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Keeping it Peel

October 26, 2014

Peel Acres

It is ten years ago today that John Peel died.

I have been thinking about it a lot recently. I have been thinking of how huge an influence he had on my life (not just my record collection), and how therefore his death had a massive impact too. I expect this is true for many of his listeners my age: I still deeply needed him.

I have been trying to write a zine about it, but I don’t feel like I can adequately explain it, especially on a personal level. For a start, I wouldn’t have got into zines without him, meaning I wouldn’t be a co-ordinator for Sticky Institute, and I wouldn’t have made any of the friends I have in Melbourne. I wouldn’t be in Australia in the first place, as I wouldn’t have started writing about the music I loved, and met my wife through it, and moved here for her. I wouldn’t have such a deep belief in DIY culture, I’m sure of it. And it’s difficult, therefore, to articulate the extent to which he changed my life for the better.

Plus, it feels ridiculous saying to an Australian readership that your hero is a Radio One disc jockey. A person whose job it is to play a record, say what it was and who made it, and then play another one.

The group hug on Twitter tonight explains how it was a bit more complicated than that, though. And the main thing I can think of at the moment, bottle of red in hand, is this quote shared earlier on, snipped from between tracks in the 1990 Festive Fifty:

Before I play you the number 10 track, I’ve got a little yellow cut-out elephant, you know the type of thing, that people write notes on and so on, which I’ve been carrying around with me for quite some time. It says, “Hi, my name’s Clara, I’m 14, from Moseley in Birmingham. This is a dumb letter, in fact I don’t even know why I’m writing it, because it’s not like I have contacts with a band and can get special stuff for you: I don’t even know anyone else who listens to your programme. I can’t even phone up on the fluff line because my mum and stepdad would kill me. You’ll probably chuck this letter in the bin, or ignore it completely. Oh well, it’s tough being fourteen.” I know it is, Clara: this is for you.

Thanks for making being fourteen bearable, John. x

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