A sad day for music fans - I first heard several bands that I adore
on his show, broadcast on college radio in the 90's; bands like
Suede, Babes in Toyland, Skinned Teen, and Huggy Bear...
Here's The New York Times article on his life,innovation, and
John Peel, Who Played New Rock on the BBC, Dies at 65
By BEN SISARIO
Published: October 27, 2004
John Peel had been on the BBC's Radio 1 since its inception in 1967
and had a reputation for playing cutting-edge music from around the
John Peel, a BBC radio disc jockey who was a champion of innovative
and independent music for nearly four decades, died on Monday night
in Cuzco, Peru. He was 65 and was a longtime resident of Great
The BBC reported that he had a heart attack while on vacation with
his wife, Sheila.
A broadcasting legend in Britain and perhaps the only British D.J.
known by name to American rock fans, Mr. Peel had been on the BBC's
Radio 1 since its inception in 1967 and had a reputation for playing
cutting-edge music from around the world.
Though most American listeners could not hear his show until the
advent of the Internet, fans were well familiar with the phenomenon
of "Peel Sessions." From the first days of his program, Mr. Peel
invited groups into the studio for live performances that were, by
practical necessity, scrappy and unembellished.
The bands, chosen by Mr. Peel and his staff, were often unfamiliar to
most listeners; many were on Mr. Peel's show even before they had
The sessions, which were sometimes live and sometimes taped in the
weeks before a broadcast, were often circulated in bootleg
recordings, and many were released commercially.
Over the years hundreds of bands recorded on Mr. Peel's show, from
Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd to the Damned, Napalm Death, the Smiths,
the Birthday Party, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and the Pixies. More
recently the guests included Clinic, Elastica, Mouse on Mars, Gorky's
Zygotic Mynci, the Make-Up, Cat Power and Neko Case.
He was an unabashed advocate for hungry new bands. When the
Undertones, a British punk group, released their song "Teenage Kicks"
in 1978, it did not reach the pop charts, but Mr. Peel played it
relentlessly on his show and has long raved about the band as one of
his favorites; after his death was announced yesterday, Radio 1
played "Teenage Kicks" in tribute.
Born John Ravenscroft in Heswall, near Liverpool, Mr. Peel began his
radio career in the United States. He worked for a number of American
stations in the early 60's, including WRR in Dallas, and when he
returned to England in 1967 went to work for Radio London, a pirate
station that broadcast from a ship outside British territorial
waters. Later that year he was hired as one of the first D.J.'s on
the BBC's new all-pop station, Radio 1.
His live studio performances began as a way to comply with
broadcasting rules. A legal requirement of radio stations at the
time, limited the amount of time that could be devoted to playing
records; the Radio 1 crew met the requirement by bringing in new
groups eager for radio play.
Mr. Peel was on Radio 1 three times a week, and since 1998 also had a
program on Radio 4 called "Home Truths," about family life.
He was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1998. Besides his
wife, his survivors include four children.
Mr. Peel's show has remained a popular attraction for young bands
seeking exposure and, more importantly, the imprimatur of a Peel
Session. In an interview in 2002, Mr. Peel said he received more than
200 CD's a week, but he was modest about his influence as a
"You get a lot of credit for putting these bands on the radio, but
the fact is that it's like being the editor of a newspaper - you
don't claim credit for the news," he said.
"It's not up to me to discover them - bands discover themselves," he
said. "They make the records; the records arrive. I think, 'Let's
play it on the radio,' and when they come over here, I think, 'Let's
book them for a session.' It's very little to do with me, to be