In my (very) occasional alter ego as guest writer for this epochal site, I was drawn this week to an idea that has been fermenting in my mind during the arid mosquito-filled Korean summer. JP was famed for his discoveries, his playing of challenging and obscure music, and his superb taste in general.
However…there are little dark corners of everyone’s life, and thanks to the considerable efforts of tapers the world over and their unselfishness in sharing Peel’s legacy with the rest of us, we can now uncover some of those pockets of resistance, the blind spots, the fond and foolish items in the playlists that only make us realise the man’s humanity that much more. I present to you some of the records that you never would have imagined him playing. But he did. Note that the Jakki Brambles shows are ruled out of court here, because…well, it wouldn’t be sporting, would it?
1. Sheena Easton, 9 To 5
Maybe not so much of a surprise this one, as John was clearly smitten with the Scottish lass who won probably the earliest of reality shows, Esther Rantzen’s Big Time, made two appallingly vacuous and grating 45s as part of the deal, and wound up as Prince’s girlfriend. It’s pure toss, of course: it regressed the cause of feminism by many years, as the singer gleefully relates how her feller toddles off to work on the morning train, and she waits for his return each day, when ‘night time is the right time/We make love.’ Jesus wept, and no wonder by Christ. Seeing this performed by a heavily made-up 8 year-old girl on Minipops was surely the low point of Channel 4′s early years. John regularly programmed the song into his roadshows, added it to the 1980 Peelenium and a copy was found in his Record Box after his death. But did he ever play it in the course of his normal shows? Oh yes, and had the temerity to describe it as a ‘great pop record’ afterwards. So is the jury still out on this one, or have they recommended the death penalty? You are the judge.
Evidence: 17 December 2002
2. Chicory Tip, Son Of My Father
The crowds at the 1992 Reading Festival danced their socks off for this one. No, really. Peel remarked that he never thought he’d play this, and we all still wish he hadn’t. More intractable bollocks from a bunch of grinning popsters, clearly with their eyes on the sangria and lager Majorcan market of the early 1970s. Never has a stylophone been used to such soporific effect.
Evidence: 04 September 1992
3. Adam And The Ants, Prince Charming
Contentious point? Aye, they did indeed record sessions for them in their punky days, which are among the jewels in the Maida Vale catalogue. However, by this time he’d obviously grown tired of the narcissism and theatricality of the lead singer’s ego. To be fair, though, he fades it out early and follows it with a much better song, Rolf Harris’ War Canoe, in order to show where Adam nicked his ideas from. Smart move, John.
Evidence: Rolf Harris 81 (mixtape)
4. Duran Duran, Planet Earth
Now we’re relying on a listener’s memory here, since no recording of JP playing this has yet come to light, but it’s surely only matter of time. It’s actually not that bad a tune, but he hated the gaudy New Romantics with a vengeance, and remarked after playing Hole’s definitive live version of Hungry Like The Wolf that it was the ‘first time I’ve ever said the word Duran Duran on this programme, I think’…before relating what a listener had reminded him of, and admitting that it was quite probably true. There was a band called Duran Duran Duran whose tender and touching LP Drunk On Cock he played a fair bit in 2003, but I defy you to make a connection.
Evidence: 17 March 1995
5. Wham!, Young Guns (Go For It)
“And the first person to write in and say ‘you shouldn’t have played that, you should have played the UK Subs instead’ will be turned into a toad. You’ve been warned!” Given JP’s caustic remark concerning George Michael’s later effort with Aretha Franklin on Top Of The Pops, this seems like a curious choice for the man. But was it really any diferrent from a lot of the pop/twiddly bass stuff he was playing at the same time? It’s still a fresh and enthusiastic reminder of the era that brings back the club scene of those faraway days in a moment, at least for this old codger.
Evidence: 22 September 1982
6. U2, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock
New Year’s Day made the Festive Fifty in 1983, as we all know, but how many of you remember him playing this? Bono and pals were never offered a session, as John was indifferent to the sound they made. That I must admit is one I would like to have heard.
Evidence: 22 May 1980
There you have it..for now. If there are any more embarrassing moments you can recall, and ones which quite clearly weren’t intended to be bad (so that rules out his Reginald Bosanquet, Oliver Reed and Tony Blackburn howlers), let’s hear them.
• Steve runs the excellent site, Teenage Kicks.