Television: Sweet suburbia

John Peel is setting out on the road to find out why small-town Britain gives birth to so much great pop

John Peel has travelled to Bellshill in Lanarkshire to meet Sean Dickson, the former lead singer with the band, The Soup Dragons. With that group, Peel recalls, "Sean experienced the strange sensation of one day being an unemployed youth in a small town, and the next being an unemployed youth on Top of the Pops."

In his new eight-part series for Channel 4, John Peel's Sounds of the Suburbs, the DJ investigates why so much great indie music has grown up away from the big cities, in satellite towns and suburbs. In the process, he is able to chart the social history of these non-metropolitan areas. In the first episode, in which he visits Lanarkshire, Peel reflects on the effect the closure of the Ravenscraig steelworks and the loss of 7,000 jobs had on the surrounding area. "Even people in London read about Ravenscraig. Page 19, just below `Runaway vicar in mercy dash to palace'."

The series also offers Peel the chance to do what he likes best: poking around in the out-of-the-way corners that have inspired so much of this self-starting "dole-queue" music. "If there is any thinking behind the series - and there wasn't much - it is to demonstrate that you don't need to be from London or Glasgow or Manchester to get things sorted out."

These "suburban" bands "do a lot more for me than truckloads of Britpop ninnies. It's because they are doing it for themselves that the music has so much energy and originality. It's the fact that it doesn't fit into anything that marketing and promotions thugs can peddle easily that gives the music its strength.

"There's a kind of control element built into much of what goes on in Britpop. I saw, to my horror, on the front of Melody Maker last week that the band Gay Dad are heralding the revival of Britpop. Britpop is a manipulated phenomenon, and I don't enjoy feeling manipulated. To be topical, you could call it genetically modified music."

This all coheres with Peel's consistent championing of the alternative, a philosophy which has remained largely unchanged in more than 30 years of broadcasting. "I get accused of being perverse," he admits, "but when you hear 10 seconds of shrieking Japanese guitars, by any applicable standards you think, `that's fantastic'. I like the idea of people going away thinking `what the hell was that about?' "

Peel has always cultivated the position of the outsider looking in - hence his perpetual popularity with generations of disaffected youth. "It's better never to feel comfortable with anything. Even when I walk the dogs late at night, I'm always thinking, `is there a maniac in the shrubs?'. Wherever you are, there's always a danger of a maniac in the shrubs. Too many celebrities lose sight of the absurdity of what is going on around them."

Peel has no such problems. His down-to-earth approach has made him a national institution - although, of course, he laughs off the tag. "That phrase always reminds me of crumbling brickwork in need of repointing. I just feel like a husband and father under siege from his family. They don't see me as a national institution. I'm just the bloke who carries the dirty cups through to the kitchen and who they're always trying to get off the phone."

What sustains Peel is his unremitting enthusiasm for new music. "People think it's odd that a fellow nearing 60 feels like this," he concedes. "But it couldn't have happened before because only people my age have had their lives transformed by hearing Elvis. If you're interested in films, no one says to you when you reach 60, `you can only watch Carry On films now'. To me, it seems perfectly normal to want to experience new things. Although that doesn't mean I want to go paragliding over the Trossachs - wherever they may be."

`John Peel's Sounds of the Suburbs' starts tonight at 11.50pm on C4

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?