I’d love to believe in an afterlife, not because I want to meet Shakespeare or anything like that…I’d like to find out from my dad whether he meant me or my brother to have the Welsh dresser...With my old car, I could play cassettes in that, and I used to think that I would probably die trying to read the name on the box by the headlights of the car behind me, and then people would say, “He would have wanted to go that way” : quite untrue. (Peel in 2002 on Room 101).
John died on October 25 2004 in Cuzco, Peru, while on holiday with Sheila. It’s tempting with hindsight to wonder why a 65 year-old outrageously overworked man suffering from diabetes should have been allowed to take a vacation in a country with a high, thin altitude, but such reflections are fruitless now. As Ken Garner said,
He’s still around. There are dozens of shows out there you have not heard. You can get them easily. In 2007, the listener and fan-generated tribute sites to Peel on the web mean that there is today, almost three years after his death, more Peel available than ever before. (Garner, K. The Peel Sessions, BBC Books 2007, p. 181)
The old adage goes that you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone, and in the case of this DJ that rings mordantly true. However, whether you are a seasoned listener, or have never heard of him, the facility to visit and revisit Peel country is on the Peel Wiki, created by my great friend Adam from Turkey and now with upwards of 2,600 pages, more than a few of them the work of yours truly. It can be accessed here, and a lifetime of discovery and rediscovery awaits. Still miss you as much as ever, John.
On this day, I pondered about what to post in his memory, being reluctant to trot out again the song from which this blog takes its title. Far better to feature one of the wonderful products of his Indian summer, the only other track I can recall that seemed to reduce him to tears on hearing it, Amsterdam’s wonderfully evocative Does This Train Stop On Merseyside (FF 2003 #31). Vocalist and guitarist Ian Prowse explains here in great detail how this paean to Liverpool came about, and the homage to his hometown port certainly gains added resonance when one remembers that when a locomotive was named after John some time ago, they played this on the train during its maiden journey.
Amsterdam themselves seem to have taken a long and thorny road to stardom. Despite being formed in 1999, they had to wait until 2005 for a top 40 hit in the UK with The Journey. Not that they were short of fans in those early days: they won an NME competition to find the best unsigned band in 2000, appeared backing Elvis Costello on the Jonathon Ross show, and recorded session tracks for Janice Long. More recently, they have split with their original record label Beat Crazy and issued a new LP with CIA last year, Arm In Arm. I haven’t, I must admit, heard anything they’ve done apart from this, but the strong melody and incisive lyrics of Merseyside could probably convert even this musical Luddite to their charms. Shame they never did a Peel Session, indeed.
Amsterdam, Does This Train Stop On Merseyside