Sunday, February 8, 2009

John Peel - the olivetti chronicles

There is a famous black and white photo of the original Radio One DJs, taken when the station was just about to open. There are some familiar faces, and some strangers. There's a young Terry Wogan, Tony Blackburn, and Kenny Everett. And down at the front, looking a little uncomfortable, is a young John Peel
Now, I cannot claim that I actually ever listened to his shows that much. When he played music that I (subsequently) liked, I was too young to stop up that late. And by the time I could stay up, he was often playing utter rubbish (in my humble opinion).

However, it doesn't really matter that I didn't go along with much of the music he played, it was that he really believed in it himself. I cannot imagine he ever said he liked, or disliked, a record for any other reason than that he really did.

He had what so very few celebrities have, utter credibility. In spades.
The BBC coverage of Glastonbury will never have the gravitas that he gave it. His radio show was just an institution, and is sorely missed. This book has two shots of him on the cover. The rear shows him as a young man, the front as an old chap. Worryingly, both pictures look scarily like me, at a similar age. Separated at birth?

So, the book. It's a really good read. It gives an insight into his life. It is only peripherally about music. It often made me laugh out loud. It also highlights something I didn't know just by listening to him speak... he could really write too.

The book is arranged curiously, but interestingly. The articles, none more than a page or two long, are ordered by alphabetical order of title, not chronologically. So one minute you can be back in the seventies, and then flung forward into the recent past, and then back again in a few pages. Surprisingly, this works. It's an interesting exercise to read the pieces and ignore the date, and at the end try and work out when it was written.

Okay, he clearly becomes increasingly curmudgeonly as time goes by, but the wit always remained. And it is so nice to hear him criticising the rubbish we've had foisted on us over the years, but with no real malice, and equally his generous praise for people who, frankly, don't deserve it - but if that's how he felt, fair enough, eh?

Recommended, 9/10, you could buy the hardback version here.

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