John Peel RIP

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Lee Carter

John Peel RIP

Post by Lee Carter » Wed Oct 27, 2004 7:01 pm

The great British deejay John Peel has died of a heart attack, while on a working holiday in Peru. For many years, he had been the longest-serving deejay at BBC Radio One, from when the station opened in 1967 until just yesterday.
Most Spirit Of Radio listeners would be most familiar with Peel from the huge catalogue of sessions that were recorded for his show, from X-Ray Specs, to The Cure to Radiohead.

My girlfriend phoned me on my cell phone, to tell me the news as I was standing at waiting for a streetcar on my way to work. I uncharacteristically burst into tears. I was surprised how shocked I was and what an impact Peel had on my life.

Mind you, I've been listening to his shows since about the age of 12 in the early 1970s, being an ardent fan of music. In those days he was the only alternative to the dreadful medallion man, of monopoly rock and pop broadcaster BBC Radio One, like an insiduous form of mindlessly happy propaganda.

Peel could be maddeningly and willfully obscure but he addressed his audience as a group of human beings. He was always witty and interesting and approached music as a fan. He refused all the usual trappings of pop radio such as jingles and patronising reminders of what station you were listening to you. He could be quite gloomy in an eeyore-ish sort of way, but that made him all the more endearing to me.

In his early career he was the first to champion Jimi Hendrix who was unknown in the States and came to the UK in 1967. He also gave prominence to progressive bands like The Groundhogs, Family and Roxy Music. Brian Eno says the band would have never stayed together if it were not for Peel.

But it was the advent of reggae and punk that further radicalised John's show, He was the first western deejay to play Bob Marley and went on to champion hundreds of punk bands. His own personal favourite record is 'Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. He also loved The Fall.

In the 1980s, when I was doing Live From London I listened to Peel about two or three times a week. The range of artists he recorded in session alone was breathtaking. But he was always extremely self-deprecating. When I interviewed him for CFNY and tried to pay tribute to his introducing Britain to reggae, punk and hip-hop, he quickly shot back, "Yes but you have to remember I gave Simple Minds their first break as well, and for that I deserve a good kicking!"

He was quite quotable that way. I liked his line "Just because someone has the aptitude to play a bass guitar, I fail to see why we think they would necessarily have anything interesting to say about the world."

One of the great joys of the Internet was that I was reunited with Peelie's shows. If anything, he was even better and more relaxed in the last few years, playing more and more fascinating material, perhaps liberated from the onerous role of being the only alternative music voice on radio.

One thing I was very pleased to see was that in the last 15 years or so of his life, he was finally recognised as one of Britain's national treasures. This came about largely because of a huge cultural shift at BBC Radio One in the early 1990s, which saw him treated for the first time as something other than a marginalised freak show. He was even given a show on the BBC's main speech radio network, the delightful 'Home Truths' which told the remarkable stories of quite ordinary British people. He also wrote witty columns for a number of newspapers.

As Ivar Hamilton would no doubt agree he had an indirect impact on us at the station. I even mailed Ivar tapes that he took great pleasure in listening to.

When my girlfriend and I got home last, I dug out some cassettes of a John Peel show from 1990. We then proceeded to drink wine and get quite pissed to the strains of Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The Fall, and Curve, plus loads of oddities including a Four Brothers track, (a band from Zimbabwe) being played at the wrong speed. a gospel choir from the U.S mourning the death of Martin Luther King in song and a compilation he was very excited about at the time from a fanzine called Mind The Gap.

We paused to listen to his witty interludes. In one he read out a letter from a Scottish listener called Alex.

"He wanted to assure me that not all my listeners are misery-ridden and parentally repressed - he's sixteen and apparently perfectly happy."

Vintage Peel.

My world is a much poorer place without John Peel. I will really, really miss him. I really do feel I've lost a friend.

human clone

John Peel RIP

Post by human clone » Wed Oct 27, 2004 7:23 pm

Big fan as well. Peel was certainly a forward thinker, he will be missed. I have a large number of his "Peel Sessions" cds, great stuff!


John Peel RIP

Post by Anonymous » Wed Oct 27, 2004 7:58 pm

Well said Lee, a great loss indeed.

Perry de Man

John Peel RIP

Post by Perry de Man » Thu Oct 28, 2004 1:11 pm


I had been lightly trolling the net for articles and fan discussions about John Peel the last few days.

Your tribute is the best I have read. Thanks.

I always enjoyed your show and miss it greatly. Why not take over Sunday night over at the Rock? :-)

Lee Carter

John Peel RIP

Post by Lee Carter » Fri Oct 29, 2004 1:36 am

I think Ivar Hamilton should go back on the radio. He was really the Peelie of CFNY.

Thanks for the kind words.

I did actually get a lot out of my system when I did a nine week summer fill-in show for CBC Radio Two in 1997.

It was a deejay's paradise. I had five hours every Saturday night to play what I wanted, with no commercials and few other restraints.

But basically I'm out of the game. I'm a news producer and correspondent now for the CBC and BBC.

Love this site though. Scott does a great job.


John Peel RIP

Post by Anonymous » Fri Oct 29, 2004 2:57 am

Ivar was on Q107 in the 90's, and he was awful. He should stay behind the scenes, especially off TV. Great with picking tunes. Instead he should be the music director at the Edge. Just as long as no one can see or hear him on radio/tv.

Spirit Admin (Admin)

John Peel RIP

Post by Spirit Admin (Admin) » Mon Nov 01, 2004 2:47 am

Lee, an excellent tribute. Peel had a lot more influence on the progress of music in the last 30 years than most people recognize or credit him for.

ivar hamilton

John Peel RIP

Post by ivar hamilton » Tue Nov 09, 2004 6:46 pm

To Anonymous:

Really too bad to hear you thought I was awful on Q107. We played music that had never been heard previously on that station and music that has never been heard since. I drove the then management of CFNY crazy with the new music that was getting on the air at Q107 before CFNY was airing and that was for only a two hour show! I have to tell you it was not my intention, to do so but it did happen and my employer at the time PolyGram got complaints both from CFNY management and HTZ FM PD over the music being played.
I guess getting back on that horse after getting out of radio 6 years earlier wasn't as easy huh!
Well each to his own, I had a hell of a lot of fun doing that show for the one year and quite simply have not been back anywhere because I will always refuse to bow to anyone's playlist demands ever. As an FYI, I also spoke to 94.9 about doing a show that was going to start at roughly the same time frame as Marsden's about a year and a half ago. They had their concerns about the selection of music that I may have chosen and felt that I could never quite do what I used to on CFNY so I chose not to do it. It was also somewhat of a conflict with my schedule at Universal.

As for TV, well I co-hosted the Wedge on Muchmusic once as I still had a ton of classic alternative videos in my collection that they didn't have so Kim Clarke Champniss and Simon Evans were really good sports and invited me on.
So to your point, no more damn TV for me!

Just so you know, in my capacity at Universal I have a great relationship with The Edge of today and those guys certainly know when I push them on some hot music whether it's ours or some up and coming bands that I feel should be there.

If something else comes along to do a free form radio show, I'd do it in a minute. (and if I find the time) Apart from a DJ set at the re-union show last year I also did the music for the Echo and The Bunnnymen show at the Palais Royale last year. It was a blast to do!


Ivar Hamilton


John Peel RIP

Post by sammi » Wed Nov 10, 2004 10:05 am

Ivar...get back on the radio. It needs you desperately. It is sooo bad.

ivar hamilton

John Peel RIP

Post by ivar hamilton » Wed Nov 10, 2004 2:28 pm

Hoping to do something in early 05.
Keep you all posted.




John Peel RIP

Post by Donna » Wed Nov 10, 2004 7:30 pm

Please, Ivar is a geek!!! Give up you old fart!!! You were never cool and you never will!!!


John Peel RIP

Post by Nancy » Wed Nov 10, 2004 8:56 pm

Wow, why the anger?


John Peel RIP

Post by swerve » Thu Nov 11, 2004 12:17 am

Road rage


John Peel RIP

Post by sammi » Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:37 am

And what are you Donna???

Larry Fine

John Peel RIP

Post by Larry Fine » Thu Nov 11, 2004 9:03 am

Ivar, you wrote a freaking essay on who gives a crap? You write like you announce: long winded and boring. Having said that you do have great taste in music, and I applaud your efforts at championing new music. Just stay off the air.

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