The Final Fifty
Page One: A - C
In alphabetical order, just because...
A Father And A Son - Loudon Wainwright III
John was responsible for the American singer/songwriter breaking through in the early 70s by being the only DJ playing his stuff. This song, written by one family man, meant a lot to the family man who played it on air. Wainwright played live for Peel more than once, but never succeeded in playing this one right: it was so important a song to both of them that he could never get past the first verse.
A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You) - The Orb
I've gone on record (pardon the pun) elsewhere on this site about this track. It was recorded as a Peel Session fifteen years ago this December, and broadcast a few days afterwards. Lying in bed on a dark December night listening to this astonishing soundscape through headphones was a revelation.
A Legend In My Time - Half Man Half Biscuit
A rather sad track in retrospect, this. It was one side of a one-off acetate single (the other side being by other perennial Peel faves The Fall) which was presented to Peel on his 65th birthday, less than two months before his death. This is the Birkenhead band's reworking of a song written by Don Gibson and which, in its Roy Orbison version, was another favourite of the great man. And he was a legend, too.
Ai Bine - Ali Farka Touré
Despite saying in a letter to John in 1987 that the African music he played never really grabbed me, there were to be exceptions. I remember him playing this track from the Malian guitarist's The River album one humid evening in the summer of 1990 and being blown away by it. This was the Joy Of Peel, if you like: you could never tell what was coming, and you could never know what would have its effect. You can hear a clip of this track here.
Alec Eiffel - The Pixies
The American noiseniks of the late 80s were grist to the mill at Peel Acres, and the Pixies were another band which he helped on their way, although this was one of band's final releases.
All Apologies - Nirvana
Kurt Cobain had a sense of humour - albeit a rather bleak one - and he displayed it on this song, a mocking mea culpa for comments he'd allegedly made about gay people. Peel was an early champion of Nirvana (and much of what was later called 'grunge' by lazy journalists) long before David Geffen got involved and before Cobain was turned into yet another Dead Rock Icon. My preferred version of the song is found on the MTV Unplugged album, which gives a tantalising glimpse of where Cobain might have been heading musically had he not ate the bullet.
Am - Datblygu
As I also said in my letter, John Peel was the only DJ outside of Welsh-language radio who played artists performing in our national language. Yr Anrhefn, Y Cyrff, Gorkis (q.v.), Llwybr Llaethog all featured down the years. Most challenging of all was David R. Edwards' twisted electropop, in which the nearest thing we've ever had to a Mark E. Smith of our very own mused on a variety of messy subjects. This is one of his bouncier numbers, but in the lyrics he still continues his war with cultural conformity.
Bi Lamban - Toumane Diabate with Ballake Sissoko
Back to Mali again, but in a different style, with the Kora duet updating an album which had been recorded some thirty years before by their fathers. A quiet, atmospheric piece (recorded late at night in the Malian parliament building) which gave the lie to the commonly-held notion that Peely only liked loud noises.
Bloody - The Golinski Brothers
A classic piece of post-punk nonsense, and a track which was a regular fixture in the cassette machine when the family Ravenscroft went on long car journeys. John particularly liked the line "Send my Giro to Cairo", and the whole clan would belt out the line "Still, you gotta 'ave a laugh - ha, ha, HA, ha!"
Breaking News - Half Man Half Biscuit
Another track from the DJ's second-favourite band (he said he wanted them buried with him - I don't think he got his way on that one). Nigel Blackwell's unerring eye for contemporary cultural references finds its target once again, including pot-shots at teenagers spitting needlessly, people who own Agas (but don't know how to use them) and celebrities and poseurs galore.
Cognoscenti v. Intelligentsia - Cuban Boys
The Cuban Boys gained such a fan in Peel that he made them honorary members of his family. Although this is their most famous track (narrowly avoiding the fate of being a Christmas #1), they made better ones, including one based on the sounds made by Flossie Ravenscroft's novelty Japanese alarm clock.
Coming Out Soon - Melrose
Who else in the whole world would play rockabilly from Helsinki?
Destroy The Heart - The House Of Love
For some reason I stopped listening to the Peel Wing-Ding at the end of 1988, and didn't go back to it for about ten months. This was the last track I heard before my departure, as it was Number One in the Festive Fifty for '88. A storming piece of indie from the fade-in of jangly guitar to the last-chord echo.