Margrave of the Marshes – John Peel

November 7, 2010 at 10:46 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m reading John Peel’s wonderful autobiography Margrave of the Marshes. Simply put, it’s a fantastic book. Honest, insightful, hilarious, and above all fascinating.

I remember first listening to Peel in late 1978. I had started reading The New Musical Express earlier in the year, and Peel’s show, Monday to Friday 10-12 PM was the next logical step for all the great bands I was reading about.

10-12 PM on a school night (I was 14 in ’78)  was a bit late for me (and my parents), so I often had to listen with the volume turned down very low, but Peel exposed me to countless things that were new to me.  Friday night was a treat because I could stay up later, so it was a real disappointment when they gave that time slot to Tommy Vance and what would later be known as classic rock.

But I first heard Crass, Siouxsie, the Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, the Slits, and many many more on Peel’s show. And every Christmas was the Festive Fifty. Listeners wrote in with their favourite songs and Peel played then in order. “Anarchy in the UK” was the number one in my formative years.  

An amazing man who really and truly loved music.

In fact the only thing wrong with this book is that he died before he finished in. The second part of the book was written by Peel’s wife Sheila. Haven’t got that far yet, but no doubt this will figure in the music notes post later this month.

Here’s something Peel wrote about being a DJ.  

“It’s obvious that disc jockeys, as a class, are essentially parasitic. We are, with lamentably few exceptions, neither creative or productive. We have, however, manipulated the creations of others (records)  to provide ourselves with reputations as arbiters of public taste. There is no more reason (nor no less) why I should be writing this column than you – however I am in this unmerited position and you’re not. I believe very much in radio as a medium of tragically unrealised possibilities and also in the music I play. Therefore accepting the falseness of my own precarious position I will do what I can, wherever I can, to publicise these good things I hear around me. These musicians have made you aware of, and appreciative of their music – not J. Peel. ”

John Peel, Disc and Music Echo, 1969.


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