Andy Peebles: Another edition of My Top Ten. Very delighted this week to invite into the studio as our guest, incestuous you may say but nevertheless - John Peel, welcome!
John Peel: Thank you very much. Yes, very pleasant to be on the other side of the fence for once.
AP: Delighted to have you here. Choice number one please of your ten records.
JP: Well, I’ll start with my all-time favourite record, which is the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. A classic record, and the first time that I played it at home, my wife, who is a great connoisseur of music, came in and said, “That’s the best record I’ve heard since the Beatles.”
- Undertones: Teenage Kicks
AP: Teenage Kicks from the Undertones to open up this edition of My Top Ten with my guest John Peel. John, you said on the Channel 4 television programme Ear Say some months ago that was one of the few records that would perhaps reduce you to tears.
JP: Well, it does. It hasn’t on this occasion quite clearly, as I’m still sitting here reasonably complis mentis. But when I first heard it, it was one of those records, you know, where you thought, “I’m glad that I lived long enough to actually hear this.” And the first time that it moved me to tears was when I heard somebody else play it on the radio. I was driving up to a match and Peter Powell had a programme on Saturday mornings at that time, played it, and I was in a traffic jam just outside Stoke and burst into floods of tears – which I do fairly frequently I should say. But it is a wonderful, wonderful record. And I always end gigs when I do my own awful discos, I always end them with that, and it is one of those records that works in any context and pleases almost everybody.
AP: So you are quite an emotional person?
JP: Very much so, I’m afraid, yes. I mean, I tend to weep very easily. When we’re at home and there’s something on television, we’ve got sort of friends round or whatever, if I call my wife over and say “Just sit on the arm of the chair,” it’s so I can have a good cry around the back while she carries on the conversation.
AP: Going back to your early days at school – you went to a British public school, as indeed a number of Radio One broadcasters seem to have done…
AP: …over the years – this has been described as a sort of natural home for public school dropouts. How much of having been through that background and coming from an interesting family background in Cheshire do you think actually influenced you to be where you are today?
JP: I think it is the kind of system that you either go along with… I mean, a lot of people I know or went to school with are now lord lieutenants of counties - that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you know the sort of thing I mean. Either that or people in a way rebelled slightly against that way or life and are now doing other things – like this, really. Quite clearly, when I first started being a disc jockey in America, my father was not at all pleased. He wasn’t quite sure what he did want me to do, but being a disc jockey was pretty low on his list of priorities.
AJ: Did you feel you were a revolutionary by very virtue of the fact you had taken that path? I mean, was it deliberate in the back of the mind at all?
JP: I’d always wanted to be one from the age of about ten or eleven when I used to listen to the American Forces Network and so on and I thought what a wonderful thing that is to do. But really I started doing it more because I was incapable of doing anything else. I got four O Levels, which I’ve never really had to use very much – there never seems to have been any practical application for them – so it’s just been … I’ve just drifted into it was being the only thing which I was really passionately interested in and really passionately wanted to do.
AJ: You’ve always been sort of privately very guarded about the early days, but I do remember traveling down for a Radio One week in Wales and you were sat opposite me on the coach and admitted that you had actually for the first time in a long time been back to school and you’d been very amused how some of your former school colleagues had come up and asked for autographs for their children.
JP: Yes, because I went back for one of those reunion weekends about four or five years ago with my brother – or one of my brothers – and his wife. And I think you have to go as a bit of a mob on these occasions, you know. And I did, as I say, very poorly at school and most of the people who had given me a hard time were miraculously at that weekend. And as I say, at some stage a lot of them had to come up and say, “Can I have your autograph for my son or daughter”. And I was able to say, “I remember the face, but my goodness, I can’t put a name to it” – of course knowing quite well who they were. Just a few small pinpricks of revenge, but they were worth a great deal to me at the time.
AP: Tremendous. All right, let’s have record number two.
JP: Well, this is a record I first heard, I used to live in Oklahoma and work for a radio station just outside Oklahoma City. I used to do gigs on Indian reservations in the south of the state. It’s one of these things which sounds “come on, he’s making this up” – but it is true. And I used to work with a band called Dann Yankee & The Carpetbaggers, who were wonderful people. And we were driving back from the gig, it must have been 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning listening to a radio station coming from Memphis and this next record came on. And this is another one of those things – funnily enough, they mostly seem to happen to me in cars – and we actually pulled over to the side of the road and we were just transfixed. Otis Redding, and this is Ole Man Trouble.
- Otis Redding: Ole Man Trouble
AP: Otis Redding, from the album Otis Blue, one of his better recording sessions I think that one, and recently reissued as well, which is always a good idea. Does it thrill you when something is reissued, because you feel that the public now get a chance, if they didn’t first time round, to grab it?
JP: No, I don’t really think like that. I’m always very pleased if it is, because it means that I can replace my dodgy copy, and the Otis Blue LP from which this is taken was getting quite worn, yes. Hearing it again, actually, reminds me that there was another record which I should have picked and haven’t done, which is an Elmore James record, Stranger Blues, which I heard under similar circumstances, driving through the piney woods of east Texas. More romance – on my own, moonlit night, 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.
AP: You do play a lot of fairly rare R&B tracks on your nighttime programme on Radio One. I think that you have always tried to, haven’t you. How do you see the programme? Here we are July 1984, and this is a sort of big question, John, but you have always strived I think to be not necessarily first on the case but to be an innovator as far as music is concerned – and yet there are certain areas of music on your programme where you do enjoy going back and others were you don’t, and we’ll maybe get to that later in the programme. But rhythm and blues certainly seems to be one where you like going back to years gone by.
JP: Well, for several reasons. One, because particularly the recent compilation LPs, which have been coming from Kent and Ace and Charly records, and one or two other labels, they were mainly things I had never heard before, you know. And I’ve also been playing one or two old jazz records, because they were things that existed during my lifetime or issued during my lifetime but which I had never previously heard – so that’s quite exciting. And I do occasionally like – I mean, it is a bit self-indulgent – but I do like to put a few of my old favourites from that era in, because I know that the majority of the people that listen to the programme probably won’t have heard them before either or won’t know them terribly well. And I think it is useful – I mean, I try and play as much modern music as is possible, but the occasional reference point from the past I think is quite useful as well. Something that helps you identify with things that are going on now.
AP: The arrival of new wave music, if we can call it that, with the Pistols and the Clash and bands of that ilk, was obviously a healthy injection into what you were trying to do in the evening, and you were on the case before everybody else, as indeed you usually have been. But since then, I wonder how you feel the music scene has gone and perhaps whether it has been more of a struggle to find things which are new coming through.
JP: Well, that’s certainly true. It’s not a struggle that I object to, though. I quite like rootling around trying to find stuff. Going through a rather fallow period at the moment I think and this is largely because – and it is not anti large record companies in some kind of hysterical way, but whenever the major record companies, and I think you have to include Virgin for example as a major record company now, whenever they get back in control there tends to be less innovative and exciting music around, because almost by definition they have made these investments, they have to see them in terms of years rather than months, so things tend to sort of flatten out and become rather safe. And of course at the moment there is also the extra dimension of the video, and I feel particularly with a lot of the records, the singles you get coming in with sort of picture sleeves and things, and you look at the photograph of the band on the front of it and you fell that they have been chosen because they are going to look terrific in the video rather than because they have got anything interesting to do musically.
AP: If now from nowhere suddenly produced a tape of John Peel broadcasting in America, would you be terribly embarrassed and want to crawl under the carpet.
JP: I think so, yes. I think you always should be too, because I think it is quite important really that you should be embarrassed by what you’ve just done, whatever it is you are doing, because you should feel that you are capable of doing better. That is why I never listen to recordings of my programmes, because I genuinely do find them acutely embarrassing. And if I do hear any of them – occasionally you have to monitor yourself to see if you are saying “er” to often – and if I do listen to them I always think, “I can’t wait to get back again on Monday, you know, to try and sort out all of that out and do a proper programme.
AP: Was it fun in those days? Because I seem to remember in the past that you said you conned your way into a job, partly because you claimed to have sort of known the Beatles and been part of the Mersey scene.
JP: Well, Americans, you know, in Texas or in Dallas, where I was living at the time, I used to meet a lot of Americans who has served over here during the war. And almost invariably when they met you and they found out you were from England, they’d say, “Hey listen, I was stationed in your Leicestershire during the war and I met this guy called Bill. Listen, do you know Bill from Leicestershire?” And if you said, “No, actually I don’t think I do,” they would really be quite hurt – so it just got easier to say, “Yes, I do believe I do.” So I rather capitalized on this naivety, because they all assumed they everyone in Britain knew everyone else. So when the Beatles came along, I didn’t say that knew them, but on the other hand, I didn’t say that I didn’t know them. A sin of omission more than anything else.
AP: Record number three, please.
JP: Well, from the Faces. And the Faces were my all-time favourite live band. And the best ever gig, I always say this, the best gig that I ever went to in my life, was in Sunderland the night after Sunderland had beaten Arsenal in the sem-final the year they went on to win the cup, and the Faces wee the perfect band to capitalize on that atmosphere. And I saw them many, many times and they were great friends, but there was one song whenever we went to see them – the Pig (my wife) and myself used to follow them around – but whenever they started this one, this is when we sort of got hold of each other. Maybe I’m Amazed.
- Faces: Maybe I’m Amazed
AP: Paul McCartney’s song Maybe I’m Amazed, sung for you there by the Faces, and one of the choices of my guest, John Peel. Well, John, you appeared on Top Of The Pops many years ago playing a musical instrument, didn’t you, with the Faces?
JP: I did, pretending to play the mandolin, yes, when they did Maggie May. As you could tell from that record they were always a bit chaotic, but the chaos was part of it, and as I say, live they were actually better than anybody else, I think.
AP: For want of a better phrase, you’ve sort of become one of the modern stars of Top Of The Pops recently. I wanted to dwell just for a moment on the subject of image, because obviously your image, like everybody else’s – I hate using the word but it’s true – has changed over the years. Do you see yourself now as being image-conscious.
JP: Well, not really. The thing is that at its most basic level, this is not a terribly difficult job to do, you know. The myth of any radio station, not particularly Radio One, depends a great deal on people being persuaded that disc jockeys are actually special and rather remarkable people, and as you know, some of our colleagues and former colleagues have believed this to the point of madness. But it is something that I have really never been able to subscribe to very much. I mean, I’m glad if people like the programmes that I do and respect the amount of hard work that goes into them, but the idea that this makes you a kind of celebrity always strikes me as being rather foolish. I’ve got a lot of friends in Germany, for example, and this is a phenomenon that is entirely unknown in Germany, so when they come over and say, “But John Peel is supposed to be a famous person? This is not possible”, you know – they all find it highly diverting. So in a sense, if I have got an image, I have always been trying to avoid having an image, you know what I mean, because it doesn’t seem to be necessary or even relevant – but that in a sense becomes an image in itself. You know, it becomes like an un-image or an anti-image and people pick up on that.
AP: My first recollections of course of the name John Peel obviously align themselves with Radio London, the pirate station in the sixties, and your programme the Perfumed Garden, which was a programme which surprised you I’m sure in that over the years it has become quite legendary, and at the same time, in the sixties, became very much a cult programme. Certainly I think in those days that no one was really interested in what Kenny Everett and Tony Windsor and even Tony Blackburn were doing in the middle of the say. The big buzz around genuine music-lovers in that era was the fact that, if you’ll pardon the expression, there was this somewhat strange gentlemen called John Peel who would come on late at night with a programme called the Perfumed Garden. John, are you embarrassed to look back at that era?
JP: Well, as I say, yes, in the same way that, as I say, you should always be embarrassed with what you just did. But I mean, it was the same sort of programme as I do know really but just in a different time and under different circumstances quite clearly, and the preoccupation was with the music and the culture that surrounded it. Obviously at that time, because I didn’t have any children – I mean, I was actually a hippy, you know what I mean, like Neil from The Young Ones…
AP: Did you enjoy it, though? Did you enjoy working on a boat and being locked up with people who were anything but the sort of musical thinker that you were, I would have thought, at the time?
JP: Well, there aren’t that many people, there never have been that many people on Radio One who shared my sort of rather curious opinions and tastes and so on down the years, so it is a situation that hasn’t changed a great deal. I just get on with it, you know. I mean, I like doing it. And I enjoyed being on the ship, because I was coming to the end of a rather disastrous first marriage and it meant that I could spend two weeks out of every three on board ship where no one could get at me and give me a good hiding.
AP: That’s one way of putting it. Three words – Don Van Vliet, I think I right in saying, aren’t I?
JP: Yes, Captain Beefheart. I saw them supporting Them at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles, must have been in ’65, early ’66, and they were basically like an R&B band, but what they were doing was so far removed from the original source it was barely identifiable. I thought they were wonderful then. He is a man whose work – I mean, this record is 12 years old we are about to hear, and it does sound very, very contemporary, hasn’t dated at all. Big-Eyed Beans From Venus.
- Captain Beefheart: Big-Eyed Beans From Venus
AP: Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, from Clear Spot, and Big-Eyed Beans From Venus. Enjoyed hearing that again. Do you look back over some of the bands you played and ponder as to why you ever played them in the first place now? I mean, how many of the people going back down the years – and there are a few of them now, John – have you actually sort of thought, “I don’t think I want to hang onto that any more”, or do you treasure absolutely everything?
JP: I keep all of the records in case they come in useful for something. But yes, a lot of the records which I used to play in the early 70s, I can’t really understand now what I used to see in them. But the best of them, the ones that I regarded as being the best, like the Beefheart records or those by Little Feat and bands like that, still sound terrific, or Ry Cooder’s records still sound good. Or other things which I used to play, I think, “That is awful”. The funny thing now is if you listen to Radio Two at all, a lot of them are cropping up on there late at night, you know, most weird.
AP: Let’s move now to one of the more recent characters to come out of your beloved Liverpool – but more of that and football later – and this is Peter Wylie, isn’t it, and Wah. What’s happened to them? I mean, where have they been?
JP: Well, he’s the kind of bloke who does things at his own pace, for which I admire him enormously. And they were with Warner Brothers previously and there was real conflict between the two of them because they wanted him to conform to an idea that they had of what he should be and of course he is not the man for that sort of thing. A bloke I like enormously I must admit. And I’m glad … I dread the day when I can no longer have my stumps scattered by a new record - you know, when I can’t really be just bowled over by something - and the new Wah single is the first one this year that has just left me breathless.
- Mighty Wah: Come Back
AP: My guest John Peel. Let’s go back quite a few years now and dig out an instrumental. It was Johnny Walker who had a Duane Eddy track as his signature tune…
JP: That’s right.
AP: … in the good old days of Radio One. Let’s just talk about that, because we’ve mentioned pirate radio and the Perfumed Garden a moment. You were of course here from day one really. You were one of the signings, weren’t you…
AP: …from pirate radio – the revolutionary pirates who came onto land and lined up for that one picture outside Broadcasting House, actually outside the church just around the corner. When you look back on the lineup from those days, and quite a few of them seem to have gone down the plughole broadcasting-wise, are you sort of constantly amazed that you are here all these years on?
JP: Well, it sounds rather conceited to say no, but not really, because I work very hard at what I do. It’s because in a sense it is a foundation – I’m not saying it’s perfect; it’s far from perfect. In a sense I wish I had more time to work on it and more resources, you know. But it’s a kind of foundation for what goes on subsequently. So like, for example, if we are going to say that musically the focus of the station is going to be on the charts, if you look through the charts at any particular time, like a third or so of the bands that are featured in the charts will be bands that started out on my programme. And I think that is the reason I am still there – because I work hard and still do a reasonable job, to be honest.
AP: Do you find the knockers have a go because you tend to change your musical outlook and once a band has become established and got on the charts they don’t get the attention and love they got from John Peel’s programme from day one?
JP: Well, there’s two points there. One, I don’t think that is actually true. I think a lot of bands when they start out, it’s the first rush of excitement I suppose that appeals to me. And then they run out of ideas fairly quickly because they are called upon – people blame the record companies and the media, but it is actually the fans really who require of them a certain sound and a certain presentation. And it is this really that bogs the bands down more than anything else. As they become more and more successful, the requirements of the audience limit them more and more, you know. Because as they go to a bigger mass market … it is like people buy a packet of cornflakes and the next time they buy a packet of cornflakes they don’t want them to be amusing, they don’t want them to be chocolate flavoured, they want them to be cornflakes – and it gets to be the same with bands, which I do think is a great pity. And then as far as the changing within the programme, I relate this as I relate so many other things to Football. Obviously I am very pleased Liverpool are European champions and won the Milk Cup and the league title - and the Boat Race and the Grand National and one or two other things as well – but I am really more concerned with what they do in the first match next season.
JP: And it’s the same with the music. I am more interested in the records which I’ve got in the box in the boot of my car which I’ve not heard than in the records I’ve played in the week that’s just gone.
AP: So why Duane Eddy?
JP: Well, just because I think after the Undertones, almost with the Undertones, this is my all-time favourite record. And I saw him at the Liverpool Empire the first time he came over here, with Bobby Darin and Clyde McPhatter, who was the owner/operator of one of the great voices. But the middle bit of this, when the sax stops and Duane comes through twanging away on his own is like for me the supreme moment in recorded popular music.
AP: Duane Eddy and Peter Gunn, written it should be noted I suppose by Henry Macini – a very unusual combination. A very raunchy version of a Macini piece.
JP: Yes, some strange composers in this. I hadn’t thought of that. Henry Macini and Paul McCartney we’ve had so far.
AP: Let us stay now firmly in the city of Liverpool, for whose football club, the Liverpool football club, you have an affection which I suppose is quite unparalleled in modern football history.
JP: Well, it’s certainly manic, yes. I always say, and it’s not an entirely flippant remark – I think everybody needs a religion, everybody has a religion, whether they acknowledge it or not, and that’s mine, really. And it seems as safe and as healthy form of a religion – in fact healthier and safer than most.
AP: If you were offered the chance, would you like to take on the job of Liverpool’s official archivist? I mean, would you be interested in looking back…
JP: No, not really. It’s like I don’t want to hang out with bands. People are always saying to you, “What are The Clash like?” or something – but I don’t know, never met them, you know. And I just want to go to the match really and just be a fan. I mean a fan is what I am of both music and football. And I’ve met some of the players. As my wife can tell you, when Dalglish did a programme similar to this one a few years ago, I wanted to bring the children in and have him bless them, but she said he probably wouldn’t understand that. But a very nice man as it turns out, because it is always terrifying to meet people you really admire in case they turn out to be complete twerps.
AP: Wasn’t there a marvelous story that your producer John Walters once arranged on your birthday to have Kenneth Dalglish phone you in the studio and you were quite convinced that it wasn’t him?
JP: It was one of the engineers actually who was on the programme and he did exactly that, yes. And so it was “It’s Kenny Dalglish on the phone.” I said, “Oh yeah, come on, who’s this? Come on, who’s messing about?” But it was of course. A nice birthday present too.
AP: What are we going to play tied in with the football club?
JP: Well, this is something no one sings at the match anymore because they regard it as mainly people who come from Crewe and things like this who do the singing at the matches. So this is an old record and people will say I shouldn’t really play it. There is in the middle of it – somebody shouts “Everton” as well, which in view of the Cup Final triumph I think is entirely appropriate. But this is the Kop Choir – the greatest group on earth – and You'll Never Walk Alone.
AP: Do you think a sense of humour, as Ken Dodd once told me in an interview, is of vital importance if you are a Liverpudlian? Because Tarbuck, Dodd, everybody, Freddie Starr, who has come out of that area, stresses this necessity to have a sense of humour to live within that environment. Do you think that’s true?
JP: Well, there are a couple of points. One is first that I come from the other side of the river.
AP: Yes, you’re from the Wirral, aren’t you?
JP: That’s right, yes. That means every time I go to a match I get derision heaped on me in great quantities. And the ironic thing is that the people who go around saying all Liverpudlians have got a great sense of humour, and the people who actually make a living out of being funny Liverpudlians, seem to be the least funny of them. I mean, no names, no pack drill, but among the names you mentioned are some of my very least favourite comedians.
AP: But the Kop have a marvelous sense of humour. I mean, I remember a story, I don’t know if it was you or somebody else told me, of Liverpool playing against a German side at Anfield and the Kop shouted something like, “We won the war, and you came second.” It’s that sort of marvelous instant sense of humour that they seem to contrive.
JP: Yes. But as I say, there’s not so much of it about these days, which is a great pity. I mean, because singing is no longer voguish, which as I say is a pity.
AP: Now over the last few months the Cocteau Twins are a name which has been much mentioned on John Peel’s late night programme.
JP: Scottish as well.
JP: All ties in so cleverly.
AP: Tell us what we are going to play from their repertoire.
JP: Well, this is my favourite record of last year. And they were one of those bands again, like when I first heard them I thought, “Great, I’m glad I lived long enough to hear this.” My favourite record of last year, From The Flagstones.
- Cocteau Twins: From The Flagstones
AP: The Cocteau Twins and From The Flagstones. It’s a very, very pleasant voice actually. I like listening to that.
JP: Well, I like the extreme voices. I was just thinking that. Over the years it has always been people who have got the really idiosyncratic voices that I like – Beefheart, Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteaus, Mark Smith of The Fall, people like them.
AP: I remember in the good old days of Radio One, just harking back for a moment, John Peel going out and doing a roadshow. I think it was Radio One Club actually. If for instance something terrible happened next week and you were in London early in the morning and you got a phone call saying would you come in and do the breakfast show, how would you relish that prospect nowadays?
JP: I’d love to do it. I’d be knocked out, I really would. I’d be made up with that. I think I would do it very well to be honest.
AP: But would you be the John Peel we hear in the evening or would you be the John Peel having fun on the breakfast show?
JP: Well, I have fun in the evening in my own quiet unobtrusive way. Obviously in the morning I would feel jollier as one by and large does. I think I’d do quite a good one.
AP: Do you feel that there is in the evenings and at all other times, because you make quite frequent television appearances now, in a position of some authority, there is a necessity to have the sense of humour which has become synonymous with the name John Peel? Because whether you think you’ve got one or not, I think you undoubtedly have. You are sort of the miniature master of some very interesting quotes over the years. But is there pressure on you? I always listen to you when you are on Roundtable and I think probably more than anyone else on the Radio One staff, there is pressure on you to perform in some strange way when you are on Roundtable because people expect you to be funny – funny/cynical, whatever – more than anyone else perhaps.
JP: I must admit I don’t feel any pressure, and usually these days they usually put me on Roundtable with someone who disarms me totally, like the most recent one I did a few months ago was with Tracy and she was just so charming and so instantly likeable and also very forthright, that I was completely disarmed. So my role as sort of potential hatchetman – she removed my hatchet and hid it from the start.
AP: So if you look back, you’ve been on – Sheena Easton, Claire Grogan, people like this.
JP: Yes, yes. Stephanie De Sykes in another generation.
AP: Stephanie De Sykes in another generation. We come now to number nine.
JP: Yes. This is in a sense it is symptomatic of a whole buried area of music. As far as I know it is the only record this bloke made. And I wrote to a chap who specializes in deep soul records up in Wakefield – I don’t know if he is still in business – and said, you know, just send us 15 or 20 of what you regard as being the very best records and this is one that he sent me. And the man’s voice is just stunning. And what is so frustrating about it is the knowledge that he is probably still alive, working as a janitor or something like that and nobody is interested in recording him. Because somebody like Percy Sledge is without a recording contract at the moment I understand, which to me is outrageous. He is called Stanley Winston, and this is No More Ghettos In America.
- Stanley Winston: No More Ghettos In America
AP: No More Ghettos In America. ‘Stan’s Soul Shop’ is the album for the collectors who want to grab a copy of an album on Charly Records, and that was Stanley Winston. Very nice too, Mr Peel. I expected something like that in the midst of your record choices. How difficult has it been, John – because there will be a lot of people listening to this programme today, John Peel fans and maybe people that don’t catch all of your evening programmes – who will perhaps in their own minds have their own idea of what you might have picked?
JP: People who listen regularly to the programme will have an idea of the sort of records I am going to be playing. I mean it is basically, obviously the fact that it is a nostalgia thing really and most of these records have associations for me. I find it very difficult to divorce records from the context in which I first heard them and really wouldn’t want to do so, you know. I can’t just judge them as objects independent of the experiences that surrounded them. Actually I can’t believe I haven’t put anything in my Gene Vincent, for example, or as I mentioned earlier, Elmore James. And I could go away and come up with a completely different list next week – tomorrow, later on today.
AP: Certain people who I discussed this programme with said to me, “You ought to talk to John about his over-generosity down the years,” because I think it is true to say without embarrassing you in any way that in the old days – and you have already stated you were a hippy with a capital H at one stage in your life – I know for a fact that your place of abode in London was inundated with friends who used to sort of park themselves in the lounge or whatever, and I hear stories that you used to come home at night and find nothing in the fridge but never actually react to it.
JP: Yes. I’m less generous now obviously because I have got an army of small children t be fed and clothed.
AP: But the stories of course about the John Peel gigs where you give the money to the band instead of taking it home and giving it to your bank manager.
JP: Yes. I don’t do as much of that as I… The last time I did that actually was with The Beat. And you know how every band has a - I should have put something of theirs in as well actually – every band has a classic gig, you know what I mean. There is never one that is better no matter what happens to them subsequently. And theirs I think came at Aston University and I was doing the DJ-ing. And I was supposed to be getting paid something quite mad like 450 quid or something and they were getting 80 quid, and that wouldn’t even cover the hire of the PA, you know. And they came on – I’d played about 15 minutes’ worth of records before they came on – and they came on and they were stunning. So I went out afterwards and I said to the audience, who were very excited, I said, “Look, they’ve finished now. But I can play like records that you know off by heart anyway for an hour, or I can play records while they get their breath back and I’ll go down and get them to come out and do the whole lot again,” you know. And they all said “yes” and I said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do because it’s fair – I’ll give them my cheque and take theirs.” Which seemed only reasonable. But I don7t do that very often these days.
AP: But I know that the family and the record collection particularly means a great deal to you, doesn’t it, when you’re at home on your own.
JP: Yes. I mean, that’s why the Pig and I had children. You have to make a decision I think. I said to her, “Look, I could do like some of my colleagues do. I could go out and spend every weekend night, as it were, doing gigs and cop a lot of money for it, but at the end of the year you wouldn’t know who I was, the children wouldn’t know who I was, and I should probably have gone mad.” Because I get very homesick when I’m away from home. And so we agreed I would just do it on a level where I could afford to pay for the records and the occasional bottle of wine with meals, you know. Because people do think DJs are millionaires because they see someone like Noel Edmonds, who has actually achieved that wonderful thing we all want to achieve, where you actually just become famous for being famous, you know what I mean. You don’t actually have to do anything except be Noel Edmonds, you know, which is just a wonderful state of affairs in a way. So you have to get the balance right, you know. And I’d sooner – I like my children, I like my wife, I like where I live.
AP: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, John?
JP: Well, still doing radio programmes. I have no ambitions beyond that. People say, “Do you want to get into television?” I like doing the odd bit of television here and there, but it is just as a kind of little aside. I mean, radio is what I like doing. Radio One may decide to get rid of me, because obviously by then I shall be an immense age – I mean, 55. Forty-five this summer, you see, and 45 obviously a crucial age for a disc jockey. But I hope to still be doing radio programmes somewhere. And I suppose I would like to go at some stage back to Liverpool. I mean, not being romancing, people like our Brian, or Sue actually, who is the programme secretary, and even John Walters, who is a cynical old brute, but when he was in Liverpool recently he went most of the way to admitting that it is quite a special place. So that’s where I would like to go back eventually.
AP: I can understand that. John, thanks every so much for joining us. Let’s have your last choice please.
JP: Well, I suppose when I am at home and not listening to new records to see if I am going to play them on the radio, if I have time to listen to anything for pleasure it tends to be oddly enough either things by Dvorak – don’t ask me why Dvorak…
AP: Quite romantic.
JP: I suppose so. Yes, all those sort of middle European folk tunes and things… Or reggae. And my favourite LP of all time – I hate people who say things like that, but I am saying it anyway – is Misty In Roots’ Live At The Counter Eurovision festival in Brussels. And the spoken bit at the beginning of this track is in a sense I would like to think echoes the philosophy that I have or the programmes that I do have. And it’s inspirational. It’s holy music, you know. It is. It’s inspirational.
- Misty: Mankind (live)