Teenage Dreams, So Hard to Beat
Radio is, I think, the most intimate media. Reading involves the eyes and touch, it is tactile. Television is audio and visual. Online life is a whole complexity of senses and interaction. Radio whispers in your ear. You do something else with it on, the voice sliding into your consciousness and unconsciousness. And this is why the death of John Peel is a cause of sadness.
There are lots and lots of blog entries popping up, talking about his career and his influence on music. City of sound, obviously, The Big Smoker, Rogue Semiotics, Horizon and dozens of mp3 blogs. You can download his favourite single, Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, from a lot of the latter. I can't talk about that. Yes, I did first hear a lot of guitar bands via his show but it wasn't exactly the music which kept my dial there. What Peel provided, why he mattered, is that there was this soft, insidious voice tumbling out of the radio and letting you know that there are other people who don't fit the daytime demographics. You listened, knowing that in hundreds of thousands of teenage bedrooms across the UK others were also struggling with their maths or physics O-levels and listening to a soft wry voice saying "oh dear, well, I appear to have played that at the wrong speed but it sounded just as good to me. And now here's one by the Fall..."
And, since he must have been in his 40s when I listened every night, his voice told me that getting older didn't automatically mean getting staid. You can pull up his tracklisting from a couple of weeks ago at the BBCi site and see that he was still playing stuff you would never hear of. his shows said it was fine to be different and that you can go on not fitting in for as long as you wanted to. Looking at the impact of his death within blogging circles, it seems he left that idea with a lot of us.
I lost track when I got an evening job that didn't get me home until gone 11pm, then moved to a bedsit and was actually out at gigs having loud guitar trashing my hearing instead of tuning in to a Peel session. I did listen to the Peelenium back in '99 and I had a moment of sheer joy when, in a foreign country, I tuned in the radio to some music and heard "....and there was one by Gorky's Zygotic Myceni...". There was Peelie, on the World Service, providing me with touch of home. So, although, my own life took me away from listening to Peel, I don't think I would be the person I am now if I hadn't sat there, late on schoolnights, with his voice whispering in my ear.