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Various Artists – Kats Karavan (The History Of John Peel On The Radio)
09 November 2009, 14:00 Written by
katskaravanI’m always slightly appalled at mass outpourings of grief when ‘celebrities’ pass away. I couldn’t understand Princess Diana, Michael Jackson ”“ especially Jade Goodie. I was indignant: you didn’t know them, they’re just slightly mental people you saw on the tele, are you mad? But I’m a hypocrite, because when alternative radio legend John Peel died it was like losing a favourite uncle.I guess I should accept the fact it’s horses for courses: where millions seemed to connect with Diana, I couldn’t give a monkey’s. But I expect most people who tuned in to watch her funeral didn’t turn a hair when our John tragically passed away in 2004, leaving a void on the airwaves that will never be filled.Compared to the likes of Di and Jacko, Peely was the embodiment of normality. He led a relatively ordinary life ”“ wife, kids, house etc; was intelligent and approachable, and looked like just another bloke walking around the supermarket. But he had done what many of us dream about: taken his obsession with music and made a hugely successful career of it ”“ and on his own terms.I spoke to him on several occasions at gigs and festivals, with a Samurai 7 gig at The Man on the Moon in Cambridge standing out. Him and the missus had been cut off in their countryside home by bad weather, and once they could finally get out the first thing they did ”“ of course ”“ was scour the music press for a gig to go to.I genuinely feel a bit sorry for people who never experienced The John Peel Show. When people talk about it, it’s like they’re remembering a fantastic childhood Christmas. Eyes glaze a little, an almost visible glow forms, and they talk in excited tones about lying in bed in the dark, pen and paper nearby, being blown away (or completely bamboozled) by songs they’d never heard before, and probably wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for the show.Kats Karavan tries manfully to encapsulate the show and does a mighty fine job of it. Set across four CDs (60s/70s, 80s, 90s and 00s), it has a pretty good stab at doing what John did best: mash up styles and reputations in any way he saw fit on the day, playing what he felt like when he felt like it. From hip-hop, dance and reggae through to indie, punk and thrash metal, from established names to chancers sending him their first demo, it was anything goes.No one will ever be completely happy with the track list, but its pretty damn good ”“ the booklet is interesting too. But what really makes this collection shine are the exclusive tracks and in-between track snippets of classic links from the shows. Yes folks, you can relive John waxing lyrical about failing to cue up the right track or playing things at the wrong speed, as well as exclusive recordings from the likes of Elvis Costello, The Cure and Bloc Party. A lot of the rest of the tracks are from Peel Sessions too.If you were a fan of the show, I’d say Kats Karavan is a must have nostalgia item. They’ve set up a website for the boxset (, which is well worth a visit: there’s a radio with tunes from the collection, various snippets of info, an offer to get discounts off some Peel Session CDs and a competition to win the box set.I’d also suggest checking out another older Peely dedicated compilation, Right Time, Wrong Speed. It sits nicely alongside this boxset, with two CDs crammed with tunes you’d associate with the man himself ”“ covering mostly the eighties, it goes from The Only Ones and Stiff Little Fingers through Wedding Present and Joy Division, nicely plugging the gaps Kats Karavan omits.

Buy the album from Amazon | [itunes link="" title="Thin_Lizzy-Kats_Karavan_-_The_History_of_John_Peel_On_the_Radio_(Album)" text="iTunes"]

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