25 October 2005

Right Song, Right Time, Wrong Speed

One year ago today I came to work per usual, spun up all the machinery, wiggled into my chair, got connected to the world, and promptly fell apart.

I'm a stoic guy, and that goes back to the beginning. Even as a kid I never got too outwardly emotional; I was the even-keeled first child. Related to that or not, I also developed the quirk of taking a while to realize my own feelings about some of life's big happenings. That's me; late to my own party.

What crushed me October 25, 2004, was to learn that John Peel had died. I was as stunned as much by my reaction as I was to the news itself. Here was a man I'd never met, whose death was already working me over more than the death of some blood relatives.
I cite 4 times in my life that music really changed things for me. I hate the word epiphany, but maybe it applies. The first is when I was maybe 3 or 4. My parents would entertain friends at our house, and after I went to bed, it was the music they played that drifted upstairs and lulled me to sleep. I remember Gerry Mulligan, Brubeck & Desmond, Sandler & Young, but mostly the Brazilian Jazz; Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrid Gilberto, and Sergio Mendes. I think that's where I first understood music as atmosphere.

The second spin was in high school and falling in with friends that listened to Neil Young, Creedence, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, and some older country stuff from the 60's. It was such a relief, as I was under the false impression that it was my duty as an adolescent male to eat a steady diet of Van Halen, Rush, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Aerosmith and the like.

Third time was when I got to River Falls and got involved with college radio. Again, it was a time to shed stuff I really wasn't cut out for, and the chance to get excited about the music again with Nirvana, Echo & the Bunnymen, Catherine Wheel, Depeche Mode, The Fall, The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain, and New Order.

The most recent revolution for me was in the late spring of 2001. After a some time in a Passat on the Autostrade, I found myself really intrigued by European Pop. Upon returning home, I started pinging around various webcasts, eventually discovering BBC 1, and John Peel's show. There was this old man playing a variety of stuff like I'd never heard, all of it interesting to me, and best of all, all of it was interesting to him. I soon realized this wasn't a bit or a gimmick. It was the antithesis of a playlist and a fountain of joy that I rarely missed over 3+ years.

Threaded through #2, #3 and #4 is my rediscovery of music. Whether it's the era, or the cards life's dealt me, or the shitty state of terresrial music radio, I have sagged into the pit of musical non-interest, only to be lifted out again. When Peel died, part of my anguish was from a sense of "now what do I do?"
Well, it became evident; I had to become my own music advocate. I would never go back because I loved music so much. Over the next few months I got a new PC, broadband internet, JBL computer speakers with a subwoofer, a CD burners, Roxio, an MP3 player, a back-up hard drive, a subscription to a great music download site, and a regular habit of perusing music blogs. I'm all over internet radio, I stop people to ask what's coming out of their speakers, and I share what I have with others, hoping that they adopt my deep disdain for the Big Dumb Radio-Industrial Complex and about 95% of record labels.

There are lots of tributes to John written very well by those fortunate to have spent time with him. My favorites are the ones from musicians that he invited to his home for recording sessions. Yup, I cried in my office a year ago today, but with that year to think about it, I realize it was because I knew that I was fortunate to come to know the greatest radio presenter ever, and how easliy I might never have know the joys of his work. To quote Jarvis Cocker, John Peel saved my life, and for that, I'll always be grateful.

There's a whole pile of great archicved media over at BBC1. Look and listen.

John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, OBE, 1939-2004

UPDATE: Radio 6 also has a page with some great audio archives.

1 comment:

Lefty said...

Have you checked out The Night Air? It's a podcast produced by Radio National out of Australia. Here's the link:

Glasses raised high in the air for Peel!