Cold tired fingers, Tapping out your memories, Halfway sadness...
I posted the very sad news of the death of legendary DJ John Peel on the MBs, as the story broke yesterday. It's impossible to put across in this forum just how valuable, visionary and influential the man truly was, and it would be foolhardy to attempt to list the musicians that have benefited from his patronage since the late sixties. There have been so many that it would be too easy to forget somebody of major significance.
We all know how John championed the young David Bowie, a good example of this was when he allowed David and "friends" to take over the Paris Cinema Studio on London's Lower Regent Street, thirty three years ago, on June 3rd 1971. I'm sure you're all aware of this particular show where a softly spoken and gentle-mannered John Peel marvelled at the changes of line-up for each of the nine songs performed.
John wrote about the event in his regular weekly Disc and Music Echo column, PEEL, (issue date June 12, 1971. See scan, above.) well before the show's broadcast on the 20th. I've transcribed the relevant bit, complete with errors, not least of all the wrong gender for young Zowie Bowie!
With David you can never be too sure what's going to happen. This time he'd arrived with an entire circus. Geoffrey Alexander was there, for example, because he lives in the same road as David and likes to sing and that's as good a reason as any. All the songs were David's except for Chuck Berry's "Almost Grown" and Mick Ronson, Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder of Ronno were playing on most of them - as was Mark Carr-Prichard of Arnold Corns. I hope, but cannot guarantee, that I've spelt everyone's name right.
They started with "Queen Bitch," which will be on the next David Bowie LP and so will "Bombers." "Superman" was on the last one, 'The Man Who Sold The World," which was very good and very much overlooked. Also overlooked has been the Arnold Corn's single "Moonage Daydream," which David wrote and produced. Their next one will be "Looking For A Friend," so David sang that next before going into "Almost Grown."
Last Sunday David became a father. He seemed uncertain about the baby's name, saying he preferred to let a name develop round the evolving personality. At the moment she's Zowie Bowie which is a good start. Her father had written a new song specially in celebration and that's called "Kooks" and he did that one by himself.
If you have the first Tyrannosaurus Rex LP, or David's "Space Oddity" LP, or the Gentle Giant LP, then you have in your home an example of the painting of George Underwood. George, it turns out, is a Dylan freak, so David wrote him a special song which he, George, sang next and which may also be a single. It's called, logically enough, "Song For Bob Dylan" - at least, it is at the moment.
You may have seen and heard of Dana Gillespie before. Anyway, it was her turn next. David says that she's a very good songwriter, but she didn't sing any of her own songs, which was a pity because I'd have liked to hear them. She has a better voice than I'd imagined too - really good. She sang David's song "Andy Warhol" which is going to be another single. The programme ended with just about everyone singing "It Ain't Easy" and, come to think of it, that makes two David didn't write.
Trainspotters, such as myself, will notice no mention of Oh! You Pretty Things, a track supposedly recorded but never broadcast. This recording has never made it to the numerous bootlegs (which I guess it wouldn't if it wasn't broadcast!) and wasn't included on the official Bowie At The Beeb set, where its absence was explained away thus: "does not remain on archive". I suggest the song was never recorded during this session, particularly as Peely makes no mention of it in his gig report. But I could be wrong.
Tony Visconti sent in a few words about the man he considered his "dear old friend"...
John Peel was responsible for so many breakthroughs and breakouts in modern music. He always backed the underdog who often came out on top because of John's unfaltering belief in them. Without John there probably would have been no T. Rex. When other British DJs were mocking Marc Bolan, John played his music every Sunday and even recorded a spoken word segment on the first Tyrannosaurus Rex album.
In David Bowie's early days John had us (David, Mick Ronson, me, et al) on Top Gear and other shows of his several times, and championed David as a rising important voice on the British music scene in the late 60s.
For me, John was my benchmark for what was cool, hip and the truly 'next-big-thing.' Even when he played extremely left field music, I was so grateful to hear things that would be impossible to hear anywhere else. He and his producer Bernie Andrews were responsible for all of those fabulous 'live at the Beeb' recordings. The BBC wanted to erase the live tapes believing them to be irrelevant (and they did, most of them), but John and Bernie made their own copies and those are what you have heard in recent years. What a pioneer John was.
I hope that the spirit of true and honest rock music has not died with him. - Tony Visconti - October 26th 2004
Thanx Tony. BowieNetters can read yesterday's thread on the message boards