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John Peel on African music in 1975

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:27 pm
by Nigel w
I'm just reading an about-to-be-published anthology of John Peel's writing called The Olivetti Chronicles : Three Decades of Life and Music. In it there is an article from The Listener published in December 1975 in which Peel writes:

"Then there is African music , which has advanced far enough to have its own chart, printed at irregular intervals in one of the top rock weeklies."


I was 21 years old at the time and religiously bought Melody Maker, NME and Sounds every Thursday. Yet I have no recollection of an African music chart. Can anybody cast any light on this? And apart from Osibisa and possibly Fela Kuti, what kind of records appeared in it?

Re: John Peel on African music in 1975

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:27 pm
by Charlie
Nigel w wrote:I was 21 years old at the time and religiously bought Melody Maker, NME and Sounds every Thursday. Yet I have no recollection of an African music chart. Can anybody cast any light on this?

As someone more than ten years Nigel's senior and therefore old enough to know better, I was also getting the NME & Melody Maker every week back then (but not Sounds - even I had limits) and have no recollection of any such chart. Trouble is, that doesn't mean there wasn't such a thing, because my ears and eyes were pointing in other directions and would not have noticed if there was.

I am fascinated to see what response this question gets.

Meanwhile I'm still piecing together a timeline of African related events (gigs, record releases, UK-based band formations) for the early eighties (under Looking for an Echo), and wonder where and when the first African chart might have been published in a UK music paper in that period. And what was in it.

Re: John Peel on African music in 1975

PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:38 pm
by Papa M
Charlie wrote:...and wonder where and when the first African chart might have been published in a UK music paper in that period. And what was in it.


I have a load of mid seventies issues of the monthly Black Music magazine which was one of the first places I started reading about African artists (mainly Fela, Sunny Ade etc.). I think they started publishing a chart in the late seventies.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 2:51 am
by Jonathan E.
Possibly in Echoes, although you'd hardly call that a "top rock weekly" and the one issue I dug up doesn't have such a thing.

Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 11:00 am
by NormanD
I didn't know the answer to this, but asked someone who might. I forwarded the thread link to Neil Spencer (yes, I have encouraged him to join) who replied:

"If you want to post a comment from me -

I am confident that in 1975 no rock weeklies carried any charts except the regular ones. Maybe the odd soul chart on the soul pages. That changed after punk and indie-dom arrived. Even then there was no African chart, and what could possibly be in it anyway as there were virtually no African records released - not until the 80s actually - apart from the odd Fela. When did Sterns start? I seem to recall it was early 80s.

So I think Peel had seen 'A List' in 'A Magazine' and was just bullshitting. Did he ever play any African records in 1975 apart from perhaps Osibisa? I recall his playlist then being principally prog rock like Yes, and the dreary Floyd track with the Liverpool football chants was a big favourite, with no black music of any sort, Jamaican, African or American..."

PS
apart from the odd Fela
Wasn't that Brendan Behan?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 11:26 am
by Nigel w
Thanks for soliciting that , Norman, and thanks to Neil for his observations. He's certainly right about Peel's own playlist at the time. In fact, the entire article from The Listener is quite hilarious in retrospect and shows that in Dec 75 Peel was still a long way off from his punk epiphany.

He begins the article by lambasting the dullness of the American charts with a top ten that included Elton,the Eagles, Paul Simon etc. Then he takes a wonderful sideswipe at Springsteen ("supper-club pastche of rock's brief history served up in West Side Story-styled tat") and demolishes Patti Smith as "qualifying for membership in perpetuity of Pseuds Corner".

But his own best albums of 1975 list seems little dfferent from what he's attacking. His favourite album of the year - yes Neil is so right - is Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here . Neil Young, Joni Mitchell,Little Feat and Dylan then make up the rest of his top five. And the bands we should be looking out for in 1976 ? Queen, Thin Lizzy and Be-Bop Deluxe, according to the great man!

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 12:00 pm
by David Flower
some new quality on board today. Neil Spencer and AJ. You've got opinions on everything Alan. 7 posts in 2 years isn't nearly enough

Re: Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 12:18 pm
by Papa M
NormanD wrote: When did Sterns start? I seem to recall it was early 80s.


I think I bought my first Franco LPs in about 78/79 in Sterns.

I have a 1979 edition of Black Music that has an African Chart in it but I can't find any earlier ones yet. Apart from Fela there was already considerable interest in Sunny Ade in the mid seventies.

Re: Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 12:48 pm
by Charlie
Papa M wrote:I think I bought my first Franco LPs in about 78/79 in Sterns..

For the avoidance of confusion, mentions of Sterns pre-1983 should make clear that the reference is to the original Sterns, the electrical good supplier on Tottenham Court Rd with a tiny selection of African records on a table in the back room.

I didn't discover this hidden treasure until 1981, about a year before the shop closed down. What a shock to discover the 'closed' sign on the window, and what a surprise when a far better shop under the same name was opened some months later a few blocks away in Whitfield St

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 1:37 pm
by taiyo no otosan
Just a thought, but, out of context can't that quote from Peel be read as simply a suggestion that African music has advanced so far that it ought to have its own chart, even if only at irregular intervals?

Or am I completely misunderstanding everything here?

Re: Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:43 pm
by Papa M
Charlie wrote:..the original Sterns, the electrical good supplier on Tottenham Court Rd with a tiny selection of African records on a table in the back room.


Tiny selection? Not so tiny that it didn't make me financially very poor but musically very rich!

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 5:34 pm
by Jonathan E.
taiyo no otosan wrote:Just a thought, but, out of context can't that quote from Peel be read as simply a suggestion that African music has advanced so far that it ought to have its own chart, even if only at irregular intervals?

Or am I completely misunderstanding everything here?

I agree that it could be read that way, but don't think it so likely.

Seems as though we might be witnessing some sort of clay-feet syndrome here, but nonetheless, given the original 1975-contemporary publication of the sentence, it seems very mysterious and all I can think of is that perhaps Peel was doing a little time-traveling and was confused as to just which decade he was in.

Re: Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:10 pm
by Papa M
NormanD wrote:So I think Peel had seen 'A List' in 'A Magazine' and was just bullshitting. Did he ever play any African records in 1975 apart from perhaps Osibisa?


Someone who inspired me to explore African music before JP had latched onto it was Alexis Korner. I remember hearing him play female vocal tracks from the Ocora Musique du Burundi LP. I was transfixed and immediately went out and tracked down a copy.

I would cite JP, Alexis Korner and Mike Raven as my three top musical broadcast inspirations.

Re: Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:51 pm
by Jonathan E.
Papa M wrote:I would cite JP, Alexis Korner and Mike Raven as my three top musical broadcast inspirations.

So, having missed that time myself, did they have regular shows on the radio? And what radio station would that be? Was it a mixed-up, free-form format? Were the shows long or short? On a regular weekly (or whatever) basis? Nighttime or daytime? And, what years were those? It seems as though this is a time of radio programming that is no longer even in the UK. Any and all info appreciated as always.

Re: Don't shoot the messenger

PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:32 pm
by Papa M
Jonathan E. wrote:So, having missed that time myself, did they have regular shows on the radio? And what radio station would that be?


I first heard John Peel's Perfumed Garden on off-shore pirate radio. At the same time I remember hearing people like Tony Blackburn, Ed Stewart, Emporer Rosco, Johnnie Walker - Radio London and Radio Caroline. As a kid aged about 12, 13, 14 it was a fantastic change from the staid old BBC pre Radio One. My older sister had me listening to Luxembourg from my infancy but the Pirates were an enlightenment to a sixties teenager.

JP soon gravitated to the new Radio One.

Mike Raven presented a two hour Blues show on Radio One in the late sixties. Whilst Peel introduced me to outlandish Hippy and Folk music Mike Raven presented an authoritative history of American Blues and Soul music.

I think Alexis took over the Blues slot in the late seventies. Like Mike Raven he was both knowledgable and charming as a broadcaster.

Maybe the reason I love all three is the fact that they are articulate and unpretentious.