When you think about it, it’s almost worth believing that John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show couldn’t have existed at any other time than the, admittedly almost 40 years, that it existed. During this time John witnessed 60s psychedelia, seventies funk and prog, the explosion of punk, reggae, post punk, death metal and techno. (And many other sounds, styles, and general noxious happenings, besides).
This four decade period were almost unarguably the most important for popular music and alternative culture. Scenes and movements, new sounds and innovations came and went, sometimes rolling into eachother possibly unlike any other period-stretch that we’ll ever again witness.
It was appropriate that an individual such as John Peel was there to guide us through it all. It’s also interesting that John sadly passed away just prior to the coming of MySpace, Spotify et al. Can you really imagine John’s shows existing today, serving their purpose, being as crucial as they were during, say, the period between 1976 and 1994?
In some ways it’s highly unlikely (despite John’s ability to adapt), what with the easy access to music online that exists nowadays for a start. The days of staying in and catching the John Peel show live as it was broadcast warts and all– greasy listener fingers on the cassette recorder hoping to catch a certain moment–, are long gone, obviously. But in some ways you can’t help feeling that, even if John was still doing his thang, things wouldn’t be quite the same. But you also sense that our hero disc jockey would probably have relished the challenge.
There was a time when it would have been only John’s crucial mid song ramblings that we had– our one and only chance to find out– to aid our hurriedly scribbled-down notes that what it was just played (assuming he remembered to tell us). That mystery, those bittersweet frustrations, was another reason that kind of made listening to John’s shows worthwhile. Today’s kids are missing this kind of terrible fun.
Our memories of John do indeed take us back to another time; strangely pellucid yet increasingly distant.
Sadly, we never did find out just how John’s shows would’ve sounded in the current climate, how he would’ve adopted; what music he would have liked, what he wouldn’t have; indeed what opinions, frustrations, excitements he’d have carried over from him to us.
Goodnight and good riddance indeed.