October 27, 2004



Our friend Nick Brooks writes:

"I hung out with Peel during one of his radio shows in December '88. I was over in London for Christmas. I was on the perpetual plan at UC Berkeley, and worked as on air DJ at KALX 90.7FM - "The B Side" Tuesdays and and "Arts in Review" Thursdays 9am to noon. The Tuesday show was my selfish blast of British things: My Bloody Valentine, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, House of Love, Lilac Time, Tim Simenon, Acid Jazz, Sundays, 14 Iced Bears. You get the picture. The Thursday show was in-studio interviews with actors, directors, and dancers with shows on in the Bay Area, outlined with jazz and blues records. For my London break, I had managed to convince the program director at KALX to let me take a portable tape deck with me in the hopes that I would score some interviews. I lucked out, bagging Stephen "Don't call me 'Tin Tin'" Duffy, Ian McKellen and John Peel. Various messages left with various levels of interns and assistants resulted in a bored-sounding assistant telling me to be in the lobby of the station just before his show that night.

Arriving early, I was greeted by the porter and shown where to wait. Five minutes before airtime, the front doors swung open and in walked a ball of curry and lager smell. I heard "You must be the bloody Yank!" Next thing I knew, I was in his wake on the way upstairs. The incoming mail for just that day was overflowing in a locker big enough for a years worth of my personal mail. He said that every single submission would get a listen, and I knew he was telling the truth.

He wanted to vet me a little and asked to see a station playlist (top 30 most-played songs of past month). Evidently I and the station passed some sort of test. He told me to come in the studio and hang out during the show and promised to talk into my microphone during some of the songs. So with less than three minutes before his first on air mic break, he sat down, said hello to his engineer in the adjoining studio and did a test of the mic with some silly warm up stuff. Suddenly, he was looking at the clock, flicking a switch and going out live with "I'm sitting here with a yank from one of those College Radio stations in the states, Hopefully we can play some music he likes tonight!" He then signalled the engineer and a live version of "Destroy the Heart" by House of Love took off. It was playing so loud that the walls were shaking. This was obviously how he liked to hear music.

I noticed the TV at his desk playing a soccer game and asked him about it. He was a massive Liverpool fan and had the BBC figure out a satellite hook up so he never missed a single game if they were playing during a show. I told him Liverpool were my team as well. He looked at me like I was taking the piss. I then recited the starting line up of the 1977 European Cup Final winning team. Next thing I knew, he was reaching back to open two cans of lager and offer me one. The next two hours passed in a blur, Peel hitting his mic breaks with relish and using me as bait for ongoing riff about hoping the yanks will like/get understand this song. I got him to turn down level in studio for some good interview stuff and funny station ID's: "49, Fat but Fun. This is John Peel. When I'm in the Bay Area I only listen to KALX 90.7FM". He then signed off and walked me into office area throwing piles of BBC stuff and label promos into my bag and telling me to play it loud no matter what. Back in Berkeley, I edited the evening into 15 minutes and made of show of John Peel—hits from bands he'd been instrumental in helping along, and clips from my interview with him. He was such a great force of the business. Not a false note of self-promotion or bullshit about him. In fact, his only negative remarks that night were directed at DJs who were more focused on a future TV career than the music they were playing. I thank him for caring, and for playing it loud."

Posted by Sasha at October 27, 2004 08:35 PM | TrackBack