I miss John Peel. There are very few things in this world that have less credibility than a Radio 1 DJ, but Peel had an instinctive sense for the new and exciting and somehow managed to carve his own niche, retaining his cred (even into his 60s) while still holding down a slot on the most fickle of our national radio stations for almost 40 years.
If he played a track on his show that, on first hearing, sounded like an assault on all our brains understood as music, you would still be prepared to give it a second listen, because you trusted his taste. And most times he was right. But trust like this has to be earned, and John Peel had spent his entire working life earning it. Then he went and died.
I always used to tape his annual Festive 50, edit it down to a single ‘best-of’ C90 on a 2-deck tape recorder, then this tape would become my soundtrack for the following year. Looking back now on the Festive Fifties of the 90s, they trace the music of my twenties (just as last-fm is now tracking the slightly more pedestrian tastes of my thirties). But when John Peel died, so did my trust in the new sounds of the underground, because without Peel I had no longer had a crap filter.
Until now. Part of my bday present from Deb was exactly the same as she got me last year (and I would be happy to receive every year) – two of the previous year’s Rough Trade Shops compilations. These compilations have been trickling out over the last few years, to very little fanfare, but have all been superb. They are compiled by the uber-geeks behind the counter at London’s Rough Trade shops, who are obviously a bunch of hyper-obsessive 30 and 40 somethings who listen to *every single record ever released*. They are the bastard children of John Peel, and with their regular ‘best of the year’ Counter Culture CDs, they are providing a Festive Fifty for the iPod generation.
As a service to the world (because I can’t even find this list on the rough trade website), the discography to date is as follows:
- 25 yrs of … (Box Set)
– Counter Culture 04
Every release comes with copious sleeve notes and artwork, perhaps the only reason for not buying music down a pipe these days. And, unless you are considerably hipper than me (which isn’t hard), the vast majority of the artists/tracks featured you will have never heard of before. Whatsmore
you can rely on every track being played at the right speed.
If these keep coming I can allow JP to RIP.