Stephen O’Malley


Posted: Oct 26, 2004


RIP to one of the axis of real music in the world. There really is no comparison at all.

Thanks for the CARCASS Peel Sessions at age 15.

Legendary radio DJ John Peel dies

Veteran BBC broadcaster John Peel has died at the age of 65, while on holiday in Peru.

Peel, whose radio career spanned 40 years, was on a working holiday in the city of Cuzco with his wife Sheila when he suffered a heart attack.

He was BBC Radio 1's longest-serving DJ and in recent years had also presented Home Truths on Radio 4.

Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt said Peel's contribution to modern music and culture was "immeasurable".

'Hugely missed'

He added: "John Peel was a broadcasting legend. I am deeply saddened by his death as are all who work at Radio 1. "John's influence has towered over the development of popular music for nearly four decades.

"John Peel stayed true to what mattered most in music"—Pete, Nottingham, UK

Hopeful bands all over the world sent their demo tapes to John knowing that he really cared.

"His commitment and passion for new music only grew stronger over the years. In fact, when I last saw him he was engaged in a lively debate with his fellow DJs over the state of new music today

"He will be hugely missed."

Mr Parfitt told Radio 1's Newsbeat that Peel had been on a holiday of a lifetime when he died.


He added: "He had gone on holiday with Sheila to a place where he had always wanted to go."

BBC director of radio and music Jenny Abramsky said Peel was "simply irreplaceable".

"Everyone at BBC Radio is devastated by the news. Our hearts go out to Sheila and his children," she said.

Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, who presented coverage of the Glastonbury Festival with Peel, paid tribute to her colleague and close friend.

She said: "John was simply one of my favourite men in the whole world - as a music fan and presenter he was simply an inspiration."

Mainstream music

Peel was born in Heswall, near Liverpool, and after completing his military service in Britain in 1962, went to the US where he began working for a radio station in Dallas.

"It was because of him I got to hear some of the most obscure but influential music I ever heard"—James Dean Bradfield, Manic Street Preachers

He joined Radio 1 at the launch in 1967, and established himself with the late night programme Top Gear.

He became one of the first DJs to give exposure to punk, reggae, hip-hop, before they crossed over into the mainstream.

Peel's programme built up a reputation around the world, and in addition to his Radio 1 programme, he could also be heard on the BBC's World Service.

James Dean Bradfield, lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers, paid tribute to Peel.

He told BBC News Online: "It was because of him I got to hear some of the most obscure but influential music I ever heard.

"He was a lifeline to hearing music I would never have heard otherwise. The service he provided was getting to hear music that you couldn't buy in Cardiff. He was a portal to a whole new world."

"He always had his finger on the pulse of the music industry"— Michael Bradley, Undertones

Gruff Rhys, of the Super Furry Animals, said the band was in "shock".

"He was very inclusive of all kinds of music, very open-minded, and introduced a lot of diverse music to the public.

"He championed Welsh language music and for years was the only DJ on national radio who was willing to embrace it.

"He was very wary of trends such as Britpop, he was introducing people to drum 'n' bass and techno, things that were going on outside of the media."

Favourite record

After announcing Peel's death on Radio 1, the station played his favourite song, Teenage Kicks, by the Undertones.

Michael Bradley, bass player for the Undertones, spoke of his shock on learning of Peel's death.

He said: "He was a very funny, very warm man and we will always be grateful for what he did for The Undertones.

"Personally, I find it incredible what he did for the band and we always got huge pride out of the fact that he said Teenage Kicks was his favourite single.

"He always had his finger on the pulse of the music industry and the fact that Radio 1 played the Undertones, the White Stripes and the Strokes today showed just how relevant he remained throughout his career."

Obituary: John Peel

The broadcaster, John Peel, was the champion of British rock music. For nearly 40 years, his late-night Radio 1 programme led the way in promoting new acts, from David Bowie, through Joy Division to the White Stripes.

John Peel was, at first sight, the antithesis of many of the bands he loved. Balding, bearded, softly - if hilariously - spoken, he was more like a favourite uncle than a rock fan.

Yet Peel's uncompromising encouragement of new talent transformed the face of music all the way from hippy to house.

He was born John Robert Parker Ravenscoft in Heswall, near Liverpool, in 1939. The son of the owner of a cotton mill, his childhood was blighted by his distant parents and he was brought up mostly by a nanny.

He attended Shrewsbury public school, which he hated, an ordeal which was offset by the moment when he first heard Elvis Presley singing Heartbreak Hotel.

"Everything changed when I heard Elvis," he later reflected. "Where there had been nothing there was suddenly something."

After National Service between 1957 and 1959 he went to America. With Beatlemania in full swing, John Peel and his Liverpudlian connections proved irresistible and he soon became a DJ for WRR radio in Dallas.

Returning to England in 1967, he joined the pirate station, Radio London, before transferring to the BBC's new national pop channel, Radio 1. He was to remain there for the rest of his life, the only survivor of Radio 1's first line-up.

Changing styles

Right from the outset, Peel changed the rules. He played every track without interruption, to the delight of those wishing to tape his show, while providing a witty and knowledgeable running commentary, seemingly a million miles away from the transatlantic platitudes of many of his colleagues.

In the early days Peel championed acts like Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Captain Beefheart, as he did throughout his career, by giving them studio-time to record legendary "Peel sessions".

But, in the mid-1970s, John Peel moved away from the mainstream rock of Jimi Hendrix and The Who to a new and radical sound, punk.

Bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash paved the way for new Peel discoveries like Joy Division and the Undertones, whose Teenage Kicks was his all-time favourite single.

The 1980s brought further joy, most notably in the form of The Fall and The Smiths, both refreshing counterblasts to the increasingly bland fare of the charts.

More recently, Peel had branched-out, presenting BBC Radio 4's Home Truths, an eclectic programme about family life, and provided typically droll interjections for BBC TV's Grumpy Old Men.

And he continued to remain at the cutting-edge of popular taste, featuring 'world' music and rap alongside good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll.

A lifelong fan of the Archers and a dedicated follower of Liverpool football club, he lived in Suffolk with his wife Sheila, affectionately known as The Pig.