John Peel

When I was a kid, I never felt that I belonged anywhere. I felt like I had been transplanted into a family of aliens and a world of utter normality. I knew that I didn't think the same way, feel the same way or view the world in the same way as anybody around me. It was an utterly dislocating experience which I couldn't articulate. Then I found John Peel and he saved me! I remember clearly the first time that he spoke to me. After yet another stupefyingly grey day I was lay in bed late one night messing about with the radio dial and stumbled across his show. I understood nothing but I suddenly knew that there was this brand new world out there. I spent years taping his shows and chopping them up into mixtapes so I could take this world with me wherever I went. He introduced me to artists, styles and juxtapositions that absolutely transformed everything. Sessions by the likes of The Fall, The Bhundu Boys, Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle, Big Black, Extreme Noise Terror interspersed with tracks by Public Enemy, Luke Slater's 7th Plane, Ivor Cutler and Sonic Youth were revolutionary events. Life was never the same ...

I nearly met him once. He used to do "John Peel Roadshows" where he would DJ at gigs. I went to what was then Manchester Polytechnic to see King Of The Slums (I can't remember who else was on the bill). There he was behind the decks and I was literally awestruck. I couldn't speak to him because I would have just gushed about how much I loved him. Instead I got my then-girlfriend to ask him to play Big Black's L-Dopa for me. He played it straight away and I danced like a frenzied fool on an otherwise empty dance floor. A memory that brings pleasure and shame in equal measure (you haven't seen me dance, if you had that would make perfect sense).

Ten years ago today (where the hell did all of that time go?), John died. I woke up and turned on the radio to be told that he had gone. I burst into tears and couldn't stop for hours. The tears didn't really stop for weeks. To my eternal regret, I couldn't get down to Norwich for John's funeral where hundreds of people just like me lined the lane and applauded him as he passed on his last journey. I held a silent vigil at home. That evening I played all of the Peel Session LPs that I have and danced like a frenzied fool...

John remains the most important man in my life. He always will be.

Today, my thoughts are with John and his family. They are also with the people like me who were utterly transformed by the great man. Tonight, I will be raising a glass to John, playing Peel Sessions back to back, dancing like a frenzied fool and smiling ...

Big Black: broadcast on the 6th of May, 1987


Gustav Thomas 25 October 2014 at 16:58  

Beautifully written. I was on the way to work and ducked into a shop to buy some water and heard on the radio news bulletin while queuing. I walked out immediately into the street in tears. I can't remember another time that I actually wept really tears at the news of a famous person's death.

It's to the BBC's eternal shame how they treated him, and more so that they failed in 10 years to come even remotely close to filling the gap he left...


Anonymous,  26 October 2014 at 02:01  

That was lovely. Thanks for sharing!

Enjoy the dancing!!!

Anonymous,  26 October 2014 at 17:41  

L Dopa Fix Me
All Right!

kingpossum,  28 October 2014 at 04:43  

Well done. Being American, my appreciation of the great John Peel comes only second hand through the UK press. So I can only imagine what life must have been like with this man as part of it.

Thank you for giving me such a personal understanding of just how vital John Peel was and remains to the world. Yours is the most fitting tribute that could possibly be given. Blessings and thanks.