Tuesday, October 26, 2004

MORE ON PEEL: As you'll have gathered from various other sources, it is true; the only presenter to have survived from the first days of Radio One had a heart attack after dinner last night in Peru; the 65 year old didn't survive.

I never quite met him, although I did once watch a Marine Research gig over his shoulder; more importantly, my listening experience is run through with bands he introduced me to, or supported, or mentioned in passing. I've been listening to him a bloody long time; from back when I had a mono radio and he started at the classic time of ten o'clock; through hearing the Pixies for the first time while mucking about with Short Wave and catching him on the World Service; to the sweet delight of being able to timeshift the show with the Radio Player and catch up on a Saturday morning. The phrase "like nothing else on radio" is chucked about with abandon, but there are very few broadcasters who managed to do what he did - present a series of records so that you, genuinely, couldn't predict what sort of tune you'd hear next. In a playlisted world, he was genuinely, buggerdly, impossible to call.

And then there are the tales - of how he'd recounted the anecdote about covering the assasination of Kennedy so many times he'd started to doubt he was there himself, until he caught a glimpse of his younger self in the corner of a shot while watching a Kennedy documentary at Andy Kershaw's place; playing mandolin with Rod Stewart; whistling on the Altered Images album.

It's like part of the culture going - like a library burning.

Jenny Abramsky, Head of BBC Radio, has issued a statement:

I am very sorry to have to tell you that John Peel, one of BBC Radio's favourite presenters, died suddenly last night while on holiday in Peru.

John was a Radio 1 presenter since its beginning in 1967. In all the years since then, his unique gifts, his enthusiasm and interest in new music never waned, and many bands acknowledge their debt to him in their early days.

He's also been presenting Home Truths, a staple of Radio 4's Saturday morning schedule, for six years. It owes its success to John's unique ability to draw his interviewees out, to be interested but never intrusive, even when talking about the most private and personal topics.

His rare gifts as a presenter have been marked by several Sony Gold Awards, but more importantly than that, by the real affection of his audience on both networks, and of the production teams who worked with him.

John is simply irreplaceable. Our hearts go out to Sheila and his children.

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