John Peel died 26th October 2004 of a heart attack on holiday in Peru. Where did those five years go? I remember the shock and loss vividly. Just testament to the man and to his broadcasting legend, a whole nation fell into grief and not just the musicians and music fans of this nation who to a man and woman he had a uniquely personal effect on. Politicians and public figures and proletariat lined up with the music fraternity to pay tribute and show their collective love and respect.
Every radio show on every radio station that day, marked his loss before they continued broadcasting, and many played his favourite records as the back bone of an otherwise deflated output.
Their was and still is a general feeling the world will be a little less interesting place for his loss.
John Peel joined the BBC when the pirate stations won the broadcasting battle of the airwaves and the BBC were force to assimilate the new music (Rock and Roll) into their broadcasting thinking. Radio 1 was formed around him and some other key figures, to broadcast to, in Pete Townsend's words "My G G Generation" and he died as the only founding member still broadcasting on the network and to his eternal credit, subsequent young generations took him to their hearts too as their very own, how cool is that? He was at the cutting edge then and more impressively remained there all his life and is still five years on, the bench mark of free form broadcasting.
He was still at his death at 65 the most radical and free thinking broadcaster at the BBC and probably in the world. He started there by championed Prog Rock, in the 70's bringing through the likes of Floyd, Zeppelin The Faces T Rex, he heralded Punk Rock, even back then by playing the likes of Dr Feelgood and Eddie and The Hot Rods and the pub rockers of the time that no one else would give time or credence to. He championed the new kids all the time and seemingly single-handily brought punk and new wave into the mainstream, breaking the Clash, The Undertones, Elvis Costello, The Sex Pistols, he augured the dance age then, by playing the like of Kreftwerk and Talking Heads, then when the new generation inspired by those John Peel radiotones sent Peely their cassettes he picked them up and played them too.
The whole Independent scene found confidence, found their audience and flourished around the planet from his original patronage. He introduce Hip Hop here, he introduced Reggae, he introduce World Music through the likes of The Bhundu Boys, Doug Veitch and he would do sessions with African Jamaican and even Appellation musicians as easily as he would for the band he saw at his local or whose demo he couldn't stop playing. All the time he continued to highlight the roots of the music, he would play The Smiths and then he would play The Copper Family of Rotterdean, saying it was all folk music, he played Hank then Henry Rollins, He played Patsy then Pulp, and all the time he kept his audience amused by his simple humanity, humility and not so simple Liverpudlian humour, his programme was never less than a challenge to listen to, but every programme left its audience a little richer for the experience, for that reason he is irreplaceable, and for that reason I'll celibrate his life every year.
John Peel was also a Liverpool Football Club Fan and shared an near equal passion for them as he did for music, outside the main entrance of his beloved Anfield is a statue of Bill Shankly the old war horse manager who brought in the glory days. John Peel is part of every one who ever listened to new and old music and in that respect will never die, I light that should never go out. As yet the BBC hasn't erected a statue to him at the front door of broadcasting house like Bill Shankly at Anfield, so everyone who enters those doors which open directly on to the peoples hearts can remembers the value of a freedom of spirit and a genuine enthusiasm. Maybe we should start a campain
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