27.10.04

Teenage dreams, so hard to beat



I don't really suppose that I was any different from hundreds of thousands of teenagers the length and breadth of the country. I'm sure there were countless thousands who used to sit in their bedrooms holding their tape recorder microphone to the radio between 10pm and midnight every weekday (except Friday). It was a ritual for me. I lived on a small island, and it was virtually impossible to get a hold of the music John Peel played - our only record shop was Woolworths, where you were more likely to get handed the keys to a new Ferrari than you ever were of finding any records by Stiff Little Fingers, UK Subs, Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division or Spizz (in any of their manifestations). So, as 'punk teenagers' back in the late-1970s, we lived for the John Peel show on the radio. We suspected that he collaborated in our illegal home taping too because, of all the DJs on the radio, he was the only one who waited a respectable time after the song had finished before speaking, and never spoke once the music had started - even when he played the wrong song (as he quite often did). John Peel was more than just a DJ: it was he, through his Radio 1 show, who introduced me to the music that has had a profound affect on my life, then and now. While other DJs were playing disco and glam, Peelie was bringing us New York punk and hip-hop; he championed exciting new British bands, from the punk-pop Undertones to the sub-Goth Cure and Joy Division, and even the anarcho-punk Crass. It is said that his favourite song was The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" - a song that, for me, holds so many memories of pubescent fumblings in the shelters of Rothesay. Teenage Kicks is also one of my favourites, and was the song playing on the tape we made for the delivery room when Liam entered this world. Recently marginalised by the BBC, Peelie nevertheless continued to champion new music to the end, and died of a heart attack on a working holiday in Peru at the age of 65. So long, Uncle John, and thank you for the music.

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