Saturday marked 10 year since the death of John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, or as he’s better known John Peel. He’s got a stage at Glastonbury, an annual lecture on 6 Music and a creative arts centre in Stowmarket, all named after him. Sessions from his radio show are still on the air every night of the year, and quite frighteningly, if you happen to have woken up in the middle of the night, his voice has even been on the radio recently! All wonderful, but what’s the real legacy he’s left behind, and 10 years on, who’s stepped into his sizeable, and very eclectic shoes?
Our main memory of John Peel’s show is the utterly bewildering barrage of noise! A wonderful array of music from the absolutely brilliant to the entirely unlistenable. He would regularly play a record admitting he’d never listened to it, didn’t know what speed it was at, or how to pronounce either the song or the name of the band. He insisted on playing Norwegian Death Metal and Scottish Indie Pop in equal measures. The show didn’t so much flow as lurch from genre to genre. If any of that sounds critical, we don’t mean it to, the show was absolutely wonderful, every bit as good, different and unique as everyone else says it was. It was a rare show where you didn’t end up purchasing at least one record on the back of it, without Peel, we wonder if we’d ever have heard Ballboy, Jeffrey Lewis or Nina Nastasia and that’s just for starters.
We often wonder what would have happened to John were he still alive, even before his death he was being shifted further and further away from the primetime on Radio 1. Listening to the dirge that station has become, Huw Stephens excluded, it seems at best unlikely he would still be on the station. His departure would have led to an inevitable backlash from people like ourselves who are long past Radio 1’s demographic. Most likely John would have been shuffled over to a nightime slot on Radio 2, or perhaps 6 Music, all dependent on what he wanted of course, being delightfully curmudgeonly he might have been happy just sticking with the superb Home Truths on Radio 4, or he might have jacked it in all together and enjoyed his retirement in peace. A man as strong willed as John would have made his own mind up, like he always did!
Without him of course, we’ve all had to move on. We’d love to know what percentage of listeners to the Peel Show, have moved over and become listeners to 6 Music, we’d put money on it being a very high percentage indeed. It is with the presenters there that John would probably find the most like minded individuals. Marc Riley’s love of live sessions, with an emphasis on finding bands he likes rather than bands he think people want to hear, has led to a selection of performances every bit as good as the much loved Peel Sessions. Gideon Coe’s mixing and matching of various styles, and support of new music is highly reminiscent of the great man, and of course his son, Tom Ravenscroft, possesses not only a good deal of his fathers voice, but his support of the sort of noisy, difficult music you don’t hear anywhere else on the radio!
The show that would perhaps have most been to John’s liking is, to our ears, The Freak Zone. Stuart Maconie’s weekly rundown of the weird and the wonderful, which for fans of getting to the point, is where we discovered todays featured artist. To put Stuart’s show into some perspective, his guest this week was the notoriously bizarre, Scott Walker, last week he played a song by a bonkers rock-metallers, Franklin Mint (sample lyric “one hand is just a hand, one hand is a claw”) and he also found time recently to play Norah Jones. If you’re looking for the eclecticism, variety and sometimes dips in quality of John Peel…look no further!
Sara Lowes…obviously, but if you think you’ve heard/seen her somewhere before, she’s a former member of The Earlies. She’s also sang and/or played with the likes of Jesca Hoop, King Creosote, Jens Lekman and Jim Noir.
Rather modestly she describes herself as sometimes session musician and sometimes solo artist. Her take of psych-folk with prog leaning fits neatly into the current musical landscape, perhaps the middle ground of Weyes Blood and Hookworms for want of a better comparission. Sara’s a mighty fine pianist and a very strong singer, so it’s no wonder everyone wants her on their records!
Hard to say what with her being born in County Durham, before moving to Buckinghamshire, then South Wales and eventually ending up in Lancashire, or Manchester to be more precise! Manchester is of course home to a huge amount of famous and brilliant bands from Joy Division to The Chemical Brothers. It’s also home to Simply Red should the city get too please with itself!
Sara’s debut mini-album, Tomorrow’s Laughter, finally arrived in 2008, after five years of working as a session musician. That album came out on Red Deer Club, as did the full-length follow up, Back To Creation. Brand new single, Chapman of Rhymes, came out this week, accredited to Railings Records, and a third album, The Joy of Waiting is on the way soon, according to her Facebook page.
Crisp, impressive but un-showy vocals sits neatly alongside an impressive selection of styles, genres and instruments. New single, Chapman of Rhymes is more eclectic than some bands careers in its own right, pairing a proggy rhythm section, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Field Music record, with swathes of strings, chunky guitars, meandering synth lines and a bold and bright brass section. Whilst the churchy organ on the singles B-side,Cutting Room, is the sort of thing Bach himself might take a shine too.
At times some of her earlier work does all get a little too lounge jazz for my tastes, but the recent departure into the psych-prog field is a delight, and some of the playing on the record is sublime! On another note, finding her music online is tricky, but certainly worth the effort!
Sara Lowes’ new single Chapman of Rhymes is out now on Railings Records.