Monday, August 28, 2006


Peel Sessions 20

I've often heard older people asking each other where they where or what they were doing when they heard that Kennedy had been killed. Obviously having just been out of nappies myself this is not something that greatly interested me at the time, but if you want to talk about musicians dying, now that's a subject a little bit closer to my heart. I think the first event that marked me was the early death of Elvis Presley. I was round at Tim's flat, where we often spent our evenings if there was nothing better to do, as chance would have it we were listening to John Peel, who announced the (burger) Kings death. We were much less touched by the event than Peel was, our reaction was to party and celebrate the death of rock 'n' roll as we knew it, one must bear in mind that this was 1977, the so called year zero. In retrospect I would agree that it does seem a little bit childish, though in my defense I would like to add that you should have been there, the times were a changin' as someone once mused.
Another death that had an effect on me was that of John Lennon in December 1980. At the time I was filling a temporary post at medical records at Oldchurch Hospital, I was, as was my habit at the time, living my life to the full, and so would spend half the night partying or something and the other half sleeping, my mother who was probably worried that I'd get sacked would wake me up before she left for work. That fateful day I can remember, I had a hangover that was big enough for a small country let alone my poor head. My mother woke me up with the usual cup of tea and something along the lines of "Get up or you'll be late" only this time she added "John Lennon's been shot" or something similar. Now due to my being in a half coma and half conscious I really was not sure whether I dreaming (nightmaring?) or not. I was late and had no time to catch the news on the radio, and it was too early for the story be in the newspapers. On the bus on the way to work everyone looked as usual and so I was unable to confirm the nightmare, so I had to wait to clock-in and have the dreadful news clarified by my colleagues. I must say they couldn't have given a shit about the Lennon, I think after me the youngest in my office was about 45 and they were all mothers or grandmothers (it must be said that I was very well treated by them). I always though his murder was somewhat ironic, "angry man finds inner peace and gunned down by angry young man!" could well have been the newspaper headline.
The death that really should have touched me was that of Joe Strummer what with him being one of the all time greats as far as I'm concerned. By chance at the time I was holidaying in Corsica, and as this is somewhere I go to get away from things, no radio, no T.V., no newspapers. So it wasn't until I got back home that I heard about his untimely passing away. I was sad as it was a great loss, though at least it has stopped those stupid rumours of the Clash reforming and taken temptation away from those involved.
The other death that touched me was an accident that took place in summer 1977. At the time I was working as a lifeguard at Beckton Lido, now this might not sound very rock 'n' roll, but believe me working there was harder than spending time in a punk mosh pit as Beckton of course is in the heart of London's East End. Living at the time in Ilford and not having a driving license, I commuted on public transport, and what with London being a busy place this took time, often to make things pass quicker I would read a book, the N.M.E. or buy a newspaper. The day that Marc Bolan's accident became news, I had bought the Evening News, to be greeted with frontpage headlines and story detailing the way Gloria Jones, his girlfriend, had driven their purple mini into a tree that refused to give way while heading home after an evening at a London nightspot. This was probably the death that touched me the most as he really was one of the idols that I had as a teenager, which at the time was not that far in my past. I can remember questioning how a 24 carat pop star could be killed in a mini, shouldn't it have been a Rolls Royce a Bentley or something?
Of these four artists only Bolan graced the BBC studios for Peel, Lennon and Presley were not really from the right period, and as for Strummer, the Clash were booked into the studios and turned up but somewhat un punkly cut short the process complaining about the standard of the recording studio, they were never to be invited back! So it falls to old Peel favorite T. Rex to provide today's musical backing with 'Jewel' taken from their October 1970 session. The Peel Bolan story was to end rather sadly when the career conscious Bolan gave up on Peel when things started to take off despite all the support he had received as a struggling artist. Stars!

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