John Peel - 5 years on
Maybe I’m a heartless bastard but I’ve never felt much sadness when a celebrity dies. I find the public outpouring of grief for someone they don’t know and whose personality and public persona is managed by armies of branding consultants a little hollow. But on the 25th October 2004 I read the news that John Peel had died; I felt the colour drain from my cheeks and tears well up in my eyes.
For those people who grew up with John he wasn’t just a DJ on the Radio, he was a member of your family and you were a member of his. The exploits of his wife and kids formed a part of his show and made his listeners feel they were sitting down for Sunday lunch at Peel Acres. Even his frequent inability to play the correct track at the correct speed just made him more human and loveable. Playing happy-hardcore flowing into death-metal - actions today would make Spotify servers blow a gasket!
I can say without any shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today if it wasn’t for John. He opened my mind up to thousands of musicians who in turn introduced concepts, cultures, politics, authors and ideas that I consumed feverishly and allowed to enter my life. I still have pads of paper littered with lists of artists to check out. Over the years I’ve discovered hundred of albums from these biro scribblings. But there are those elusive singles that maybe I didn’t write down properly or only sold abut nine copies that I’ve never managed to track down. But I’m still looking, 'cos if Peely played them, they're almost certainly worth a re-spin.
It’s also hard to think of current radio DJs being as influential to the music that is made. But with John his affect on the world of music was immeasurable. Not only did he play records you simply could not hear anywhere else, he also played records that inspired multiple generations to pick up instruments and make their own music - which he would then play in turn, often giving these bands the opportunity to record their material in his legendary Peel sessions. The cycle began again. He was a champion of great music and many bands owe their career to him.
Incredibly, five years have passed since his untimely demise but he lives on through thousands of record collections - made infinitely richer for his influence. The world is undoubtedly a darker place without his dulcet tones and no-one else has been able to so actively champion genuinely alternative music.
Make sure today you find some suitable disorientating racket to play and raise a toast to John.