUUUUNNN” Honestly, it’s like he’s singing out of the centre of his nose!
Of particular interest around the playing of this Dylan track though, was Peel relating the effects of what he described in the précis of a potential autobiography submitted earlier in 1992 and subsequently printed 13 years later in the postscript to Margrave of the Marshes as a piss-taking review of a Dylan concert..
5, 6, 7 years ago, I did a review for The Observer, of a Bob Dylan concert at Wembley. And I disliked it intensely. I couldn’t bear the kind of attitude, the complete lack of communication with the audience, the arrogance of it all - of course when Mark E. Smith does pretty much the same thing, I think it’s wonderful, so I have to recognise there’s a bit an inconsistency here. But I found it most irritating. I spent most of my time, because I had to keep getting up as I was so cross, they had made some rather nice chocolate brownies, which they used to sell from a stall there. So most of my review was about the brownies rather than Bob Dylan and I was a bit ungenerous about him. It was quite interesting because as copies of that edition of the Observer started going in British libraries around the world, I got more hate mail about that than I’ve ever received in my entire life. You couldn’t believe how venomous some of the letters were. The further around the world that copy of the Observer went, the more hysterical the mail became - and the funnier too, because a lot of them were couched were in fairly fractured English....
Being an enigma at 20 is fun, being an enigma at 30 shows a lack of imagination and being an enigma at Dylan’s age is just plain daft. From the moment the living legend took to the stage, it was evident that here was business he wanted to accomplish with the minimum of effort. (From Peel’s review of the Dylan concert. Published in the Observer on 18 October 1987)