John Peel was the least likely DJ. His droll, laconic and
at time almost ramshackle approach was unlike anyone else
at the BBC or on commercial radio. His love of music and his
passion for finding something new still sets him apart from
the play list brigade that dominates our airwaves. In short,
Peel was unique and remains one of our best-loved radio personalities.
autobiography - incomplete at the time of his death - was
a fantastic epitaph for a man who was almost certainly unaware
of how much interest there'd be in him once he was gone. For
a man who lived for music he eventually became as important
as the tracks he played - something that might have irked
him once in a while.
Peel has become something of an industry since his passing
with books, CD compilations of music he loved, and repeats
of his work filling up the corners of our lives like so much
friendly litter. It's therefore no surprise that part of his
autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, has been converted
into an audio book, partnered with an episode of Home Truths,
compiled by his family after his death.
Sadly, the sound of someone reading John's words - no matter
how good the Liverpool accent - just doesn't seem right. It's
like a bad cover version of Teenage Kicks: the words are all
there but they don't have the authenticity of the original.
the Home Truths episode, while quite moving, doesn't
feature enough of the man himself. If Peel was anything then
it was his voice - and that's criminally lacking from these
course, anything that helps prolong our memory of the greatest-ever
British broadcaster can't be all bad but somehow I just wish
it wasn't like this. And shouldn't it have been issued on
a personal note, I remember Peel playing a particularly long
track way back in the late '70s (probably some obscure dub
recording by King Tubby or Scientist) after which he explained
that longer recording afforded him the opportunity to tackle
the "big game" in his nostrils. How many other DJs would have
ever said that?