While wary of the hype, collective amnesia and self-enchantment of enthusiasts that characterise ‘turns’ in social science, they do usually include elements of more lasting value. In this piece I shall reflect on John’s part in the coming together of interests in critical realism, space and social theory, uneven development and radical political economy, and the way in which his work helped to liberate social research from the constraints of disciplines, canonical fideism and arbitrary spatial containers. Examining how these interests were developed both theoretically and empirically, and at both local and global levels, I shall suggest what some of the lessons are from these themes in John’s work.