There are some voices that have always been a part of our lives, we have grown up with them and they are part of the mental furniture, quite literally like a member of the family.
When a colleague stared at her monitor in disbelief and announced that John Peel had died, we knew that one of those familiar sounds of comfort was no longer with us. That voice that I would occasionally hear on the kitchen radio in the seventies, as mum would retune it with cake mixture all over her hands. Or in Dads yellow Cortina (plastic seats) when he swapped An Eagles cassette for Wings.
Things were pretty much the same in the eighties when I was listening Country & Western on Radio 2, and working my way through the old mans vinyl collection. All those evenings sat in the green armchair with the massive white earphones on, it would have been so easy to switch over to the Radio 1 and explore some other music. I have regrets about that now, as at that time I was conscious that something inspirational was missing from my life. Maybe I would have heard John Peel and got into The Smiths or The Mary Chain when they were releasing singles, rather than ten years later courtesy of magazine compilations.
I’d like to write loads of really informative stuff about the Genres of music that John spent most of his life championing, but there’s no point because I don’t know enough and beside that it’ll be done a lot better in todays papers. One of the main attractions for me was the eclectic one off nature of his music, once a song was heard unless you wrote it down and got hold of a copy it was unlikely that you’d ever hear it again. I brought albums by bands like The Fall, Half man half biscuit, The Joy Division and Napalm Death simply because I heard tracks on his show.
You could be sure that you were listening to cutting edge Drum and Bass or Death metal, or the finest vintage Rock and Roll at the wrong speed. In that respect he has made our lives a more interesting and exiting place to be. I liked the down to earth chat he’d have with Andy Kershaw when handing over the shows late in the evening, and it was that basic unassuming humility that we all connected with and which contrasted greatly against the self obsessed egomania of his contemporaries.
Last night, Johns beloved Liverpool played Millwall in the league cup at the Den in South East London. Yesterday the home fans used the Internet to arrange for Teenage kicks, Johns all time favourite track, to be played on the PA before the game. It stands as a testimony to his pervasive personality that it’s not just tedious Radio 1 executives, but also the likes of ‘Nobody likes us’ Millwall that are organising tributes on his behalf.
John Peel will be missed by us all.