In 2007, Robert Wilonsky said he tried to contact “John Ravenscroft” (how goth a name is that?) aka John Peel about his days on the radio in Dallas, Texas. John Robert Parker Ravenscroft got his start in Dallas as a British Invasion dj in the 1960s. Obviously, John Peel went on to break bands like The Cure, The Damned, Killing Joke, Joy Division, and others when he returned to England. If it wasn’t for Dallas DJ veteran John Peel, postpunk and gothic rock as we know it might not have happened. And he got his start in Dallas.
John Peel — yes, that John Peel, of Peel Sessions fame — got his start here in Dallas, Texas. Here is some more back story:
From a Wikipedia entry:
In 1960, aged 21, he went to the United States to work for a cotton producer who had business dealings with his father. Once this job finished, he took a number of others, including working as a travelling insurance salesman, remaining in the United States until 1967. While in Dallas, Texas, where the insurance company he worked for was based, he conversed with the presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, and his running mate Lyndon B. Johnson, who were touring the city during the 1960 election campaign, and took photographs of them.
Following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, Peel passed himself off as a reporter for the Liverpool Echo in order to attend the arraignment of Lee Harvey Oswald, and he and a friend can be seen in the footage of the 22/23 November midnight press conference at Dallas Police Department when Oswald was paraded before the media. He later phoned in the story to the Liverpool Echo.
John Peel went on to DJ for KLIF in Dallas.
“It wasn’t until the Beatles came along that I had the opportunity to get a proper radio job,” he wrote. “I knew nothing about the Beatles, but the Americans assumed, rather sweetly, that because I came from approximately the same part of the world I must be a blood relative—and so I was a Beatle expert on a station … in Dallas.
In 1967 John Peel remarked:
Mobbed in downtown Dallas by over 2,000 screaming teenagers. Several months of bizarre sexual activity that transcended most fervent masturbation fantasies. Dangers of above. Flight from shed in which II was living to home of one of my regulars. Death of her father and mother and our subsequent marriage. She was 15, I was 26. (p.399)
I first learned about John Peel’s Dallas roots thanks to my friend Jack Control, who ran the Durutti Column punk club on lower Greenville in the early 1990s and and who has been in the Texas punk bands Scorched Earth Policy, World Burns to Death, and Severed Head of State.
It’s a testament to John Peel’s commitment to underground punk rock, hardcore, and related forms of music that on his September 12, 2002 show he played World Burns to Death along side Wire and Erase Errata. To the end, John Peel tried to keep his ear to the underground.
A screenshot of John Peel’s 2002 playlist that includes Worlds Burns to Death.
It says “Frank Records,” but he means Prank Records, who also released World Burns to Death’s DVD that I had a hand in.
In fact, so many people associate “Peel Sessions” with “postpunk” that they forget, unlike a lot of folks nowadays, John Peel would actually play grindcore and seriously fast hardcore thrash. John Peel is a personal role model to me – I never want to think any band is too slow, or too hectic, or “who won’t draw a crowd.” John Peel always played the cutting edge of music where you least expect it. It is awesome that John Peel was giving BBC airwaves to bands like Napalm Death, and local hardcore acts like World Burns to Death, until he died in 2004. None of us will see the likes of him soon again.
All words copyright Oliver Sheppard 2016. All rights reserved. Nothing may be duplicated without explicit permission from Grave City.