The hedonistic, future-ignoring, race-denying individualism Peel encouraged in his audience is summed up in the following story by a fan who was very nearly forced to confront racial facts Peel and others like Peel had been careful to keep from him. That the fan's racial blinkers stayed firmly in place despite his experience is evident from the tone of his story and, of course, from his refusal to identify, except indirectly, the race of those who threatened him.
Peel has had his teenage kicks and is dead now: it will be his children and the younger members of his audience who face the consequences of his generation's blind selfishness and treachery.
Thursday October 28, 2004
In 1988, when I was 19, I lived in Washington DC for four months. I would go to see bands at the local alternative hangout, which chucked out in the early hours on to streets too close to Taxi Driver for my comfort. I would walk down to Pennsylvania Avenue, where I was confident I'd be able to hail a cab, past a row of sex shops.
One night, some very large men in sportswear and gold chains were loitering outside the sex shops. Two fell into step either side of me.
"You want some crack?" one asked.
"I'm fine, thanks, actually," I replied (I was a nice boy).
"You want some smack?"
"No, thanks. I'm alright."
One of the young men stepped in front of me, forcing me to halt.
"You ain't all right," he said. I swear I nearly fainted. "We want your money, anyway, boy."
I took out my wallet and showed them it was empty. I turned out my trouser pockets - maybe five bucks in change. I didn't tell them about the 10 in my shirt pocket, the 10 I had saved for my cab fare home.
"This ain't funny, boy."
"I'm sorry," I squeaked. I mean squeaked. "That's all I've got."
The three of us stood on the cold street in the dead of night.
"You English, ain't you, boy?" one of them finally said.
"I am, yes."
They paused. Then one asked: "You like reggae?"
I didn't. I hated it. But I had spent the weekday nights of my mid-teens in bed, the light off and the headphones on, listening to Peel. At last, a use for the knowledge he'd imparted, but which I'd always thought was pointless.
"I love reggae," I gushed.
"Who do you like?"
"Barrington Levy, Augustus Pablo, Wayne Smith, Sugar Minott, Ijahman Levy, Yellowman - I love it all."
"Whass your favourite record?"
"Prison Oval Rock, Barrington."
"You like UB40?" one asked.
"No," I said. "Can't stand them." (Sometimes you have to be true to yourself.)
"You don't like UB40?"
"You've got to understand," I said. "In England, UB40 is student reggae. You don't get serious reggae fans buying that. They're a chart pop group."
"I never knew that," one said, with wonder in his voice.
"Damn," said the other. "Those guys on my block think UB40's the shit. They have to know this."
They talked among themselves for a moment about whether they had misjudged the authenticity of UB40, then one turned to me.
"You go now, boy. And you be careful, y'hear? You shouldn't be out here this time o'night."
Thanks, John. The tale about how a Peel session led, eventually, to me trying to get the US Congress to designate a National Ukrainian American Day can wait for another time.
Source: The Guardian