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The Olivetti Chronicles [Hardcover]

John Peel
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 Oct 2008
John Peel is best known for his four decades of radio broadcasting. His Radio 1 shows shaped the taste of successive generations of music lovers. His Radio 4 show, Home Truths, became required listening for millions. But all the while, Peel was also tapping away on his beloved Olivetti typewriter, creating copy for an array of patient editors. He wrote articles, columns and reviews for newspapers and magazines as diverse as The Listener, Oz, Gandalf's Garden, Sounds, the Observer, the Independent and Radio Times. Now for the first time, the best of these writings have been brought together - selected by his wife, Sheila, and his four children. Music, of course, is a central and recurring theme, and he writes on music in all its forms, from Tubular Bells to Berlin punk to Madonna. Here you can read John Peel on everything from the perils of shaving to the embarrassments of virginity, and from the strange joy of Eurovision to the horror of being sick in trains. At every stage, the writing is laced with John's brilliantly acute observations on the minutiae of everyday life. This endlessly entertaining book is essential reading for Peel fans and a reminder of just why he remains a truly great Briton.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (23 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 059306061X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593060612
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 401,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Peel was born the day before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. His 38-year career as a radio DJ is the stuff of legend and the bands he went on to discover too numerous to mention, though David Bowie, Roxy Music, T Rex, Genesis, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Radiohead and the White Stripes would do as a start. He lived in Suffolk with his wife Sheila and their children William, Thomas, Alexandra and Florence, plus various dogs and cats, until his death in October 2004.

Product Description


"As warm and funny as the man himself." (Choice Magazine)

"Fit to burst with colourful commentary... he crams in references to music that will have you in hysterics over his sumptuously structured prose." (Martha De Lacey, London Lite)

"What makes the Olivetti Chronicles stand out is that it contains his voice rather than anyone else's... It helps (and is entertaining) to imagine Peel speaking these pieces, and then they become very fine indeed." (Metro)

"This entertaining book is essential reading for Peel fans." (Zavvi music book reviews) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The selected wit and wisdom of a national treasure --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks to the family 29 Dec 2008
One of the joys of listening to both John Peel's Music (as I did in the 70s and 80s on BFBS) and Home Truths was that you were never sure what was coming next. In listing the articles alphabetically, rather than chronologically, John's family have captured that experience in print. The vagaries of titling lead one from Disc to Sounds to The Guardian, The Independent and The Radio Times, hopping in time from the early 70s to pieces written shortly before John's death. These then, are non-chronological chronicles. Very Peelian.

John's writing style matured with him; some of the early pieces are very much of their time, with bizarre phrases thrown in at random. John never missed the chance to talk football, specifically Liverpool, so many pieces lead one unexpectedly in that direction. There is a good index, which will no doubt prove useful as one tries to track down an amusing comment to read again.

Margrave of the Marshes, John's biography, was and is a wonderful book, all the more remarkable for being only partially written by John. This is pure John. I couldn't help wondering if there would be more to come. Not too many of John's Radio Times columns were featured, and I can remember that they were the reason I chose the RT over 'the other listings magazines that are available'. Many weeks I wiped away tears at John's musings. Could the family - or the BBC - have something else yet to come for us?
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book since the last one 23 Oct 2008
By Dave
I loved the last John Peel book, Margrave of the Marshes, and was horribly sad to think there could never be another one. Well, happily, I was wrong. Here is another one. A whole volume of Mr Peel's finest writings from over the years on all sorts of brilliant, bizarre and very Peelie subjects. A complete and utter joy from start to finish. You need this in your life!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have to admit that I wasn't all that impressed by John Peel's truncated and digressive, posthumously-published autobiography, Margrave Of The Marshes. My feeling is that much of the praise that it attracted derived from an understandable outpouring of sympathy, and respect, following the beloved DJ's death in 2005, rather than for the work itself. Did this obliquely titled, 400-plus page collection of columns, he wrote on his old Olivetti typewriter, alter my feelings about his writing skills significantly? No, not really.

The pieces chosen here by his family come from a diversity of sources, including: Bike; Disc; The Guardian; The Independent; The Listener; The Observer; Punch; Radio Times, and Sounds. But, it is, unsurprisingly, music which is the central and recurring theme of The Olivetti Chronicles. Peel's journalism looks at it in all of its forms (whether that is Berlin Punk, Madonna, or Tubular Bells), and he proves to be at his best when writing about it. You can see that in some of the perspicacious pieces in the Observer in the 1980s, when he was sent to cover music that was not necessarily to his taste. His descriptions of New Age music ("Blithering nonsense, superbly played"), and Billy Joel ("Elton John without the costume, the sense of the preposterous or the tunes") had me smiling at their acuity.

However, the pieces on matters other than music - such as the perils of shaving, virginity, and being sick on trains -felt like forgettable filler material to me (redolent of the topics covered on his bewilderingly popular Home Truths programme on Radio 4).
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ipswich - a black hole. 22 Oct 2008
By Moony
I read the article entitled Ipswich, from this collection the other day, on the basis that i was born and brought up there. It details a Peel DJ gig in the which nobody turns up. He is back home and having his dinner by 9.30 having turned the wheels of steel to no-one at all. This just about sums up my disdain for my home town in terms of cultural pursuits and its inability to embrace anything at all beyond Jim Davidson and Frankie & Benny style chain diners. Its a black hole for entertainment and enjoyment. So its funny that Peel should have lived so close to it. Whats the rest of the book like? What do you think? Its Peel. He's the don. Stick it on your chuffing christmas list.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff 1 Dec 2008
A great nostalgic read. Perfect for the 40 somethings who can recall many of the events featured in the articles which were written in the 70s. It will jog your memory to forgotten bands, such as Snafu. I can remember them playing the Ipswich Gaumont around 1975. Living in Suffolk, I still find it hard to believe that John is not around, I used to see him accommpanying Sheila to matches at Portman Road on occasions. Such a great man.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all Peel fans 9 Aug 2009
I really enjoyed this book. Like millions of britons I grew up listening to John Peel and his amusing anecdotes told in his inimitable self-deprecating style. This book reminded me how sorely he is missed. Many of the sections are columns from newspapers and journals such as "Sounds", "Melody Maker" or "Radio Times". Almost all are very funny, some are heart-warming, and many made me laugh out loud. Despite his self-deprecation Peel had a real gift for words, as many of us already knew from listening to his radio shows where he engaged with the listener in a way that no other DJ I have ever heard could. Although he championed punk Peel retained an open heart that he retained from his hippy days, which made him a kind and generous man. Read this book and remember him fondly, or pick it up and meet a one of kind great man for the first time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Great, just great. Like reading the writings of an old friend. If you have any interest whatsoever in John Peel, or music, don't hesitate. Read more
Published 7 months ago by T. Mcclymont
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a natural writer
The short article is a difficult form to master, or even manage tolerably, if the evidence of books in my collection is anything to go by. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mark Vardy
5.0 out of 5 stars Good to 'hear' John Peel again.
Thoroughly enjoyable read, (but I still think the articles would have been better if presented in chronological order). Read more
Published 12 months ago by R. Gatfield
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I was really unaware of John Peel's writing until my brother in law gave me one of his books at Christmas - I so enjoyed it I bought this one.
Published 16 months ago by LizSomerset
5.0 out of 5 stars A Christmas present for someone..
I bought this for someone else and have had no feedback as yet. He was very pleased to receive it and I'm sure it's excellent!
Published 19 months ago by Guess Who
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mind Less Ordinary
If you read this book which I strongly recommend that you do, you will discover why John Peel was so widely loved and respected and why his death was such a loss for so many. Read more
Published on 19 Jun 2011 by Eugene Onegin
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, beautiful man
This made me laugh out loud at times. And that is rare indeed these days. I had no idea he was writing so entertainingly and well in the 70's. Read more
Published on 22 Sep 2010 by Bill Ford
2.0 out of 5 stars Great man. Great life. Not such a great writer.
I know I'm going against the populist flow, here, but I found this collection pretty disappointing. I was a Peel fan (Radio 1 and Radio 4), but to my mind the man's unique gift... Read more
Published on 15 April 2010 by Lutz Svensson
4.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable voice
The mighty John Peel, so cruelly taken from us too soon, was a wily and yet fond observer of the peculiarities of this bizarre thing we call life. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2009 by Emanon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great over breakfast
I read this over breakfast for a few weekends. My poor husband had to dodge flying toast crumbs as I spluttered with laughter. It's really entertaining - and also informative. Read more
Published on 26 Mar 2009 by Swiss Pertelote
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