Monday, December 05, 2005

Margrave of the Marshes by John Peel and Sheila Ravenscroft (with Ryan Gilbey)

Some of you may already be aware of the affection I have for the late John Peel. He is a man who is held in great esteem by thousands of music lovers across the world. He championed so many acts with their careers it would be almost impossible to name them all.

This is his long awaited memoir unfortunately it was never finished as John died of a heart attack on 26th October 2004 whilst in the middle of writing it. His widow, with the help of young writer Ryan Gilby, pieced together the rest from Sheila's memories of her 36 years with John and the extensive diaries that John kept.

The first two fifths of the book are written by John. The recount his early days in a middle class family on the Wirral in the North West of England and his school days at Shrewsbury Public School, where during one year, he says with some pride, he came bottom of the whole school. Never academic he left school with 4 O-levels and instead of going to University as was expected of him took National Service early. It seems he wasn't very good at that either. He again did the unexpected and joined the ranks instead of becoming an officer as would have been in keeping with his social standing.

In Peel's part of the book their is little rock 'n' roll, drugs or sex (except he talks about wanking quite a bit. He tells us of his discovery of music sure. He explains how hearing Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley changed his life forever. But there is no name dropping or tales of hanging out with the stars. Maybe that would have come later, we will never really no. John leaves us hanging as he is about to enter a Mexican brothal (as an observer).

Sheila Ravenscroft was with John for 36 years and has a better insight than any other person into what John was really like. She recounts her story with huge affection. There are many lovely little stories about evenings with friends and how excited John would get when he discovered a new group.

It is a book full of laughter and occassionally sadness. There is a touching moment when recounting that John had previously said during an interview that he could die yet because there was a new Fall album coming out and he wanted to hear that, that indeed there would now be Fall albums that John would never hear.

I really enjoyed this book. Peel was a fine writer and Sheila tells her story well. A definite good read even if you're not a particular fan of the music John championed.


Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Thanks for that, Marmite. I will look forward to reading this book thanks to your review. I had a great regard for John Peel as a writer and broadcaster and he did a lot for music in a totally unpretentious way. He is greatly missed.

7:39 PM  
Blogger w1ld child said...

John Peel = God

10:17 AM  
Blogger martROX said...

I got the book from my children for christmas, partly because I appear to have some similariies to John. I'm nuts about what they often think is weird music, my own room filled with records, am rather too old to to be cool, have a number of other eccentricities etc. The book is most engaging and its a delight to hear just how warm and loving John was too. Such a fortunate man to have such a wonderful family too. Sheila's part of the book is equally interesting and clearly demonstrates how much loved John was and will always be

4:16 PM  

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