John Peel is somewhat of a legend for anyone even slightly interested in music in England. His evening shows on BBC Radio presented an ecletic range of sounds depending entirely on what he liked and not what music company reps pushed on him. Peel is also credited with, if not launching, then accelerating the popularity of many new bands from the White Stripes to the Undertones (not alphabetically of course). So it came as somewhat of a shock when Peel died a relatively early death in his 60s whilst holidaying in Peru, and public mourning followed.
Margrave of the marshes is part autobiography from John himself, and part written by his wife Sheila based on his diaries and her recollections. The first half is pure Peel, the turn of phrase, the slight knowing rubs at fame – you can almost here his accent in every sentence. Although not an epic life by any means, Peel’s life is full of interesting moments and it’s fascinating to see how he came upon his final ‘career’, or his vocation really. It comes as a bit of a shock when you hit the second half of the book and leave the familiar waters of John’s writing and continue the journey with Sheila, or ‘The Pig’ as she was affectionately known. Sheila’s tone is slightly more matter of fact and dry, but the love between them both and their family is very apparent and it’s great to have a different perspective.
This book isn’t a must read unless you’re even slightly into British music, in which case it’s a great background to a great man. We miss you John!