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John Peel Day

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They treat their legendary radio DJs pretty well over there in the old UK: over 300 concerts took place — including a Joy Division-only set by New Order — Wednesday and Thursday to mark John Peel Day in honor of the BBC’s late, great radio man.

Anyone who has ever programmed a radio show based upon their own taste and instincts, anyone who has ever shared music with a friend would love to have the kind of influence, reception and longevity of the great Peel, who died at 65 of a heart attack while on vacation in Peru last October 25. Over the last 40 years, he likely exposed more people to more new music than anyone else on earth.

In addition to the concerts, BBC Radio 1 broadcast a six-hour tribute program Thursday night to commemorate the anniversary of Peel’s final show. At Wednesday’s kick-off show, which also featured Peel faves The Fall and Super Furry Animals, New Order frontman Bernard Sumner told the crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Hall that the band’s former incarnation, Joy Division, would have got “nowhere” without Peel’s support. Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker said Peel provided his musical education and inspired him to “make music my life.”

Peel joined the BBC’s Radio 1 in 1967 and did his late night music exploration show there for the rest of his life. In the early days Peel championed acts like T-Rex, David Bowie, Captain Beefheart, and Pink Floyd, as he did throughout his career, by giving them studio-time to record legendary “Peel sessions.”

In the early-1970s, John Peel moved away from the mainstream rock of Jimi Hendrix and The Who to the dramatic art-rock of Roxy Music, and then in the mid-’70s to punk. Bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Buzzcocks paved the way for new Peel discoveries like Joy Division and the Undertones, whose “Teenage Kicks” was his all-time favorite single.

The 1980s brought further joy, most notably in the form of The Fall and The Smiths, both refreshing counterblasts to the typically bland fare of the charts. He also gave an early session to Nirvana, in 1989, and a more recent discovery was The White Stripes. Peel was in a Dutch record shop when he saw their first CD on import and bought it on a hunch.

He championed all forms of “alternative” music and led the charge for punk, reggae, hip-hop, techno, drum ‘n’ bass, and more extreme music like, say, grindcore.

“People say, what’s gonna be the next big thing?” Peel once said. “But the pleasure for me is in not knowing. I like to be taken by surprise myself.”

John Peel Day will be followed by a Radio 1 documentary, “Keeping It Peel,” on October 17, and a week of tribute shows on BBC digital radio station 6 Music beginning October 24.

AND, Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Robert Plant, David Gilmour and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks are due to appear on a tribute single alongside newer acts.

Since Peel always kept the focus on the music rather than himself, perhaps the playlist of the Radio 1 tribute has an eloquence all its own (click below to listen, requires Realplayer):

7pm Colin Murray and Edith Bowman

Introduction: Jarvis Cocker’s brief history of Peel
Track: Status Quo – ‘Depper & Down’
Peel Session: The Strokes – ‘Modern Age’
Peel Session: Vitalic – ‘Le Roc’
Around the UK: Zane Lowe in London, Vic Galloway in Glasgow, Donna Legge in Belfast, Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn in Cardiff, Mary Anne Hobbs in Liverpool, Nihal in Birmingham
Peel Session: Bloc Party – ‘Here We Are’
Peel Session: The Smiths – ‘What Difference Does It Make?’
Live: The Fall live at QEH
Gig Roundup
Track: DJ Chaos – ‘Too Late To Say I’m Sorry’ (Hardcore Remix)
Message: Thom Yorke
Track: Radiohead – ‘Kid A’
Peel Session: Nirvana – ‘Polly’
Peel Session: Specials – ‘Too Much Too Young’
Live: New Order – ‘Transmission’ live at QEH
Live: New Order – ‘Atmosphere’ live at QEH
Live: New Order – ‘Warsaw’ live at QEH
One Minute Wonder – Ronnie Ronalde – ‘Mocking Kill Yodel’
Track: Dave Clarke – ‘The Compass’
Around the UK: Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn in Cardiff
Message: Michael Palin
Michael’s choice: Barry Booth – ‘He’s Very Good With His Hands’
Peel Session: The Slits – ‘Shoplifting’
Track: Stanley Winston – ‘No More Guettos’
Live: Super Furry Animals – ‘Run Christian Run’ live at QEH
Live: Super Furry Animals – ‘Kilimera’ live at QEH
Gig Roundup
Track: High Contrast – ‘The Basement Track’
Around the UK: Nihal in Birmingham
Peel Session: Nick Cave/The Birthday Party – ‘Release The Bats’
Peel Live: Blur – ‘Song 2′ (Peel Acres)
Live: Misty In Roots – ‘Musiu Tunja’ live at QEH
Listen to 7-9pm

9-11pm Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley

Live: Misty In Roots – ‘Ghetto Of The City’ live at QEH
One Minute Wonder – Grandmaster Gareth – ‘Dr Dre Buys a Pint Of Milk’
Peel Session: Cat Power – ‘Deep Inside/Come On In My Kitchen’
Message: Jack White
Track: White Stripes – ‘You’re Pretty Good Looking For A Girl’
Around the UK: Zane Lowe
Around the UK: Donna Legge
Track: Pendulum – ‘The Terminal’
Steve’s Choice: Sabotage – ‘Standing Alone/Cold Girl’
Live: Laura Cantrell – ‘Bees’ live at QEH
Gig Roundup
Track: Extreme Noise Terror – ‘When Gods Burn’
Around the UK: Vic Galloway
Around the UK: Mary Anne Hobbs in Liverpool
Track: Half Man Half Biscuit – ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’
Live: Bloc Party in Birmingham
One Minute Wonder – The Caretaker – ‘One Thousand Memories’
Track: My Bloody Valentine – ‘Soon’
Message: Pet Shop Boys
Neil’s choice: David Bowie – ‘Ziggy Stardust’
Jo Whiley’s choice: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Maps’
Live: Jawbone – ‘Hi Di Hi’ live at QEH
Gig Roundup
Track: Wedding Present – ‘Brassneck’
Peel Session: Ivor Cutlor – ‘Life In A Scotch Sitting Room Vol 2 part 13′
Around the UK: Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn
Huw Stephens’ choice: Datblygu – ‘Cerddoriaeth Dant (Tooth Music)’
Track: The Ruts – ‘In A Rut’
Listen to 9-11pm

11pm-1am Annie Mac and Rob da Bank

Live: Venetian Snares live at QEH
One Minute Wonder: Fort Dax – ‘Heschl’s Gyri’
Track: Kando Bongo Man – ‘Sai’
Peel Session: Led Zepellin – ‘Whole Lot Of Love’
Around the UK: Nihal
Message: Brian Eno
Track: Brain Eno – ‘The Big Ship’
Rob da Bank’s choice: Captain Beefheart – ‘Abba Zabba’
Live: Scotch Egg live from Cardiff
Gig Roundup
Track: Jesus & the Mary Chain – ‘Psycho Candy’
Track: The Cuban Boys – ‘Cognocenti Vs Intelligencia (Hamster Dance)
Around the UK: Zane Lowe
Around the UK: Donna Legge
Peel Session: Culture – ‘Lion Rock’
Peel Live: PJ Harvey – ‘Sheila Na Gig’
Live: Acid Casuals in Cardiff
One Minute Wonder – Boredoms – ‘Nocore Punk’
Pig’s Big 78: Len Fillis & His Novelty Orchestra – ‘Would You Like To Take A Walk/Reaching For The Moon/You’re Driving Me Crazy’
Track: Black Keys – ‘See You Free’
Around the UK: Vic Galloway
Track: Cornershop – ‘Topknot’
Around the UK: Mary Anne Hobbs
Live: Drop The Line live in Liverpool
Gig Roundup
Peel Session: Steveless – ‘Answers’
Track: Bong Ra – ‘Hello My Cock is an Aardvark’
Track: Dick Dale – ‘Peter Gunn’
Live: Kid 606 live in Liverpool
Track: Roy Harper – ‘When an Old Cricketer…’
Track: Maloko – ‘In The Midnight Hour’
Listen to 11-1am

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About Eric Olsen

  • Michael J. West

    As an American, what’s interesting about John Peel to me is that we have no real equivalent over here. There is no one figure who brought underground and alternative music to the American masses; maybe it’s just that the U.S. is too big and regional, or that there’s no nationalized radio/TV. Whatever; point is, it’s hard for Americans to grasp, but John Peel was truly a major force and is as influential in pop evolution as most musicians.

  • Webbie

    If it wasn’t for Peelie I wouldn’t be here. Seriously.
    I’m not a musician, I wasn’t in any of the bands that John Peel played on his show. But I used to listen to his show late night, every night during the week (before Radio One started fecking about with his schedule.)
    Hearing Peel’s anti-DJ approach [just play the records] to the job inspired me.
    But listening to the bands that he played especially inspired me.

    Now twenty years later I am married and living in the USA and good friends with one of the bands that John discovered all those years ago.
    Never saw that one coming.

    Peelie – wherever you are.

    Cheers mate.

  • Eric Olsen

    MJW, probably the closest we have is someone like Dr Demento – so that’s a pretty extreme difference!

    very nice tribute Webbie, and congrats!