More John Peel

I think it was 1975 when I started listening to Peel. I’ve been on and off ever since, sometimes hardly missing a show for months on end, sometimes going equally long without hearing one. Even when I wasn’t listening, it meant something that he was still there. At a rough estimate, I have spent something like four to five thousand hours of my life listening to the Peel show on Radio 1.

It’s astonishing to think how much of my music collection is down to him. I’d been out at lunchtime and the one CD I bought was by Dillinja, someone who I’d first heard on Peel – and indeed it was Peel who first played jungle on BBC radio. And hardcore before it. As well as the punk and indie and rock stuff with which he is most associated, his show was the first place I heard so many soul and reggae and hip hop and techno and African artists that I love, plus odd unexpected chart acts like Terence Trent D’Arby and Kelis and Pink.

I think there’s another reason why this has affected me more than most celebrity deaths. I never met Peel, but he always talked a lot about his family. You often see “survived by a husband/wife and X children” in obit reports, but you don’t generally know anything about these people. This time it’s so painfully much easier to imagine the grief of his wife and children.