I never really listened to John Peel. Not that I had anything against him. My musical taste owes as much as anyone’s to the bands he supported. I didn’t even object to the programmes. Sure, in the late 80s the bedrock of grindcore and rough-hewn techno needed serious mining for the more inspirational gems -but I’ve got my LP of Earache Peel Sessions. Mainly I didn’t listen to Peel ‘cos he was on too late. I’d catch the odd bit on the way back from watching horror movies at the Showcase and one such trip resulted in grabbing Terry Edwards’ EP of Mary Chain brass covers. Most nights though, even if I bothered putting him on at night I was in the land of nod by the second song. I suspect that’s a large part of the appeal of Radio 6 –half-decent music when you’re not half asleep.
The only reamining tape that hasn't disintegrated.
I never really needed to listen to Peel though. Less lightweight school friends helped of course, playing m stuff they’d picked up. But also he was never a lone voice - back then even commercial radio had its oases of quality. For your discerning (ahem) Nottingham music fan there was the Rock Show on Radio Trent. 7-9pm on a Thursday was a time much more conducive to my musical discovery. It was helmed by two complementary hosts. John Shaw was one of those jack-of-all-trades that have always kept local radio going – he’d crop up all over the East Midlands channels – updating on the score from Field Mill, enduring a phone-in, fronting the news…. Musically he was clearly very Peel-like, a bit of an old hippy but with a taste for new stuff. Mark Spivey had plenty of local music knowledge – he did something at Rock City I think, and certainly produced the debut by local goths Every New Dead Ghost.
They played lots of new music, and a fair amount of odd stuff, but were neither ruthlessly obscure or contemporary. Just good. So yes, they played Napalm Death, A Witness, Kilgore Trout, Asphalt Ribbons and the Legendary Dolphins (I also remember they played a song I’ve never tracked down since, which was a Colourbox-like effort with a football crowd chanting “Ramsey Ramsey Ramsey”…) but it’s also where I first heard Nick Cave’s the Mercy Seat, Elvis Costello’s I Want You, Wire –I am the Fly as well as some quality folk which Shaw imported from his Here Be Dragons show when Spivey wasn’t in the studio to veto it, if I remember right. All of course interspersed with curiously endearing ad breaks. (I never did get my jeans down at Machin’s, nor phone Heatshield windows on 622666, but I could yet nip to Big City Tyres, who are still on “Collin Street. Nottingham”.)
My highlight was when, despite never having heard of them, I was the only person to enter a Go-Betweens competition. In which I bagged a copy of 16 Lovers Lane, all the formats of the Streets of Your Town (including the 3” CD single in a ’traffic light’ case which I promptly sold at Selectadisc, never dreaming that one day I’d be able to afford a CD player. And yes I still regret that…) and tickets to their Trent Poly gig. They were of course great, my friend was nearly decapitated by a falling bit of venue and the support act was a pre-fashionable country-style singer who had a song called “Frances, Your Dog is Dead” (another that I’ve never been able to track down since). Which all naturally started a musical crush on the Go-Betweens that’s still very much with me.
Sadly, the internet is much better at obituaries than it is at helping me dig out obscure music from my memory. While churning out this reminiscence, I’ve discovered that John Shaw died at the end of 2013 -still very much an East Midlands radio stalwart and prompting fond memories like these from many others. So I’m dusting off that last remaining cassette of songs taped off the Rock Show and giving it another listen, though half of my record collection would serve just as well as a tribute.