John Peel's 'Private Passions'

DJ and broadcaster John Peel (right) was the champion of independent British rock music for nearly 40 years on his late-night BBC Radio 1 show. He led the way in promoting new acts, from David Bowie, through Joy Division to the White Stripes. During his schooldays one of his teachers wrote “It's possible that John can form some kind of nightmarish career out of his enthusiasm for unlistenable records and his delight in writing long and facetious essays..." which kind of sounds familiar, doesn't it?

As well as his music programmes John Peel was an award winning current affairs presenter on BBC Radio 4 and World Service. His love of classical music was not widely known, but he chose it for the majority of his selections when he appeared on BBC Radio 3's Private Passions programme. Peel asked presenter Michael Berkeley to include something that would surprise him. Berkeley programmed the Conlon Nancarrow's Study for Player-Piano No. 21, and Peel subsequently played it on his rock music programme on Radio 1.

If like John Peel you haven't taken the overgrown path to the riches of Nancarrow's Studies for Player-Piano, here to delight you are two complete studies comprising more than than eight minutes of music courtesy of those wonderful people at Minnesota Public Radio. These two studies are taken from the commercially available Wergo set made in 1988 at Conlon Nancarrow's Mexico City studio, using the composer's own custom-altered Ampico reproducing piano

Study for Player-Piano 3b -

Study for Player-Piano 49c -

John Peel lived here in East Anglia. He died suddenly a year ago last week while on holiday in Peru, aged 65. Here are his Private Passions....

* Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (third movement, Presto), Cécile Licard (piano) / London Philharmonic Orchestra / André Previn CBS MK 39153
* Allegri, Misere, Choir of King's College, Cambridge / Roy Goodman (treble) / David Willcocks Decca 421147-2
*Gottschalk, Ojos Criollos, Danse cubaine, Vienna State Opera orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra / Cary Lewis, Eugene List (pianos) / Igor Buketoff and Samuel Adler (conds) Vox Box 1154842
*Neil Young,'Rockin' in the Free World', Neil Young Reprise 9352-41406-2
*Conlon Nancarrow, Study for Player-Piano No. 21, Conlon Nanacarrow 1750 Arch Records S1786B
*Bruch, Violin Concerto Op. 26 (second movement), Kyung-Wha Chung (violin) / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Rudolph Kempe Decca 417 707-2
*Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue, Michael Tilson Thomas (piano and conductor) / Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra CBS MK 39699

Programme broadcast on 16th March 1996.
Listen to the latest BBC Radio 3 Private Passions programme
with this link.
Information reproduced from
Private Passions by Michael Berkeley, published by Faber ISBN 0-571-22884- 4
Image credit:
Roger Waters Online
Nancarrow examples - Minnesota public radio
Please report broken links, missing images, and other errors to overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Rhythm Is It! - the new Fantasia?


Anonymous said…
Thanks very much for your John Peel post. Peel is one of my heroes, and as much press as he got for what he did for music when he died, I don't think it enough. His professed favorite song of all times, "Teenage Kicks" by the woefully underappreciated Undertones (or at least underappreciated over here in US), his championing of bands that are dear to me, his passion for music, all made him someone I deeply admired. I'll check out all the links you gave.

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