Welcome to Peel Acres. A beginner's guide to the legendary John Peel OBE
John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, OBE (30 August 1939 – 25 October 2004), known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004. He was known for his eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style.
He was one of the first broadcasters to play psychedelic rock and progressive rock records on British radio, and he is widely acknowledged for promoting artists working in various genres, including pop, reggae, indie rock, alternative rock, punk, hardcore punk, breakcore, grindcore, death metal, british hip hop, and dance music.
Peel's Radio 1 shows were notable for the regular 'Peel sessions', which usually consisted of four songs recorded by an artist live in the BBC's studios, and which often provided the first major national coverage to bands that later would achieve great fame. (These 'sessions' are similar to 'Live Lounge' sessions recorded today for the station.) Another popular feature of his shows was the annual Festive Fifty countdown of his listeners' favourite records of the year.
Peel appeared occasionally on British television as one of the presenters of Top of the Pops in the 1980s, and he provided voice-over commentary for a number of BBC programmes. He became popular with the audience of BBC Radio 4 for his Home Truths programme, which ran from the 1990s, featuring unusual stories from listeners' domestic lives.
John Peel wrote in his autobiography, Margrave of the Marshes, that the band of which he owned the most records was The Fall. Regulars in the Festive 50, and easily recognised by vocalist Mark E. Smith's distinctive delivery, The Fall became synonymous with Peel's Radio 1 show through the 1980s and 1990s. Peel kept in contact with many of the artists he championed but only met Smith on two, apparently awkward, occasions.
The Misunderstood is the only band that Peel ever personally managed—he first met the band in Riverside, California in 1966 and convinced them to move to London. He championed their music throughout his career; in 1968, he described their 1966 single "I Can Take You to the Sun" as "the best popular record that's ever been recorded." and shortly before his death, he stated, "If I had to list the ten greatest performances I've seen in my life, one would be The Misunderstood at Pandora's Box, Hollywood, 1966 ... My god, they were a great band!"
His favourite single is widely known to have been "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones; in an interview in 2001, he stated "There's nothing you could add to it or subtract from it that would improve it."In the same 2001 interview, he also listed "No More Ghettos in America" by Stanley Winston, "There Must Be Thousands" by The Quads and "Lonely Saturday Night" by Don French as being amongst his all-time favourites. He also described Lianne Hall as one of the great English voices.
A longer list of his favourite singles was revealed in 2005 when the contents of a wooden box in which he stored the records that meant the most to him were made public. The box was the subject of a television documentary, John Peel's Record Box. Out of 130 vinyl singles in the box, 11 of them were by The White Stripes, more than any other band in the box.
In 1999 Peel presented a nightly segment on his programme titled the Peelennium, in which he played four recordings from each year of the 20th century.
Awards and honorary degrees
Peel was 11 times Melody Maker's DJ of the year, Sony Broadcaster of the Year in 1993, winner of the publicly-voted Godlike Genius Award from the NME in 1994, Sony Gold Award winner in 2002 and is a member of the Radio Academy Hall of Fame. At the NME awards in 2005 he was Hero of the Year and was posthumously given a special award for "Lifelong Service To Music". At the same event the "John Peel Award For Musical Innovation" was awarded to The Others.
He was awarded many honorary degrees including an MA from the University of East Anglia, doctorates (Anglia Ploytechnic University and Sheffield Hallam University), various honorary degrees (University of Liverpool, Open University, University of Portsmouth, University of Bradford) and a fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.
He was appointed an OBE in 1998, for his services to British music. In 2002, the BBC conducted a vote to discover the 100 Great Britons of all time, in which Peel was voted 43rd.