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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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on 23 October 2008
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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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. It is not because this volume will introduce you to a great writer because on a technical level, the fluency and syntax of a Peel article could be a touch ecentric to say the least, but because the words still ooze the inexhaustible enthusiasm Peel had for life and, above all, music. And what a range of music he enjoyed anything from Captain Beefheart and punk satirists Half Man, Half Biscuit through Michael Jackson and Prince to Mike Oldfield and Rachmaninov. All of these artists and many more are discussed in these pages with the wit and perception that catergorised his radio programmes. However, what came over to me reading these short articles for magazines as diverse as Radio Times and Bike is the fact that Peel believed music was one of life's pleasures and one should take it seriously enough to afford passionate advocacy to the good and have the courage to call rubbish rubbish. As he writes in one of his articles, his aim was not simply to reflect what you were listening to, but to bring music that you had not come across to your attention because he thought it deserving. There are certainly some glorious observations on show here my personal favourite being his analysis of glam Heavy Rockers AC/DC's concert as 'a crowded and extremely good-natured masturbation ritual'. Plenty of laughs then, but also more serious pieces such as 'Rock's in Trouble' or his end of year pieces in The Listener which wittily but intelligently offered a commentary on the previous 12 months music. My only regret finishing this anthology is that will be no more new thoughts from John Peel's pen. Rather than losing him so young, we need a lot more who share his catholic taste, shrewd judgement and love of something beyond the ordinary.
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on 22 October 2008
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 town....in 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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on 15 September 2009
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. As well as being the much loved Radio Presenter, accumularist of LPs and champion of the lesser known life-forms of the music business that he would discover in the darker crevices of the rockpools of life, he was also a significant contributor to various periodicals, his articles, more often than not, proving to be a particular high spot of that particular edition. His articles in the Radio Times were, for me at least, an essential part of that magazine whilst he was contributing and many of those are happily collected in this four hundred-odd page volume.

With an ever present deadpan charm and dry wit these ramblings on Rockaboogie and so much more chronicle many of the manifest absurdities of life from the exotic alternative lifestyles of the 1960s to the rural family life of the alarmingly so-called naughties via the manifest ridiculousness of the day-to-day life of a minor celebrity. He had his own idiosyncracies (about which he was usually suitably self-deprecating), his own "sacred cows" (which he could get quite vocally protective about albeit in a very repressed British kind of a way), his own favorites (that he would promote shamelessly) and he was prone to the occasional flight of fancy. Regularly there is half an eye on the fortunes of his beloved Liverpool FC or the strange role a father can play in the family unit but generally this is ultimately a celebration of the enjoyment and appreciation of popular (and unpopular) music of many sorts and rightly so for a man who made his living the way he did. Throughout the book, covering amazingly more than a thirty year span, there is always that distinctive style, so distinctive in fact that you can almost hear that unforgettable voice in your head as you read the words off the page, all written with the sharp eloquence of one whose prose could disguise a surprising shyness in public. There might be an occasional tendency for unashamed sentimentality - which is a rare virtue in the modern era - or he might have felt the need for issuing a much needed pithy rebuke, but that all seems to have been delivered with a great deal of humanity and an air of disappointment with a much-loved world rather than with any outright hostility towards it.

The alphabetical (rather than chronological) approach to the presentation of the content did pain me rather, but that's probably my problem and not the compilers and I do rather suspect that, in the end, this approach did probably make for a more suitably eccentric editorial mix. It did, however, mean that my interest would ebb and flow alongside Mr Peel's hairline, but the relative brevity of each piece means that there's always another morsel just over the page if the current one is not to your taste. I will admit that I found it a bit of a long slog when deciding to read it from cover-to-cover, but as a book to dip into from time-to-time (maybe park it in your smallest room for visitors to browse through during brief interludes - I'm sure Mr Peel would appreciate the whimsy of that) it makes for a satisfying and amusing read.
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The Olivetti Chronicles
So named after the defunct , superannuated typewriter on which the late ,lamented John Peel – DJ Extraordinaire – wrote his articles on contemporary music , his visitations to music festivals and gigs and other sundry items ( ofetn of a personal nature and particularly relating to Liverpool football club).
This is a collection of such writings , lovingly assembled by his wife (aka Pig) and the family. They are ordered alphabetically rather than chronologically and sadly ( or sensibly) omit John’s early 60’s scribbling for the flower power journals
Whereas his autobiography ( Margrave of the Marshes) – initially from his memories up until his death in 2004 in Peru ( then completed by his family) – covers the structure of his life , this book collects together his scribbling and thoughts published in short articles – a worthy supplement giving insights into the strengths , weaknesses and prejudices of a simple man who did great things by ignoring the conventional “hyping” of established bands and artists , giving new bands their chance at fame and introducing the rest of us peasants to new possibilities in music.
Well worth a read ( illuminating and often very amusing) and a worthy supplement to “ Margrave of the Marshes”
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on 1 December 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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on 29 September 2013
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. Reaching the economy of expression of, say, Clive James' wonderful columns of TV criticism in the 70s takes practice, and if it's not your main occupation, you won't achieve it. I think it's fair to say John Peel was not a natural writer. "Margrave Of The Marshes" is good - or, at least, the first half is, which is the bit Peel wrote - but it's clear that he developed slowly as a writer. Some of the later pieces here are fine, and there are amusing one-liners from all periods; he nails my opinion of Springsteen, in 1975, by observing that he "[...] offers us an enjoyable supper-club pastiche of rock's brief history, served up in West Side Story-styled tat". However, too many of the articles are rambling and inconclusive. Still, an easy read and enjoyable in parts.
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on 9 August 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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on 26 March 2009
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. I loved the description of Tom Waits in 1976... see if you can find it...
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