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I’M DEVOTING this column to my memories of the loveliest and most influential music broadcaster this country has ever had and why I’d love Brighton to help Liverpool win their first league title for 29 years in his memory by beating Man City tomorrow.
Whether or not you love football, if you love music and have a soft spot for John Peel — the greatest Liverpool fan of them all — please read on.
My story starts on a night in March 1982, just after my and the late, great poet Seething Wells’s joint first EP Rough Raw & Ranting had been released on Red Saunders’s Radical Wallpaper label.
As so many times before and since, I was fishing on my local harbour arm, listening to the John Peel Show, lost in my thoughts. Then, out of the blue, he said: “Now here’s Attila the Stockbroker.”
I nearly dropped my rod in the sea.
I stood there transfixed, trembling in disbelief, while he played Russians in the DHSS from our EP. I felt like I’d just scored the winning goal for Brighton in the cup final. A few minutes later, before I’d really taken it in, he played A Bang & A Wimpy. I felt like I’d just scored the winning goal for us in the European cup final.
It’s a feeling I can’t describe. A feeling that, literally, thousands of musicians and writers have had over the years. That first play on the John Peel Show. The stuff of dreams.
Not long afterwards, he gave me my first session. Travelled up to London, had a few beers with the great man and, of course, we talked about our respective football allegiances. After it was broadcast, I got a deal with Cherry Red Records and when my first EP Cocktails was scheduled for release a few months later, he invited me to do another session.
It was broadcast soon after Brighton knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup at Anfield, ending something like a 40-match unbeaten run there, on our way to our legendary “And Smith Must Score” cup final appearance in 1983.
He started his programme that day with the sound of seagulls being machine gunned! Then he played my stuff and congratulated us, tongue firmly in cheek.
Reds fans will remember that we were a bit of a bogey team for Liverpool in the early 1980s. The following year, 1984, despite having been relegated to Division 2 — today’s Championship — we knocked them out again, 2-0 at the Goldstone. More machine-gunned seagulls.
That summer I was wandering across a field at Glastonbury. It was absolutely pissing down. I saw Peelie making a beeline for me. We waded through the mud and embraced. “You bastards,” he said “You did it again!”
Those memories will live as long as I do.
Peel was a lovely, genuine bloke who lived for music. Nobody, anywhere in the history of British popular culture, has done so much for people trying to realise their ambitions and get their words and music across to the world. Thanks to him I got the start which has enabled me to earn my living doing what I love for 37 years.
He died, so tragically, at the height of his powers. I have had the privilege of staying at Peel Acres at the invitation of his widow Sheila and seeing the fabled record collection. I was so moved and proud to find all my albums there. Thanks, Peelie.
Wolves permitting, I’d love us to hand Liverpool the title. It’s a long shot, I know. Just how I felt about the chances of ever being played on his show. But dreams do come true.
Before that, this afternoon (Saturday) myself and my band Barnstormer 1649 lead the procession at the annual Levellers’ Day commemoration in Burford at 12.30am and play in the church hall at 4pm.
Today our revolutionary early music comes home.
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