Here’s my annual unpopular thread for discussing what might have made John Peel's Festive 50 this year. As always, this is not to be confused with the music that John would have championed on the Cats Caravan. For all the new genres, interesting and unpredictable records John Peel would play each year, the Festive 50 would always be cut from more conservative cloth. Here's last year's entry:
On to this year then, and there was a resurgence of old-skool death and thrash metal that would've picked up some airplay on the wingding in 2010. The Wormrot record sounded like it was pressed directly from a 1987 Peel session. There were also some great little reggae and dub 7" singles released this year. The Jahtari label put out some astonishing computer-generated dub plates (dubchip anyone?) and producer JSTAR pressed some very appetising Peel-friendly mash-up white labels too. A personal favourite of mine was 'Good Father' by Afrikan Simba - Peel would have loved his Prince Far I-esque mix of religious moralism and traditional reggae sounds.
A highlight of Peel's Thursday shows in the later years was hearing about John's car journey, which would always involve a frustrating listen to The Bob Harris Country Show on Radio 2. This would inevitably lead to (a) some comment about how most of it was not country music and, to prove it, John would dig out some early 50s track by someone like Texas Paul and His Rambling Mountaineering Jug Band, who just happen to have a new 5-CD box set retrospective out on Castle and (b) the latest anecdote relating to John being mistaken for Bob Harris at a BBC social function. Their tastes did occasionally converge though - Laura Cantrell springs to mind - and this year John would've loved the Willie Nelson record as much as Bob. Peel was a massive fan of the early Outlaw's recordings and his back-to-basics, bluegrass and gospel album 'Country Music' would have had some serious airing on the wingding.
Anyway, enough rambling, here's the Top 5…
1. Weather Report 2 - THE FALL (Domino)
Because for all the glam work-outs, cover versions and wonky rock-n-roll, everybody loves a good MES ballad. Even a ballad that descends into a slightly-tedious, post-industrial rumble a third of the way through. Like 'Bill Is Dead' in 1990, this surprisingly tender outing could have made the top spot. "And I watched Murder She Wrote / at least five times / the cast deserved to die / And you gave me the best years of my life." Beautiful stuff!
2. Iron Man - LEE 'SCRATCH' PERRY (On-U Sound)
Perry is something of a Peel show grandee now and so could this track have become the first ever top 5 reggae entry? It certainly follows in the long tradition of Peel-friendly novelty cover versions - always popular amongst the voters. Adrian Sherwood's production, beefed up by dubstepper Pempi, gave it a contemporary edge and the bonkers lyrical reinterpretation ("I am iron man, lion man, lightning man, super man - don't drink no booze") added to the whole strangeness of the project.
3. If Loneliness was Art - ALLO DARLIN' (Fortuna Pop!)
Just pipping Betty And The Werewolves and a reinvigorated Tender Trap to be my predicted 'obligatory-fem-fronted-indiepop top 5 entry', I could easily see this troupe capturing the imagination of Peel and especially the listeners this year with their catchy batch of 45s. They score bonus Peel points for (probably) hanging out with Darren from Hefner at The Duke of Uke.
4. Less Than Three - AIDAN JOHN MOFFAT (Chemikal Underground)
The annual mumbled Sco-fi (Scottish lo-fi innit) entry this year could've been this one. A 7" ep of short love songs, played at 45rpm, is the kind of concept that the Peel show would endorse whole-heartedly. A well known Festive 50 rule of thumb was that if a band were going to feature in the chart, and their releases that year had enjoyed equal exposure, then it would probably be the longest track that made he list. At 1:19, Less Than Three is an epic.
5. Tommy Walsh's Eco House - HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT (BBC session)
The choice cut from an excellent session for Mark Riley, there's no doubt that this session would've been for Peel and that two or three songs may have made the chart this year, voted in by a newly-burgeoning fanbase hungry for new material. "…leave a note saying 'Here lies the bloke, the only bloke in Harpurhey who wasn't at the Lesser Free Trade Hall'"
Wot? No Belle and Sebastian?...... Anyone fancy a DiScussion?