Revealed: John Peel's 142 favourite records
featuring Status Quo, Sheena Easton (twice) and Bill Oddie. Bill Oddie?
Sunday 30 October 2005
The names on the records will not mean much to most. How many of us can claim familiarity with the works of Easy Teeth, Anemic Boyfriends and Big Stick? Yet these were the items he set apart from the vast bulk of his record collection. But tucked in among the highly desirable blues, rock'n'roll, psychedelic and authentic punk nuggets are songs by Sheena Easton, Bill Oddie and Status Quo.
Peel, who died a year ago while on holiday in Peru, was an obsessive hoarder of vinyl. His collection amounted to more than 100,000 discs, which lined his walls in rough chronological order. But the cream was stored inside this simple box. They include the kind of obscurities that Peel favoured - the earsplitting grindcore of Electro Hippies, a reggae version of the Coronation Street theme, electronica from Boards of Canada, guitar thrash from Hooton 3 Car. There are even a few mainstream items, such as a three-track single by the Beatles: "Come Together", "Something" and "Octopus's Garden". Marc Bolan is also represented, but only in the form of an interview that was pressed on vinyl and issued the year he died, 1977.
The existence of the box, contents of which will be revealed in a Channel 4 documentary next month, was news to many. Even his close friend Andy Kershaw had been unaware of its existence. The significance of the contents may always remain a mystery, though.
Peel's widow, Sheila Ravenscroft, said: "When we looked through the box when John died, I was actually quite surprised. Quite a few of [the records] didn't seem to make any sense and I was quite desperate to ask him why certain things were in it. But we'll never know."
By far the most sizeable contribution by any single act is by Peel's recent favourites, the White Stripes, who weigh in with no fewer than 10 singles. Their frontman Jack White was astounded by his popularity with the DJ. He said: "I really wanted to become better friends with [John] because I liked talking to him. I guess we really did connect with him. He's got so many of our records in here, it's a big compliment to have even one."
Oddly, there are no contributions from one of all-time Peel's favourite bands, the Fall. But the DJ's son, Tom Ravenscroft, said: "He had a whole area of his collection dedicated to the Fall, so he knew exactly where to find them if he needed them. The box was more for some of his obscure records which he might otherwise have difficulty finding."
Among the more bizarre inclusions are Bill Oddie's interpretation of "Ilkley Moor Baht 'At", delivered in the style of Joe Cocker. Another oddity is Sheena Easton's top three hit "9 to 5", which Peel loved so much he kept two copies. The DJ's widow said: "That was big - he used to play it at all his gigs."
Peel also retained a soft spot for the boogie hitmakers Status Quo, despite the fact that they were deeply unfashionable for many years. Frontman Francis Rossi said it was a "real honour" to find "Down Down" in the collection.
Nevertheless, Peel cognoscenti will probably be more intrigued by the presence of certain obscurities. Phil James, singer with punk band the Users, is delighted to find his "Sick of You" in the box.
"We were just middle-class kids who wanted to be Iggy and the Stooges," he said. "Until recently I had 3,000 copies of the record under my bed - and I decided I needed to get rid of them because they were just taking up space."
Sic transit gloria mundi.
John Peel's Record Box will be screened on Channel 4 on 14 November as part of the UK Music Hall of Fame season
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