Sunday, October 17, 2010

For Peel

Following a request (see comment under recent Mixtapes post) and in the spirit of 'any excuse' I am posting a piece I wrote about one of my idols - John Peel - for a fanzine that was made by Harry Pye to accompany the show he curated called For Peel back in 2006.

John Peel Changed my Life (every week night between 10 and 12)

As a teenager I would force myself to lie awake until I heard the final bars of the Peel show - I couldn’t bear to miss a note. One time I wrote to Peel to ask about playing a track, I received a hand written reply saying it would be coming up soon – I still have this note. I loved the Peel Show and it took me through from shy schoolgirl to lead singer.

My band was called Shoot! Dispute. We made the dutiful four track demos of our New Wave, pop, which we sent out to all the usual suspects. Finally we were asked to play the John Peel Road Show at Surrey University - I think our dodgy manager (The Weasel) pulled a few strings. So we played and although the crowd were apathetic Peelie must have liked us because to my huge excitement we were booked to do a session.

When we arrived at the subterranean Maida Vale studios I was shocked to find that John didn’t personally attend each session but our producer and engineer were ex-members of Mott the Hoople – Dale Griffin and Pete Watts, so this almost made up for it. We did three of our own songs and a cover of Iggy’s Funtime and everything went really well aside from our nervous percussion player who took a couple of his mum’s Valiums to calm himself down with the unfortunately side effect that he couldn’t keep time any more.

On 4 February 1984 we crowded into my room to listen to our Peel Session. “Shoot! Dispute, a name to remember” said John and my favourite “The first time I heard the name of the band was when my rhythm pal mentioned them to me but he had to persuade his producer Mike Hawks to book them for a session… I think Hawksy was on his way down for a bucket of Singapore Slings with the Wham boys - remember them - and actually forgot all about it. But an excellent band as I say”. Us and Peelie against the corrupt music world. We cheered, we whooped, we thought we had made it.

Further brushings with Peel included a second session and a booking to play at a music festival he curated at The ICA (supporting SPK who weren’t allowed to play by the London Fire Brigade because of their onstage blowtorches thus causing a riot). I only spoke to him once – he called me at my mum’s house to ask what we were up to – I can’t remember what I said, I was shocked that he had called me at home just like a normal person. The band eventually split - musical and personal differences - and our entire output was our Peel sessions, one single, a compilation album track and a Janis Long session.

Peelie was always looking for some indefinable quality in music, something that made you fall in love with it, a sense of excitement, a spark of commitment, a raw urgency. It is something I try to do when I look at work by artists – he has always been an absolute inspiration to me.

Cathy Lomax