John Peel is dead. He was one of my heroes. I thought of him often, and not simply as an adjunct to, or outgrowth of, the music he played. I loved his sunrise march of enthusiasms. I loved that his native decency never made him a scold. I have long tried to imitate his best qualities, especially his gentle but unmovable decision to do his thing, day in and day out, unfuckwitably and joyfully. If it is possible to love someone you've never met and with whom you have no empirical connection—and I don't think it is—then I loved John Peel.
Everybody talks open-mided. Peel was the only open-minded DJ I ever actually heard being open-minded in a public space. I include in this slightly weepy sample everybody I grew up on and worshiped: early Meg Griffin on WPIX, Afrika Islam on WHBI, WNYU's New Afternoon show in the early 1980s, anybody on WFMU. (Mixtapes are excluded, not for lack of love but for lack of audience.) There was a reason I carted around all those boxes of unlistened-to cassettes from house to house in the early 90s, then listened to them, then transferred favorite cuts to—eek—DAT. Peel was the one.
He played huge, cheesy pop records; happy hardcore records ten years off the boil; The Fall when he couldn't think of anything else (a default move I endorse); African guitar pop (lots of it); every indie band ever; and plenty of major label bands long gone sour for hipsters but still perfectly OK for Peel. He talked about his family and included them in his work in an organic and respectful way. He was the first radio DJ to play Ui. We recorded a session for him in 1999—one of the highlights of my time with the band—but we never met him. And as Justine pointed out in an email to me, I would not have met several close friends if Peel hadn't played our tiny records and linked us together, at least in abeyance, over the air.
For more illumination and less mush, please see Gerard. Check here for a great MP3 of Peel interviewing our friend Rhodri Marsden (late of the mighty Gag), when he was 17 years old. He is no longer 17. Here is a piece by Paul Morley about Peel, which parallels my own assumptions of Peel's immortality. Here is one NME piece, with tributes from musical types, and here is another, with quotes from Tony Blair even.
Andy Kershaw says the BCC was wearing Peel out.Posted by Sasha at October 26, 2004 10:00 AM | TrackBack