Bedsit Holiday 

On Vacation With the BBC

15 YEARS AGO, I visited London, England for the first time. Bursting with youthful, Anglophilic zeal, I envisioned everything about Old Blighty before I even arrived--from walking Dickens' streets to eating that reputedly delicious English dessert known as Spotted Dick. But as it happened, I didn't do any of the tourist activities I'd planned. In fact, the entire month of my vacation was spent in a bedsit in South Kensington listening to the radio. That might not sound particularly exciting, but the minute I heard DJ John Peel nattering away on BBC Radio One, I lost interest in visiting Trafalgar Square and the Tower of London. All I wanted was to be a part of the weird community of people who followed this audio Pied Piper as he played all the current English and American indie tracks and choice cuts from his vast collection of soul, rock, and reggae.

With nonchalant delivery (so radically different from the "FM voices" I was used to on American radio) and uncanny taste, Peel's three-hour radio programs were refreshing and edifying. When I wasn't listening, I haunted record shops, searching for the singles and albums I'd heard on the nights previous. Back home, I went through a long, melancholic period because I was technologically stranded from my favorite radio show.

Thank God the future arrived. John Peel is still broadcasting his thrice-weekly shows for the BBC, and thanks to the miracle of modern geekdom, they can be heard on-line at www.bbc.co.uk/radio1. Peel's program (airing Tuesday through Thursday at 2 pm, PST) is still a treasure trove of independent music, and his insight and taste (even at 60 years old) are sharper than ever. Hopping from Irish pop to German techno to American soul to dancehall reggae, you see in every instance what's great about each track.

Peel broadcasts his show from his home in rural England, to be closer to his family and his record collection (which now numbers well over 100,000). His quirks, which are numerous and legion, include playing loosely associated tracks (a song with the word "shadow" in the title and a song by The Shadows of Knight) and keeping his listeners updated on the whereabouts and fortunes of his children. I am now and forever will be a fan.

John Peel and his colleagues at BBC Radio One may be among the most well-established broadcasters on the Web, but they are by no means alone. Online radio is growing at a phenomenal rate, both commercially and privately. Practically anyone with a computer can webcast their favorite tunes, adding additional headaches to a music industry already battling Napster and other unregulated music sources. (Hurray!) Finding a virtual community surrounding the type of music you like is easy. Finding knowledgeable and committed DJs who explore new avenues of music may be harder, but the following sites are good places to find gurus:

www.wfmu.org: This freeform community radio station does great roots music, indie rock, and kitsch programming.

www.krcw.com: Home of Harry (The Simpsons) Shearer's fabulous Le Show and a program by radio artist Joe Frank which is like This American Life turned unspeakably grim.

www.sonicnet.com: Lots of music news. Check out Martini, an excellent lounge and bossa nova show.

www.groovetech.com: DJs spinning dance, trance, and techno¯24-7¯live.

www.broadcast.com: A centralized location for finding national and international programs on the Web.

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