The top story on the 2pm BBC radio news today was about John Peel's death from a heart attack while on holiday in Peru. What a loss! He was truly a unique person who can never be replaced...and I say that not as a cliche about someone who just died, but because he changed the way many of us listen to music. There's so much music I know I'd never have heard if it wasn't for him.
Although I listened to his radio programmes for many years, I only met him once, briefly, in London in October 1988 just outside BBC Broadcasting House at the top of Regent Street. I can still see him shoving a bag full of records into the back of his car as he prepared to drive back home. His producer, the late John Walters, was one of my tutors at the BBC Training Centre just up the road.
John Peel was still at it at the age of 65, of course. Unlike most other people who are still at it at that sort of age, he never became pathetic or a caricature of himself.
Listening to his Radio 1 show
exactly two weeks ago on a bus from Manchester to Scarborough I realized that he was still possessed by the spirit of the avantgarde: on a continuous quest to discover the musicians who are capturing the sound of their time
away from any mainstream compromise.
Thankfully the BBC has great archives and the Strange Fruit record label has already given us access to some of the best Peel Sessions
. His record shed should be turned into a world heritage site.