Listeners to Peel’s programme were consistently challenged (and, in many cases, their patience tested) as he uncovered one undercurrent of new music after another, and his championship of new musical forms can seem rather contradictory at times. For instance, he praised punk for its concentration and return to the three minute single, and then some fourteen years later embraced dance in all its varieties, which, by its very nature, involved making records that would keep people’s feet on the floor for sometimes ten minutes at a time, thus necessitating a certain amount of repetition.
I have to admit, this troubled me too, until a simple realisation dawned on me. Now you may disagree, and certainly I’m not vain enough to reject gentle correction or stimulating debate, but it seems that it all stems from one vital and limitless source: the blues.
John’s love of the genre was consistently celebrated in his programmes right to the very end: it was with no small excitement that he embraced the likes of the White Stripes and the Black Keys, who, talented though they were, drew their inspiration directly from the Delta. That threatening grind and searching of the minor key was mainlined and sped up by rock’n'roll, which in its turn eventually gave birth to the punk renaissance (and JP was shrewd enough to realise that the two forms had more in common than some were prepared to admit).
On the other side of the coin, when the blues made its way to the Caribbean, blue beat and rock steady admitted the form while shaping the content to something more appropriate to its audience, and reggae (another of Peel’s loves) slowed it down to match the pace of life and philosophy of its progenitors. Move on twenty years, and a new order was demanded, The pace of life had increased, and with it the demand for faster speeds and more breakneck rhythms. Thus the dance of the 1990s can be seen to follow a direct line from its predecessors, at least as far as he was concerned. The logical next move was to speed up again, and so drum’n'bass, (happy) hardcore and grime owe a huge debt to those visionaries who dipped their toes in a river that spouted infinite tributaries. And it took its rightful place among the other material that JP was playing, all of which did what delighted him most: it poured new wine into old bottles, with varying degrees of success.
This long preamble is an attempt to give the backdrop to a track that stands out among its contemporaries in the early 1990s Festive Fifties, and hopefully gives a rationale as to its acceptance. When Cyberdream (FF 1992 #25) came out, John positively wet himself over it, made copies for all his family so that they could play it at any given moment, and went so far as to choose it as part of his 1992 Peelenium. It’s a surprising record in more ways than would be expected. An expansive melody, with more than a passing nod to New Order’s ‘Subculture’, plays in at the outset, only to be rudely interrupted seconds in by that thudding beat that carries all before it, throwing tape loops and merciless attack into the pot. It then briefly re-emerges with a snatch of vocal before returning to the onsluaght of rhythm that drives the remainder of the song.
There is some confusion over the artist here. Peel constantly referred to it as being by ‘Dr. Devious & The Wise Men’, yet it appers to be a congregation named VR, and this version the ‘Cyber Mix’ by Dr. Devious, who is by all accounts none other than Paul Walden, who would also find success and more JP airplay as the jungle precursor Guru Josh. I have kept to the original title here to avoid confusion, but when downloading you will find it given the title by which all references I can find to it on the web know it as.
This would be the mere start: the legacy this sole track provides beats a path to the door of any who believe they’re on to something new, demands to be let in and then batters down all opposition to proclaim itself a shining and matchless example of the new hope that lay out there in the time-honoured music that stands approvingly behind every line.
Dr. Devious & His Wisemen, Cyberdream