Or: John Peel at 78
On October 26, 2004 the world of music lost its greatest friend. John Peel, the only disc jockey to have remained with BBC Radio One from the day it opened in 1967 to the then-present day, died while on a working holiday in Peru with his wife Sheila.
Peel is once supposed to have said that the most important ages for a DJ are 33, 45 and 78. He was 65 when he died, and today would have been his 78th birthday. I thought that was worth celebrating in a small way with this rather shambling blog post.
At the time, pre-Whatsapp and Twitter we made do with a mailing list of ex-journalism school friends, to which one person posted this at 8pm, news of the death having broken around four hours earlier:
When I left the office at six, the 19th set of John Peel tributes had just
come in from PA, including all of the Undertones, separately.
Another reminiscence from a member of the same list:
Such a shame. Below is my favourite John Peel quote, slightly
paraphrased from memory:
“At home I have a numbering system for all my singles. It helps me to
remember how good a record is. Every disc is ranked with a score
between one and 10. Except ‘Teenage Kicks’ by the Undertones, which
Earlier this year a blue plaque dedicated to Peel was unveiled in the town where he lived, at the record-filled Peel Acres.
In Simon Garfield’s superb book The Nation’s Favourite, about the turbulent history of the Radio 1 breakfast show during the 1990s, Steve Lamacq says that there was a long-standing fear at Radio 1 that one day Peel would be on stage at a festival, introducing a band, “and he’d put them on at the wrong speed”. I liked that.
If you’d like to remember him through the music, there’s no better place to start than the Dandelion Radio Festive 50 archive.
Peel was a big fan of Lonnie Donegan in his youth so I will leave you with this from the lyrics from Donegan and Lead Belly’s Rock Island Line:
Well I may be right, I may be wrong
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone