John Peel Remembered

BBC Audio
RRP: 12.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84607 191 1
ISBN-10: 1 8460 7191 7
Available 02 October 2006

John Peel was the least likely DJ. His droll, laconic and at time almost ramshackle approach was unlike anyone else at the BBC or on commercial radio. His love of music and his passion for finding something new still sets him apart from the play list brigade that dominates our airwaves. In short, Peel was unique and remains one of our best-loved radio personalities.

His autobiography - incomplete at the time of his death - was a fantastic epitaph for a man who was almost certainly unaware of how much interest there'd be in him once he was gone. For a man who lived for music he eventually became as important as the tracks he played - something that might have irked him once in a while.

Peel has become something of an industry since his passing with books, CD compilations of music he loved, and repeats of his work filling up the corners of our lives like so much friendly litter. It's therefore no surprise that part of his autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, has been converted into an audio book, partnered with an episode of Home Truths, compiled by his family after his death.

Sadly, the sound of someone reading John's words - no matter how good the Liverpool accent - just doesn't seem right. It's like a bad cover version of Teenage Kicks: the words are all there but they don't have the authenticity of the original.

And the Home Truths episode, while quite moving, doesn't feature enough of the man himself. If Peel was anything then it was his voice - and that's criminally lacking from these two CDs.

Of course, anything that helps prolong our memory of the greatest-ever British broadcaster can't be all bad but somehow I just wish it wasn't like this. And shouldn't it have been issued on vinyl?

On a personal note, I remember Peel playing a particularly long track way back in the late '70s (probably some obscure dub recording by King Tubby or Scientist) after which he explained that longer recording afforded him the opportunity to tackle the "big game" in his nostrils. How many other DJs would have ever said that?

Anthony Clark

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