The Final Fifty
Page Three: L - Sh
Lion Rock - Culture
Peely was a champion of reggae and all its variants: to such an extent that the neo-Nazi morons of the late 70s used to send him turds in the post (he sent some of his own back). Comparatively few reggae acts recorded sessions for him, however, largely because they often didn't turn up when booked. One such act which did make it was Culture, and in 1982 they laid down this absolute classic, one which remained a firm favourite with him to the end. There's a clip of this here.
Lundi Bleu - The Times
Cover versions was another area of interest for him; the more outlandish or removed from the original style the better. Here's one such, a guitar-heavy, French-lyricked version of New Order's Blue Monday (the template for which, the track 586, appeared on a Peel Session) which appeared as a single in the early 90s.
Make A Deal With The City - East River Pipe
John gave more interesting American acts airplay here than probably all the radio stations in the U.S. combined. Here, we find that it wasn't just the hard-edged raucous ones who could find a home on his shows, as troubled talent Fred Kornog (under the pseudonym of one of NYC's main sewerage outlets) sings a wistful song.
Mankind - Misty In Roots
Back to reggae now. Misty In Roots were recorded live at a festival called the Counter-Eurovision, which took place in Brussels in 1979 as an antitdote to the Eurovision Song Contest also taking place there at the time. This was one of John Peel's Desert Island Discs, not so much for the song, but for the spoken introduction which he said summed up what his programmes were about better than anything else he'd ever come across:
"When we trod this land, we walk for one reason... to try to help another man think for himself.
"The music of our hearts is roots music: music which recalls history, because without the knowledge of your history, you cannot determine your destiny: music about the present, because if you are not conscious about the present, you're like a cabbage in this society: music about the future, and the judgment that is to come."
Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd - Gorki's Zygotic Mynci
Peel often said that, if he had his time over again (and not come back as the year 1847 or a tailback on the M6, which he suspected would be his fate), he would learn Welsh. He certainly made up for it in this life by promoting Welsh acts, of whom the quirkiest was this Pembrokeshire outfit, who later crossed over to being, briefly, the darlings of the 'serious' London press.
Moment Of Truth - Dr. Phibes and The House Of Wax Equations
Much of what he played was impossibly to categorise (which was, partly, The Point). I mean, were Dr. Phibes indie? Were they rock? Were they ambient? It's probably best to say 'all or none of the above'. Although their second album Hypnotwister (whence cometh this track) didn't get as much airplay as its predecessor, this is my favourite track. Sadly, the band broke up not long afterwards, and singer/guitarist Howard King Jr subsequently received a life sentence for murdering his mother.
My Foolish Heart - The Bhundu Boys
More, at first, even than his colleague and close friend Andy Kershaw, Peel championed African music, especially the guitar-based jit style from Zimbabwe. This is a track which shows them in mellow mood, but with the guitars still twinkling.
Noir Désir - Vive La Fête
The sheer eclecticism of the man! Right up to late 2003, when this extraordinary screamfest came out of Belgium and became one of the most requested tracks of the year. Only the fact that it arrived so late in the year kept it from a top ten slot in the Festive Fifty.
Pickin' The Blues - Grinderswitch
Included solely because it was the theme tune for Peel's Radio One shows for close on twenty years. To hear the opening beats is still to expect his voice coming in after the first guitar note saying something like, "...and in session tonight, we have 50-Foot Queenies and Noseprod" (and if there have never been bands called that, something's drastically wrong with the universe). The story, as Peel himself told it, is that Grinderswitch had heard that someone was using their tune as a theme, and thought it would be a good idea to take this English DJ a gift as a token of their appreciation when they came over to London. They duly arrived, and eagerly tuned in to Peel's show. They were so appalled at what they heard (I think it was the punk era) that they went back home to GoodOleBoyLand without ever handing the present over.
Pull The Wires From The Wall - The Delgados
One of Peel's more recent fave bands with a song with a beautful, dream-like quality. This appeared in the Festive Fifty two years in a row (#27 in 1997, #1 the next year).
Rappaport's Testament (I Never Gave Up) - Chumbawamba
I doubt if I would have ever heard all that this group of northern anarchists had to offer without John Peel. There's much, much more to them then the slightly unfortunate Tubthumper (kept off the #1 one spot by a dead princess - comspiracy theory, anyone?). This song, based on a concentration-camp story by Primo Levi was the first track of theirs I heard, and I searched out the rest in short order.
Razzmatazz - Pulp
As any fule kno, John gave Pulp their first exposure way back in 1982, when the 16-year-old Jarvis Cocker pressed a demo tape into his hands after a 'John Peel Roadshow' gig at Sheffield Poly. They were booked in for a session within a few weeks, and the rest, as they say, was...the rest. In fact, nearly a decade passed before anyone took any more notice of them, and it was largely thanks to Peel playing singles like this which led to major interest.
Rubbish - Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
Included largely because it features a clip of The Man Himself in the middle, saying "What do you think of the show so far?".
Shallow - Catherine Wheel
A lot of crap has been thrown at the music of the early 90s, where 'Indie' and 'Shoegazing' have become epithets of abuse. One band which would no doubt have been the target of the bile was Lowestoft's Catherine Wheel. But they did great songs, like this stormer from the Ferment LP. Heck, I went and bought the album on the strength of this. I wasn't wrong: neither was Peely.