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VINE VOICEon 3 October 2006
Peel had been planning this book for several years but alas begun writing it too late - he died half way through. Fortunately Sheila "Pig" was so close to her husband that she has no problem whatsoever completing it in a way that is still incredibly satisfying; she seems to have shared many of his friends and experiences so very little is lost to the world. It also helps that Peel left a brief synopsis of what he saw the book including in the form of a letter to his publisher (included in the appendix), almost everything he wanted to incorporate is here - it's just a pity that the second half of the book doesn't feature the dry humour that was unique to the great man, I would have loved the have read his thoughts on some later events. What Sheila does give us is a clear depiction of a man completely in love with music and life, it is fascinating to read about his approach to listening to demos and the organisation of his shows (like so many people out there I was involved in a band who got played on Peels show and was over the moon to receive a note from him - I now have the added bonus of being able to picture how the great event happened!). It's a fairly large book this, but then John Peel was a larger than life character so that's no surprise, what is a surprise is how much he gives us in the way of personal thoughts and extremely difficult and shocking events in his life. This is a truly affecting autobiography and a million miles away from the glossy, self congratulatory rubbish that almost every other "celebrity" churns out. After reading this fantastic book I deeply regretted not having listened to John Peels shows more and above all I was simply left wishing that he was still around. What a disaster for music his death was but thankgod we have this to remember him by.
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on 6 November 2005
It is almost impossible to define the subject and as a result the book soon after his nationally mourned death, though I have tried many times.
To say this man was a consistent hero in my life should tell you something, that his contradiction in character from the music he loved and the family life he lived provided and provides a unique insight into music and times of 20th Century culture in the UK.
This is a book written by him and continued by his wife in the style and honesty that if you were fortunate to have listened to broadcasts first hand does not disappoint and leaves you happy that it is always time well spent.
To others who want to understand more about the general subject of English life then I can think of no better starting point as it is written in his engaging style, honest and without patronising it stimulates further interest in the material it covers which is diverse.
At the gigs he attended, quietly standing at the bar, you wished that you had had the chance to go over and say hello, this book is a record of what you might of learned further if you had been brave enough to do it, or had not wanted to interrupt his enjoyment of music he truly loved to love.
A great read that fills a hole in the void that he leaves in modern pop culture, knowing that his roots go back to the earliest pop and rock records of the 50's, and knowing that he was always down to earth as a result of this depth, you will perhaps understand why he is sorely missed. And if you do already you might a little less.
I can't write a book review in a style he would approve of, or would have liked to! But there it is, hope it encourages you to read this great book.
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on 2 September 2006
I remember John Peel from my adolescent years in the late seventies when listening to his show on Radio 1 gave me an appreciation for a huge variety of music. The man was a complete master in promoting bands and music that would otherwise have never got the airing they richly deserved. I regrettably drifted away from listening to him as I grew up and only in the last few years am I rediscovering the music I used to listen to then. I remember the day it was announced on the radio that he had died and I must admit I was really surprised by my reaction to the news. It really did feel that someone who was close to me or a part of me had died that day and I felt very, very sad. I chose to read this book as I began to realise there was so much more to John Peel than the few years I was a regular listener to his show.

I have to say this is a superb piece of work. It's witty, informative, sad and in places hilariously funny. The first half was written by John himself and takes us to the time when he started DJing in the US in the early to mid sixties. It is excellently written and conveys, in the same way as he always did on the radio, that John was really just an ordinary bloke, what you saw (heard) was the real man.

The second half of the book was written by his wife, Sheila with help from their kids and it perfectly blends and complements John's writing in the first half. It really is an excellent read and at the end so very, very sad.

I would recommend anybody to read this.
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on 17 September 2006
I've just finished the Peel biography and my eyes are still moist at the realisation that he really is no more yet I chortled out loud at some of the anecdotes, both his own and those of his wife. I defy anyone to read it and not hear it read in John's dry Liverpudlian tones in their heads. I just wish he'd been with us long enough to finish his own autobiog and then we could've had two books -- Peel's and Pig's. Hope there's some decent music up there mate.
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on 22 October 2005
This is a truly superb read. To me JP was a terrific guy from his musical; prgrammes right through t the highly different an more placid Home Truths.
I felt in the early part of the read that John was talking to me. The second part has a totally different feel but is stil to be commended.
A tremendous tribute to a wondeful man and a highly enjoyable read.
Definitely one for the bookcase and a second or third read.
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on 20 August 2006
I do miss hearing his voice on the radio but I could hear it coming through in the book with his distinct turn of phrase. It was indeed a brave move by his family to finish the book and it did give another perspective to their family life, but inevitably the front portion had the promise of more intimate detail to come from the later years of his life which sadly he was not able to complete. That said, the family did do a good job and the book was a throughly good read
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on 28 October 2005
What a wonderful read. You can hear John Peel's lyrical voice singing from every word of this heart warming book. It will make you cry with laughter and love. Buy it, read it and treasure it. Thank you to his family for sharing him with us.
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on 28 August 2006
The book is hugely evocative of the droll and (here we go) "self-deprecating" nature of John Peel. It feels almost pathologically honest in places and the passion and enthusiasm for life and music is evident on every page. The second half of the book, whilst entertaining and a worthy continuation of the auto-biography, is understandably infused with a melancholic undertone and does seem to shy away a little bit from any critical assessment of the man. Having said that he is a hero to me and many and this is a fitting testament and tribute to a great DJ.
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on 17 January 2006
As most of you will know by now, this is a book of two halves; the first unmistakably in John's own voice and the second in his wife Sheila's, completed after his death in 2004. Having just finished reading this extraordinary account of the classic man made good after being written off as a failed academic, it is startling to realise how similar the two writing styles are. Both are conversational, witty and amusingly self-deprecating in the best English tradition.

Whether it is Sheila's innate sense of humour that John found so attractive or whether their many years together formed a common outlook is a moot point, but from a reader's point of view there is no disappointment that John did not have the time to complete his story.

In fact, there is much to enjoy in the juxtaposition of John's own account, in which he gives personal thoughts about various subjects close to his heart and Sheila's account of his life from the outside, as it were, looking in where aspects of the man are fondly described in all their glory, warts and all. One wonders whether some of the aspects of his character would have been described quite so honestly had John written the whole book.

But in total, this book is a labour of love in all senses of the phrase and this comes across on every page. A wonderful tribute to a well loved man.
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on 1 December 2011
I listened breathlessly to the early 80's broadcasts of Peel on Radio 1. The main reason, it is not surprising, was the music he played: Always new, always unknown and always great. Peel's understated sense of humor appealed to me. And it did it again.... at least in the first part. The following is the case. The first part of 'Margrave of the Marshes' is by Peel himself; the second part by his wife Sheila.
Peel died halfway through the completion of his autobiography at the age of 65, and Sheila completed his work. The latter has done it with incredible love, and she occasionally uses even the same writing style, but the last 100 pages is one great ode to her husband, with 'special' anecdotes listed in an obligatory way. Who can blame her for that, and I will certainly not, but it makes reading at the end one dimensional and predictable.
Peel did the first part of the book: in a loose writing style, humorous observations and a lot of intensity. In particular his time in America appealed to me: about his first radio show, his meeting with Kennedy and his first sexual contact (one Session where I was less interested in).
A final note: this is a book about Peel the person and less about the music he played. Ofcourse: The Fall is mentioned, his friendship with Marc Bolan ditto and sometimes a special Peel Session. But it is mainly about Peel, or rather John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, which is his real name.
I got a glimpse into the life of Peel, but after almost 500 pages, I would not dare to say that I also got a look into his soul.
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