I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of British DJ John Peel. Best known in the U.S. to hardcore music fans for his name attached to Peel Sessions radio studio recordings, he was a lifelong champion of great music. He joined the BBC with the launch of Radio 1 and was its only remaining original DJ. Throughout his career, he continuously sought out new music and shared it with his audience. Many artists are chiming in with tributes, acknowledging that they owe the launch of their careers to his early exposure. The most thorough and appreciative coverage of his work and its influence comes from the UK, such as the BBC and NME.com.
When attending the Reading Festival in 1990 and 1991, I got to
experience his fantastic taste first-hand. I was initially struck by
just how great the music was between sets and only learned afterwards
that he was spinning the discs.
I interviewed Peel in 1991, I think as part of PR campaign to promote
the U.S. release of Peel Sessions and attempted launch of syndicated
radio show. The show never took off, but it was the best interview I
ever conducted. It wasn't entirely surprising since he talks for a
living, as opposed to the musicians I interview who pick up guitars
because they're not comfortable talking to people. But he was funny,
humble and full of amusing anecdotes.
I've been playing some promo CDs with his announcing. He explained that
he didn't earn any royalties off the Peel Sessions. They were the
result of an agreement with the musicians' union when BBC Radio 1 was
launched that all shows must include a portion of live music, meaning
something recorded in the BBC studios. As he noted, this meant they
were able to play works in progress, unusual groupings of musicians and
artists who hadn't otherwise entered a recording studio yet. Next up on
my CD player: Peel Sessions by Babes in Toyland, the Wedding Present
and the Chameleons.