The Final Fifty

Page Four: So - Y

Sonic - The Charlatans

There was a bit of organ-driven indie around at the end of the 80s (The Inspiral Carpets being the other notable exponent), and this Cheshire outfit got a fair bit of play, especially singles and tracks from their Some Friendly album. This was both.

Sunrise - Pulp

Peel never forgot his old friends. He just waited until they got back into form. When Pulp emerged with what looks to be their last album We Love Life, he played this a fair bit. We, his quivering millions (well, OK, million - singular) of listeners agreed, putting in at #19 in 2001's Festive Fifty. It's one of the best album-closers I've ever come across.

Swallow - My Bloody Valentine

One night in, ooh, early 1991, he played both tracks from one side of a 12" single by another band which had never really impinged on my consciousness before. The tracks were odd; there were all sorts of swirling and panning effects, a wash of guitar drone, some half-comprehensible female vocals, and the whole thing sounded as if the record had been pressed slightly off-centre. This, it turned out, was deliberate. The first track droned on a bit, but then a more jaunty, almost Arab-sounding piece took over. In a strange way, it was remarkably beautiful. This was the track, and there's now a clip of it here.


I've broken with alphabetical order at this point. You might have guessed why.


The Revolutionary Spirit - The Wild Swans

I wasn't listening to Peely in 1982, when this track came out, but I heard him play it about a decade later in response to a request. It immediately went on to my 'must have' list. It took me a year or two to track down a copy (like a lot of things he played, it never troubled the chart compilers), but I got one in the end. So, what was the attraction? Well, it's not slickly produced and the band isn't always together (the keyboard player gets a bit ahead of events at one point). But it's put over well and with energy. That's what does it.

Then We'll Rise - Chapterhouse

Another one from the melodic school of early-90s late indie. A beautiful mover (in both senses of the word).

This Leaden Pall - Half Man Half Biscuit

Well, one more time. Any song which can reference table tennis, Stannah stairlifts and Yes, and comes complete with the chorus. "Papal entourage, give us a song!" just has to be included, don'tcha think?

Tour De France - Señor Coconut y su Conjunto

Just to show that there was nothing, but nothing so outlandish that Peel wouldn't play it if it tickled him. Who would possibly think that a Latin American dance version of a Kraftwerk classic could ever work? I mean, apart from Sr. Coconut (alias German producer Uwe Schmidt)? That it works at all is astonishing enough: there isn't an adequate word to describe how well it works. John Peel played it, I bought it, it became the stuff of legend.

Waking Up - Elastica

Just to prove that he could have some effect on the charts. He'd been playing their stuff for a while. This one made the Top Twenty, but landed the band in grief when a court ruled that they'd ripped off the riff from The Stranglers' No More Heroes.

White Rabbit - Mind, Body & Soul

It's sad to think of all the deeply obscure stuff John played that was excellent but would never be heard again. This is one such example, students. As I recall, this came to him on a demo tape from Manchester. The first time he played it, he had to fade it out because he'd run out of time, promising to play it again. A few days later, he did, and I captured the whole thing on tape. A wonderful, dance-orientated version of the Jefferson Airplane classic.

Your Charms - Cinerama

John Peel inspired affection in many. So when he casually remarked to David Gedge that he'd like to hear a song which contained the words 'your charms', Gedge went off and wrote one. More than this, he released it as a single. And it's a great song, too.


Teenage Kicks - The Undertones

Yes, I had to leave this till last. Peely's favourite record of all time.

The one he said could not be improved by adding anything to - or subtracting anything from - it. Two-minutes-and-a-bit of sheer class.

The one he chose as his outright choice on Desert Island Discs.

The one he could never play without seguéing another record in immediately afterwards because he would always be too overcome to be able to speak.

The one he wanted played at his funeral.

The one whose first line, "A teenage dream's so hard to beat", he wanted on his gravestone.

Well, he got one of those wishes last Friday. I hope he gets the other wish too.

Goodnight John.

Page Three

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