Sunday, 25 October 2009

RIP John Peel - I still miss you!

Five years ago today John Peel died. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news - I was in Rome with a bunch of Americans who had never heard of him. I struggled to explain to them who he was, and why he was important to me. To say 'well he always played really great records' sounded so trivial. I couldn't find the words for everything else he represented.

He did of course play really great records. He turned me on to some of my favourite all time bands, from The Undertones to Aphex Twin and Franz Ferdiand. I owe all these treasures to JP.

Yet there was definitely more to him than that. He was a bit like David Attenborough dressing in the same old blue shirt and chinos to let the nature do the talking. John, with his slightly amateurish presenting style, bushy beard and cup of tea, just let the music do the talking.

That's not to say he wasn't charismatic. He had a wicked sense of humour and I have fond memories of watching him and Jo Whiley sitting on bales of straw at Glastonbury discussing the latest bands. In 2005, the first year after his death, his lack of presence at the festival created a huge void.

When I hear of a famous person dying I respect the tragedy for the family and loss of talent to society, but I generally feel no more. Why should I? I never knew them. However when John died I felt genuinely gutted. I knew his death was going to create a massive hole in my life. It has and I still miss him.

There's a few good John Peel things doing rounds on the internet. Sweeping the Nation have posted a documentary from 2006 with a great interview from Jack White. BBC 6 Music have also done a tribute podcast, which inclues highlights from this year's Electric Proms.

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