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Michael Heatley

John Peel - A Life in Music

London, Michael O' Mara Books Ltd, pp. 224, sterline 6.99
ISBN 1-84317-157-0

How many people, even rock fans, know John Peel outside UK? Very few, for sure. It's difficult to make comparisons with other talent-scouts, because Peel made it in only one way: from the microphone of radio studios, in particular those of Bbc. He was the most well-known Dj  in a country, Great Britain, that's fundamental for fans and people sharing pop-rock experiences. For this reason, his merits are undisputed. His intuition made him embrace artist and styles before other conductors, to broadcast them and impose to audience taste. A way to discover his way of life is the book dedicated to him in England (first edition in hardback): John Peel-A life in music, written by Michael Heatley and published by Michael O'Mara Books in London.

John Peel
John Peel

Peel, born John Ravenscroft, permitted the success of a lot of musicians who often represented very different styles from each others. Two examples: Fairport Convention, who created British folk-rock destined to be a great field for artists and creativity, and (from Usa) Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. The author of this review verified how the group in still loved in England during a concert (April 2003) in London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, surely due to Peel work of spreading. But overall Peel understood before any other punk revolution and new wave style in the late seventies. After the great success, progressive rock (Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis and other groups) involved in a lass of creativity without solution. So, from Bbc waves, were broadcasted songs of young angry bands  as Sex Pistols, Clash, Siouxie and the Banshees, Smiths, A changing period narrated in The Rotter's Club by Jonathan Coe, related to the changing in politics with the end of Labour government and the beginning of Margaret Thatcher Era. Peel had no fear to look far than others: when he was young went in America where became a radio conductor due also to his Liverpool accent in the period of Beatles success in Usa. He was also a protagonist of the pirate radio Era, broadcasting from boats in international seas because private radio were forbidden (so he changed his surname). The Radio London experience was brought in Bbc: after punk period a lot of styles rose up and experimenters found their home in Peel's studio. When he died (his 26000 Lp, 40000 singles and 40000 Cd are preserved in British Library near King's Cross Station) many people send  their memory, from Tony Blair to Paul McCartney and musicians who knew him,  all published in the book. There are also collected the Festive Fifties from 1976 to 2003, charts chosen by the audience at the end of the year after Peel’s programmes. A life that is strictly related to that of Rock'n'roll.   

Michele Manzotti

Book - cover

cast indice del volume


Italian version
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