I grew up with him too, and have him to thank (together with Andy Kershaw) for a broad and eclectic taste in music.
Before I moved to the UK in 1982 we colonials used to get his show through British Forces Radio. In more recent years he started doing Home Truths on Radio Four which was a little more staid and middle aged, but by that stage so was I. I felt as if I knew the man and his family. It’s a bit like when Brian Redhead died.
I expected him to be around for a good few more years. It’s like losing your cool role model young uncle.
I think that grief and scousers are two subjects that Boris may be avoiding for a while yet.
To give people who might not be familiar with him an idea of his scope and influence this is his all time fewstive fifty (from 2000). The festive fifity was songs voted for by his listeners at Christmas, and this is a compilation 1976-2000.
by my counting he was responsible for starting or nurturing the UK careers of all but three of this lot:
01 Joy Division - ’ Atmosphere’ (Factory)
02 Undertones - ’ Teenage Kicks’ (Good Vibrations)
03 Joy Division - ’ Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (Factory)
04 Sex Pistols - ’ Anarchy In The UK’ (EMI)
05 Clash - ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ (CBS)
06 New Order - ’ Blue Monday’ (Factory)
07 Smiths - ’ How Soon Is Now?’ (Rough Trade)
08 Nirvana - ’ Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (Geffen)
09 Smiths - ’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ (Rough Trade)
10 This Mortal Coil - ’ Song To The Siren’ (4AD)
11 Robert Wyatt - ’ Shipbuilding’ (Rough Trade)
12 Pulp - ’ Common People’ (Island)
13 Capt Beefheart & His Magic Band - ’ Big Eyed Beans From Venus’ (Reprise)
14 Dead Kennedy’ s - ’ Holiday In Cambodia’ (Cherry Red)
15 Joy Division - ’ New Dawn Fades’ (Factory)
16 My Bloody Valentine - ’ Soon’ (Creation)
17 New Order - ’ Ceremony’ (Factory)
18 Only Ones - ’ Another Girl, Another Planet’ (CBS)
19 New Order - ’ Temptation’ (Factory)
20 Joy Division - ’ She’s Lost Control’ (Factory)
21 Wedding Present - ’ Brassneck’ (RCA)
22 Smiths - ’ This Charming Man’ (WEA)
23 Sugarcubes - ’ Birthday’ (One Little Indian)
24 Fall - ’ How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’’ (Rough Trade)
25 Wedding Present - ’ My Favourite Dress’ (Reception)
26 Delgados - ’ Pull The Wires From the Wall’ (Chemikal Underground)
27 My Bloody Valentine - ’ You Made Me Realise’ (Creation)
28 Joy Division - ’ Transmission’ (Factory)
29 Sex Pistols - ’ Pretty Vacant’ (Virgin)
30 Pixies - ’ Debaser’ (4AD)
31 Belle & Sebastian - ’ Lazy Line Painter Jane’ (Jeepster)
32 New Order - ’ True Faith’ (Factory)
33 Clash - ’ Complete Control’ (CBS)
34 Fall - ’ Totally Wired’ (Rough Trade)
35 Jam - ’ Going Underground’ (Polydor)
36 Stereolab - ’ French Disko’ (Duophonic)
37 Jimi Hendrix Experience - ’ All Along The Watchtower’ (Polydor)
38 Fall - ’ The Classical’ (Situation Two)
39 Damned - ’ New Rose’ (Stiff)
40 Tim Buckley - ’ Song To The Siren’ (Straight)
41 Beach Boys - ’ God Only Knows’ (Capitol)
42 Velvet Underground - ’ Heroin’ (MGM)
43 Nick Drake - ’ Northern Sky’ (Island)
44 Bob Dylan - ’ Visions Of Johanna’ (CBS)
45 Beatles - ’ I Am The Walrus’ (Parlophone)
46 Beach Boys - ’ Good Vibrations’ (Capitol)
47 Sundays - ’ Can’ t Be Sure’ (Rough Trade)
48 Culture - ’ Lion Rock’ (Strange Fruit)
49 P J Harvey - ’ Sheela-na-gig’ (Too Pure)
50 Pavement - ’ Here’ (Big Cat)
Really, really bad news. This has almost got me crying at work.
I just like to add that as well as all the music stuff he was well known for Radio 4’s Home Truths. This summed him up for me - an ordinary bloke telling ordinary stories, but somehow creating something extraordinary.
Through that show I almost feel I know his family. I wish them well.
When I saw the headline on Yahoo news, those were my exact words too. Probably with the same amount of feeling.
I met him about 5 or 6 years ago at Reading Festival. I cannot for the life of me remember what we talked about, (except for a little bit about Fun Lovin’ Criminals after Huey Morgan walked past us), but I do know that he was in no rush to move on; he was just happy to talk music with anyone that wanted to. Definitely one of the nicest people I’ve met.
Shit. The Fall. Joy Division. The Smiths. They might have made it anyway, but without him there is a chance at least that none of us would have heard of them. Remember the Radio 1 cull of the aging DJs 10 years ago? John was the one they could not touch. He was perennially cool, because he never tried to be. A real legend. Fuck.
Not to mention two-tone, ambient, and trip-hop to name but three - but even that’s selling his significance short. Peel was a major force in the pirate radio stations of the 1960s, the popularity of which eventually led to the then very hidebound and conservative BBC giving in and creating Radio 1 as a pop music station - with Peel in from the start as a DJ. When in the early 90s the Beeb decided to shake up Radio 1 in an attempt to appeal to younger listeners and moved the old guard DJs (themselves mostly ex-pirates) to other stations, Peel was so entrenched in the public mind as the heart and soul of what the station is about that they couldn’t think of moving him for fear of the backlash that would result.
There isn’t a single British band of the last forty years that doesn’t owe its success at least in part to John Peel, and quite a number of foreign bands too (most notably in the hip-hop and reggae genres). He was certainly one of the two most important popular music broadcasters of all time, and he may even have been number one. I cannot imagine what radio would have been like without him, and I cannot imagine what Radio 1 will be like now.
Streaming audio from the BBC is (next to the Dope) the best thing the Interweb De-Vice has done for me. His show started at 4 PM Memphis time, so I always listened to him for the last hour of work (when I could). Peel saved my sanity at my old job.
He once read an email of mine on the air concerning the origin of the phrase “and you don’t stop” (Sugar Hill Gang). I thought it was so cool that words written by a cube drone in Memphis were read to all of freakin’ England!
So sad to hear this news. Unusually, I find myself a little damp about the eyes reading the tributes on the BBC website.
I interviewed him for student radio in the mid 80s, and he was a genuinely nice bloke. There must have been so many people asking him the same questions, but he never seemed to show any boredom or irritation - definitely everyone’s favourite eccentric uncle, and an absolute mine of great stories.
Wonder how many of us are playing Teenage Kicks tonight?
I was in the barbers when the radio news announced his death. Since the barber was shaving my neck at the time, between our independently shocked reactions, it’s a wonder I didn’t lose an ear.
Never really regularly listened to his Radio 1 show and Home Truths was horrible, but I’ve got the brilliant Manchester - So Much To Answer For: The Peel Sessions on in tribute as I type.