John Peel

According to Friday’s Times, as part of an attempt to cut costs, the BBC plans to shut down two of its radio stations by the end of 2011. One of these is BBC Radio 6, better known as 6 Music.

Naturally, online campaigns protesting against the proposals have sprung up, and one name that has been mentioned repeatedly is that of much-loved and greatly-missed DJ, John Peel, who died suddenly following a heart attack in 2004.

As Phill Jupitus so simply yet perfectly put it, killing off 6 Music would be “an affront to the memory of John Peel.” David Bowie added that “6 Music keeps the spirit of broadcasters like John Peel alive, and for new artists to lose this station would be a great shame.”

Best known for his legendary Peel Sessions, which began in September 1967 and ran for 37 years, John Peel undoubtedly helped launch many a career, often by championing music that others would not play. In a 2002 BBC poll to discover the 100 Greatest Britons, he was even voted 43rd, some recognition for his services at BBC Radio 1 and with pirate radio station, Radio London, before that.

For anyone passionate about music, his Top Gear show on Radio 1 every Tuesday and Thursday night made for essential listening. Due to Musicians’ Union rules, he had to include a sizeable portion of non-recorded music in each programme, and, mercifully, live recordings were preferred to the usual chatter.

There exists a vast archive of Peel Sessions, containing 4,000 in all by more than 2,000 artists; including six by Pink Floyd and many from associated acts such as Roxy Music, Roy Harper and Robert Wyatt. Browse by artist or by year.

And so we return to 6 Music…

If you’d like to hear any Peel Session again, Marc Riley invites listeners to share which session they’d most like him to play – and why.

Everyone can listen to 6 Music online, so what better way to help a station in distress?

If you could, I’d like lots of Peel appreciation, as well as Sessions, today.

My favourite has to be Syd Barrett’s. Accompanied by David with Jerry Shirley on drums, recorded in February 1970 and aired the following month, this was later released on Peel’s Strange Fruit label and is an absolute must for any Syd fan.

Thoughts on 6 Music and the BBC in general are also quite welcome; I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking up other imaginative ways in which the corporation could cut back, rather than by scrapping their only radio station with a genuinely ‘alternative’ playlist and where, in true Peel tradition, new acts can be heard on a daily basis.

By the way, if you missed the John Peel tribute single – a version of the Buzzcocks number, ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?’, featuring David on rhythm guitar and benefiting Amnesty International – do look/listen out for it.


  1. ash

    I was looking for something else (John Peel saying all day that Pink Floyd would be onstage at 8pm, oh my God, those Spitfires, most memorable concert I have ever seen), when I came across this.

    Don’t you just love it!

    ash 😀

  2. Michèle

    I don’t know BBC Radio 6, but I don’t want any radio station to die, either in the UK or anywhere else in the world, even if it attracts a small audience. Diversity and freedom of choice are good.

    Here, we have a stupid law that forces every radio station to play at least 30% of French songs. It’s completely ridiculous.

    I generally don’t believe that signing an online petition can make a difference, but who knows? If anyone is interested, I found this petition.

    I would be delighted to hear the PF Peel session (12/05/1969) featuring ‘Daybreak’, ‘Cymbaline’, ‘Green Is The Colour’, ‘The Narrow Way’. I love these songs and this period of PF.

    • Michèle

      Sorry, I made a mistake and it’s even worse, French radio stations have the obligation to play at least 40% of French-speaking songs.

    • Dr. Rock

      I would be delighted to hear the PF Peel session (12/05/1969) featuring ‘Daybreak’, ‘Cymbaline’, ‘Green Is The Colour’, ‘The Narrow Way’. I love these songs and this period of PF.

      Me too!!! This is one of my favorite PF periods as well. In at least one interview I read, Gilmour was a bit dismissive of the “Narrow Way” buuuuut ooooh, that fabulous opening guitar, that acoustic ethereal stuff has always made me think of Pegasus romping in the clouds. (It’s even got the electronic horse sound effect.)

      When my buddies and I were young and beautiful and nineteen and wild in the suburbs and would collapse in someone’s den, after a days craziness we would often play “The Narrow Way.” We loooved it. ( I wish he could have seen us, all sprawled out on the shag carpeting and on couches, utterly wasted and happy listening to him.) There is a fabulous YouTube video of David singing Green is the Color, with his marvelous falsetto.

      I have to admit, when I mentally sometimes come up with an imaginary playlist for the ultimate David Gilmour Concert, it always includes the Narrow Way. I even like the lyrics, which David apparently didn’t. A

      nother song he’s apparently not fond of (and Richard Wright hated) that I love is the first Pink Floyd song I think David plays on: “It Would Be So Nice”. My friends all loved that one as well. It made everyone feel particularly wonderful, especially if one had had a “bad trip” that day. It’s so light and fun and gorgeously joyous. He would have to play that one for my imaginary “Ultimate David Gilmour concert” as well (where I picked the playlist–ha ha!).

      I’m really glad he did “Fat Old Sun” these last years. And “Dominoes”. Those are beyond fabulous. I wish he’d mine some more of the really old stuff. And I pray he finishes Syd’s “She Was a Millionaire, She Had Some Time to Spare…” song.

  3. Paul Sexton

    John played The Undertones “Teenage Kicks” twice, one after the other it was that good… quality!

    • FEd

      He loved it enough to have a lyric from the song engraved on his gravestone (Teenage dreams, so hard to beat), along with a Liverbird to show his passion for Liverpool and, most likely, Liverpool Football Club.

      Completely random Liverbird story – here.

      Although I often roll my eyes when people say it of others that they never met or knew, I really miss John Peel. He made you smile without trying. In fact, just hearing his name could cheer you because you associate so many good memories with him. What a gift that was.

      I wonder what he’d have had to say about that Liverbird story…

    • Michèle

      Sorry for my ignorance, but what exactly is a ‘liverbird’? How does it translate in French? (Not in my dictionary.) It looks like a cormorant, but not really.

      Maybe ‘LIVERbird’ gave its name to ‘LIVERpool’ ?

      I also wonder what the etymology of the word ‘Liverpool’ is. ‘Liver’ is ‘foie’ and ‘pool’ is ‘mare’/’étang’, here. La ‘mare du foie’? 8|

      I know, it’s completely off topic, but isn’t a wonderful educational site? 😉

    • FEd

      Sorry for my ignorance, but what exactly is a ‘liverbird’?

      It’s a mythical bird; definitely a sea bird, much like a cormorant.

      Although, I believe, it was supposed to be an eagle originally…

    • lorraine

      I also wonder what the etymology of the word ‘Liverpool’ is.

      Well, according to Wikipedia (so it must be true): “A likely derivation is connected with the Welsh word “Llif” meaning a flood, often used as the proper name for the Atlantic Ocean, whilst “pool” is in general in place names in England derived from the late British or Welsh “Pwll” meaing variously, a pool, an inlet or a pit.”

    • Michèle

      Thank you both very much.

      I also found this site and its five articles very worth reading, especially this one: ‘Liver Birds and Liverworts’.

    • Alessandra

      I also wonder what the etymology of the word ‘Liverpool’ is. ‘Liver’ is ‘foie’ and ‘pool’ is ‘mare’/’étang’, here. La ‘mare du foie’? 8|

      :)) I never thought about it. It’s just a disturbing vision!

      I’m happy Lorraine found a different etymology on Wikipedia.

  4. mikeT

    ‘Lo All.

    John Peel. Legend! I’m one of those Blokes who, by listening, taping, and BUYING!!! led me to the “world of music I know now!” There are many more, like Me. A few, that sound like a “fire in a pet shop”, I admit.

    Lists? The Peel list is too long! But amongst my favourites: Misty in Roots, Brit reggae band (B. Marley-ish), look up Live at the Counter Eurovision, if you can, cracking album! Rory G – anything. The Orb, they get better every time I hear them. Dreadzone are worth a listen too, if you have a nice tempo!

    This Man, Mr Peel, was better than Father Christmas!

    As far as the BBC6 thing goes, how many people lose per one Executive pay-pack! Eh!

    Some of them are worse than footballers…

  5. Rodrigo

    If Peru could be even more than Macchu Picchu on a tourist guide, it would be only with a David Gilmour concert in Lima ASAP.

    Please David, come to Lima, Peru!!

  6. Mal

    John Peel… Gone but not forgotten.

    I used to listen to Top Gear every week without fail. It was much better than the television programme of the same name! John Peel’s dry sense of humour was perfect for it. The Festive 50 Christmas chart was always worth listening to as well.

    I also enjoyed watching him on BBC’s Grumpy Old Men programme.

    I asked Marc Riley to consider playing any of the Floyd sessions, but I’d also like to hear Led Zeppelin or Captain Beefheart again.

    I’ve never listened to 6 Music but it would be a shame for it to be shut down if people enjoy it. I see that the average age of 6 Music listeners is 35, so I’m too old to listen anyway!

  7. Bruce

    What happened to the World economy? It’s like one day we woke up and there was no money. Seems like every 50 years or so there is a push in the attempt to bring about a global economy and every time that happens we all suffer.

    One thing that could be done is put 6 Music on a surviving station on the BBC. I agree that the up and coming artists need a way to get their music to the people.

    My thoughts on the matter.

  8. lorraine

    There’s some nice old footage of Syd that’s been put over him singing ‘Two of a Kind’, from the Peel Sessions. Sound quality ain’t bad either.

    As for the BBC scrapping 6 Music, I’d agree with Jeremy Dear (NUJ) in today’s Telegraph: “If the BBC has to look at savings, they should tackle executive pay rather than programmes or content. The BBC is simply caving in to political and commercial pressure.”

    The Director General is on £800,000 a year, I believe. (Presumably he’ll be able to claim expenses on top of that, god forbid he should have to pay for his own lunch). In fact, just sack anyone who claims lunch on expenses it’s generally a fair indicator that they’re a waste of space anyway.

    Apart from the obvious Pink Floyd ones, the Peel Session I’d like to hear is Restricted Code from 1981.

    • FEd

      The Director General is on £800,000 a year, I believe. (Presumably he’ll be able to claim expenses on top of that, god forbid he should have to pay for his own lunch). In fact, just sack anyone who claims lunch on expenses, it’s generally a fair indicator that they’re a waste of space anyway.

      Well said.

      And what do they pay Anne Robinson for scowling at people and reading from a auto-cue? £3m-a-year, is it? I remember reports, denied by the BBC, of a £10m ‘golden handcuffs’ deal, which beggars belief.

      Ditto Jeremy Clarkson, for that matter, for being a pompous, obnoxious arse.

      You can blame Mal for getting me on my Clarkson soapbox.

    • Taki

      Thanks for the link Lorraine! It’s really nice footage with a song that’s new for me…

      On-topic: you seem to suffer from the same disease as we do: we cut costs everywhere Mr and Mrs Average are concerned because we need the cash to comfort the banks and some other multinational corporations…


  9. mikeT

    Don’t get me started Fed.

    Hey man, I used to claim lunch expenses. A sandwich out of the local shop if I had time to eat. Then I’d drive home and get crumbs on my lap, seat, crevices, etc.

    Something has happened to the BBC over the past twenty years. And with the aid of modern technology they have pretty much failed. Remember the press in the 80s, Ref; repeats on the TV. Most BBC3/4 programmes are repeats already. The BBC iPlayer just about gets by – just. Meanwhile back on the farm… who was the bloke who, for “a laugh”, phoned a former girlfriend’s grandfather. And insulted him! Brand, yes, that was the idiot. and the other bloke, Ross. There are loads of them. Taking the piss! We only see a few of them on the TV screen though.

    How about those irritating flyers you seem to get, before a programme starts? I wonder how many lunches were knocked out of those? My mate’s kid could do better than that on his PC.

    Rant over. I cant quite put my finger on it. I must be as thick, as they think “we” are. BBC, the last British Gem, has started to lose its sparkle.

  10. Dom

    When he died, my mother pointed out that everyone grew up listening to John Peel. For my parents this was of course the 60s and 70s, for me this meant watching him present the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury, listening to Home Truths as Dad drove me to band practice each Saturday morning and of course, the show that was made for him, Grumpy Old Men. The day music died, indeed…

    As for 6 Music (or the Asian Network, which is also, sadly up for the chop), whilst I don’t listen to it (them), I do think the BBC’s digital stations are vastly important as they offer the diversity that we require as a society – not everyone wants the noise of Radio 1; not everyone wants Radios 4 and 3 etc. Cutting radio 6 is to narrow our scope down to only what is commercially viable, not culturally and artistically important.

    The BBC is a great institution that has done much for art and culture (in whatever form) since its inception, it would be a shame to lose that under the guise of ‘cost-cutting’. Still, if it make the Daily Mail-reading Conservative Right happy…

    x x x

  11. diana

    My God, how many memories!

    I lived in London in 1972, 1974, 1978,1982,1984… and I loved that man and sessions.

    6 Music aired “our” music and I miss John Peel and his genius…

    A lot of people are no more here with us, a lot of our friends are just memories… what a strange period my brain isn’t connected with my age (about 50…) and my soul is connected with a lot of friends in Heaven…

    Happy days my friends!


  12. DigTek

    Hi FED,

    Just a quick note that you may want to mention in a future post or something. Visitors using IE8 will find the blog looks better with ‘Compatibility View’ turned on.

    Otherwise, keep up the good work…

  13. Cloudbuster

    It is indeed a terrible shame that 6 Music is closing. I have heard though that the intention is to turn Radio 2 into a music orientated station.

    Also, I know this is completely off topic, but Fed, can you tell us about the songs/ remixes (Crazy Island, Sandbells, Take Some Time) on the David Gilmour home page?

    • FEd

      can you tell us about the songs/remixes (Crazy Island, Sandbells, Take Some Time) on the David Gilmour home page?

      I’m afraid not. They are added without fanfare because that’s the way David likes it, so all I can say is: I hope you like them.

  14. Michael

    FEd, please let the Master know that my pop, son and myself wish David a happy birthday on Saturday! A trip to the lake to haul in our catch isn’t complete without having his wonderful sounds energize our spirit and bless our bait.

    Best wishes from the yank in Arizona! 8)

  15. Alessandra

    I’m so sorry to hear they’re going to shut down BBC Radio 6. It’s not fair at all.

    I had a look at the Peel Sessions’ archive and it’s just a piece of music history. There are so many artists I’d like to listen to.

    Speaking about Pink Floyd, I think my choice would be the 12/05/1969 Session (Daybreak, Cymbaline, Green Is The Colour and The Narrow Way), but it’s hard to decide.

    The Syd Barrett one would be very interesting, too.

    I was also very glad to find the PFM, an Italian prog band, in the archive. It’s beautiful to see them featuring near the most famous artists of the world.

  16. sven tore

    Happy birthday to the greatest and a happy 1st anniversary wedding day to me. 😀

    It is an honour to have our weddings day on Dave’s birthday, you have been such a large inspiration for me and millions of others.

    Hope you will have a great day, and I hope we will hear some new music from you soon. 8)

    Sven Tore Sandanger, Norway

  17. Doug Jaynes

    Can you tell me if maybe you could do some more Shakespeare in the future? I love the one you did on your boat.

    Also how about an album of memories about or for Richard Wright;s memory? I know you lost a friend and his memory should maybe open your writing on how his friendship and the love of the man made you feel.


  18. AJ

    I came to this late but have enjoyed going through the Peel Session archives – great post FEd.

    I’d like to hear Leonard Cohen’s and David Bowie’s most of all. In fact, I think David Bowie will just buy 6 Music like Brian May nearly bought Planet Rock.

    RIP John Peel.

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