Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Review : John Peel - Mick Wall***

Mick Wall is a very well respected rock journalist, hell, anyone who can get Guns N'Roses so pissed off that they slag him off in one of their songs must be doing something right.

His biography of beloved John Peel on the other hand probably isn't his best work. There are two main reasons for this, one is that the biography was a rushed work pushed out by Orion books as quickly as possible after Peel's death, the other is that by his own admittance, Wall did not know Peel and had no contact with Peel's family during the construction of the biography.

The book obviously suffers from this, most of the information within was drawn from other people's interviews and this gives the biography a rather distant, standoffish feel, and yet......Wall obviously has a great affection for John Peel. This warmth shines through, and although the book is rather light on details and background of Peel's life away from the microphone, his professional life is detailed quite well. The book isn't overly long, just 210 pages of well spaced large print, and is then filled out with Peel's Festive Fifty lists.

John Peel, more than any other other person, has shaped and nurtured my musical tastes. If you read through the Festive Fifty lists from when Peel began them in 1976 (was this the year in which I was first given a radio by my parents ? I can't remember, but it would explain my preference for the kind of music Peel played), I own almost every single track from '76-'82. In '82 Peel fell in love with The Fall and The Cocteau Twins and I moved onto the emerging Bay Area Thrash Metal scene of Metallica and Slayer.

I came back to Peel when he began presenting the Home Truths programme on Radio 4, when his laconic and slightly downbeat style proved perfect for getting ordinary people to reveal fascinating details of their own lives.

He was a great bloke, respected by bands and presenters and adored by his fans for his uncompromising stance and his endless support for new music. Wall's biography is a little thin though so I have ordered Peel's autobiography, Margrave Of The Marshes, which was only half complete at Peel's sudden death and was completed by his wife.

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