Terribly sad news today - the brilliant broadcaster John Peel has died. He was an absolute inspiration to so many ... Via his BBC Radio 1 show, he shaped so much music over the last 30 years, and stood for an unswerving commitment to new music from his first show to his last. The end of an era. Will miss his voice terribly.
Ex-colleague Paul Gambaccini is talking to Simon Mayo on BBC Radio Five Live currently and suggesting that no one has even listened to as wide a range of music as Peel, given how every day was spent listening to new music and that the birth of commercial gramophone coincides with Peel's life pretty closely ...
Gambaccini then listed a few of the artists that Peel's Radio 1 show 'broke' in the UK and beyond - not that Peel would ever have attempted to claim such a thing, always looking further forwards and backwards for new sounds. Gambaccini's off-the-cuff list includes the likes of The Clash, Sex Pistols, Roxy Music, Althea and Donna, Led Zeppelin, Pulp, Leonard Cohen, Joy Division, Laurie Anderson, The Undertones, Elton John etc. I'd personally add bringing Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart to UK. He brought punk, reggae and hip-hop to the UK. Even given that list, he stood for the smaller bands - the newest, most dangerous sounds. A personal memory is regularly driving back from football on Wednesday nights in my friend Paul Morgan's car, listening to his show and hearing the darkest of darkcore jungle, or some insanely brutal thudding techno, followed by some scratchy Charley Patton-style delta blue from the 1920s, segued from one into the other without a care in the world about musical pigeonholes or the narrowmindedness of others. Gives a vague sense of the range of the man.
He played his favourite record, Teenage Kicks by The Undertones, twice in a row. Few shows went by without a track by The Fall. I'd sometimes see him ambling around Broadcasting House in his baggy old jumper - an amiable presence, with a bag containing the successful demo CDs which weren't dispatched from his car window during the drive in from Suffolk. He was a Liverpool fan to boot. Perhaps as he was so completely genuine and sincere, and yet incredibly funny and approachable, he somehow worked on Radio 1, Radio 4 and the World Service simultaneously. As a broadcaster and curator he was completely unpredictable, in the best sense. The Peelenium gives another flavour of his obsession with interesting sounds. His 20 years' worth of listener-generated 'charts of the year', the Festive Fifty, put real listener interaction into broadcasting - and just check those lists for a snapshot of all that's good in popular music over those years. Alternatively, the legendary Peel Sessions series gives another indication of how Peel stood for caring about the breadth and range of music. A daring DJ, a shining pillar of the BBC and one of the greatest influences on UK music ever - he'll be much missed.
John Peel RIP.
BBC News: Legendary radio DJ John Peel dies
BBC Radio 1: John Peel passes away
BBC Radio 1: Peel tributes (inc. Damon Albarn and Jarvis Cocker, amongst countless others)
BBC News: Mark Radcliffe's tribute
Wikipedia: John Peel