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Fabric’s Nick Doherty- John Peel Had An Immeasurable Impact on Club Culture ::

Reported by Trackitdown TID on November 1, 2004

Following this week’s untimely death of Radio 1 legend John Peel from a heart attack aged 65, accolades from everybody from Tony Blair, New Order and Blur singer Damon Albarn flooded the media, while Channel 4 News devoted the opening 15 minutes of their Tuesday night show to the death of the broadcaster.

The programme included a quote from an interview he gave to Fabric’s Nick Doherty, which summed up the outlook of Britain’s greatest musical tastemaker.

“I’ve been fantastically lucky - I’ve been able to do everything that I’d have wanted to do at the age of 19. I’ve got the perfect job, I’ve got an amazing wife, four really nice children that I’m really proud of, I live in the country in a house that I really like… I can’t imagine how anything could really improve my life.”

Nick got to know John Peel and his production team three years ago, and this week, agreed to share some of his recollections of the man behind the legend.

Skrufff: How did the two of you first connect?

Nick Doherty: “I tracked John down, via his production team, over a number of months in 2001, asking if he'd like to play at Fabric, and also if I could also have some interview time with him and he eventually agreed to both requests. The gig - on Friday, February 1, 2002 - was amazing, and I’m certain anyone there will recall it vividly. One lady was eight months pregnant and sat on the stairs listening, and the crowd were singing 'Teenage Kicks' and chanting his name a full fifteen minutes after his set (he was still attempting to leave the room at that point). John described it as 'one of the greatest nights of my life', made all the more so as his family was around him (we had a posh meal beforehand, and his kids were too polite to say that the soup, a kind of mushroom gazpacho if such a thing exists, was cold). I remember putting him in a taxi outside the club afterwards, and him being genuinely disorientated; more than a little shell-shocked. It was peelie-mania."

Skrufff: What was he like the first time you met him?

Nick Doherty: “We all met up in a Thai restaurant just up the road from Radio One in Maida Vale, and the interview, as John's interviews always were, was candid, humorous, vivid in its detail, honest, moving, and bittersweet. I asked him why he hadn't become a 'music industry mogul' by now, or if he had any business acumen. His response was: 'absolutely not! And I don't want any. I'm entirely happy with my role in life. I don't want to sound smug, but I've been fantastically lucky - I've been able to do everything that I'd have wanted to do at the age of 19. I've got the perfect job, I've got an amazing wife, four really nice children that I'm really proud of, I live in the country in a house that I really like... I can't imagine how anything could really improve my life. Like 'Teenage Kicks' I can't imagine anything you could add to it or subtract from it to make it better.”

Skrufff: What kind of relationship did you have with him?

Nick Doherty: "I think we got on very well indeed, and I cherish the time I spent with him, professionally and socially. He once told DJ mag that 'I do things for the flimsiest reasons, and I did the Fabric CD because I like Nick, and no-one else had asked me.' That made me feel incredible, just as I imagine any musician receiving his patronage must have felt. I’m a very lucky boy to have had that opportunity, and anyone that ever states 'you should never meet your heroes', definitely never met John Peel."

Skrufff: When did you last see him?

Nick Doherty: I last spent time with him at his 65th birthday party, at Peel Acres, on the August Bank Holiday this year. It spoke volumes about John and his family that the party was in a field opposite his house, and the only 'famous' faces belonged to the wonderful country singer Laura Cantrell, his guest band Camera Obscura, Delia Smith (who lives over the way from John's house), and the ex-Everton football player, and long-time Peel devotee, Pat Nevin."

Skrufff: What kind of impact did he have on the music scene; and on club culture in particular?

Nick Doherty: "He had an immeasurable impact on music and club culture; purely, simply, unquantifiable. It shouldn't ever be understated, that he was one of the greatest broadcasters there has ever been. Thankfully, music got him."

Skrufff: How was he able to cross generations musically, when so few others are able to?

Nick Doherty: "He might well have taken you to task on that, he wasn't the only person of his age to be interested in new music. I remember him saying once ‘plenty of people beyond sixty like new music but it's not an age where people are particularly bothered with canvassing your opinion.' Beyond music, he applied those most endearing, appealing and engaging of qualities to everything: honesty, candour, tenderness, humour, faithfulness, loyalty, and self-depreciation. His manner and demeanour made him, often to his own chagrin, nothing but loveable. His only principle in life fills the generation gap too; it was derived from The Water Babies. He said: 'There was a character called 'Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby', and I think 'do as you would be done by' is the only philosophy you need. Treat other people as you would wish to be treated yourself. I can't think of anything to beat that, to be honest.'"

Skrufff: What else do you remember about him?

Nick Doherty: "So much, a ridiculous amount but a couple of things above all. Once I was fortunate enough to sit in on some of John's broadcasts and the first time after a few minutes of being in the studio, I started discussing something with his producer, Louise. He absolutely scolded me - 'Sorry, am I interrupting your conversation'? No more than ten minutes later, we were pals again, and I sat listening to him talking of the motor racing drivers of the fifties. He became so engrossed and animated that he missed his link to the next record. John desired a basic level of manners in people; seemingly, once that had been enunciated, and reciprocated, there would be no further boundaries to his friendship.

And what also struck me was the fact that his method for choosing what to play on the show was so arbitrary. He called the system 'childish and unfair'. He worked out that every week, if he listened around the clock every day, he received three weeks' worth of music, so he often chose the music that came in good sleeves (skulls particularly appealed), or by bands with great names, or that he'd been handed in a taxi on the way to work. My wish is that someone, somewhere, in these times of marketeers, methodisers, playlisters, whatever, can step up to do the same."   

Skrufff: how much of an influence/ role model was he on you personally; did he ever give you any advice?

Nick Doherty: “I was, and hopefully forever will be, infatuated with him. John wasn't one to hand out advice on anything and everything, but if he felt it apposite he would definitely offer his thoughts. I think the key suggestion he gave me, and one that I'll definitely ponder, was that should I ever have the bottle to become a suicide bomber, to ensure I choose The Sun's office as my target."

Jonty Skrufff (