Tuesday, October 26, 2004

john peel

It's with enormous sadness this post reflects on the death of John Peel. The overwhelming majority of good bands from the last 35 years have been helped by him, usually in an essential way at a crucial early point in their career when few others believed in them. Think about that. You simply cannot say anything like that about anyone else.

Without Peel, we may never have even heard of pioneers like Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, The Clash, The Smiths, Nirvana, so neither would we have had the music those artists inspired.

Not only did he break the innovators and great artists, but he gave space to all manner of odd little bands too. Practically everyone has a favourite underrated band who your mates haven't really heard of from years past, and the odds are that Peel championed them at the time.

When all the muso snobs were decrying it, he knew punk was the real deal. A decade later when I was one of those muso snobs decrying it, he immediately knew dance music was vibrant and challenging and real. In between he was the first prominent broadcaster to play hip-hop, and lots of it.

From heavy roots dub reggae to Strawberry Switchblade, from punk to Hank Wangford, from African hi-life to The Cure, Peel brought music to me and the nation that we'd simply never have found any other way.

He was the foremost purveyor of the idea that there really was life outside of the narrow minded confines of the place I was growing up in.

He gave us music that embodied the spirit to hold true to yourself, to fuck the smalltown bullshit and seek out a less homogenous, more exciting, more humane wider world, to maintain your enthusiasm for the new whilst not rejecting the old, to seek and find and celebrate creativity, always face forwards, never cave in to the narrow minds jealous of your vigour, vision and drive.

It's a spirit he always lived true to, which is why we're not mourning the loss of a great man from the 70s, but a great man from the 70s onwards to the day he died, who didn't compromise or wuss out, or get cynical, safe or dull.

He lived as proof that you really can maintain passion your whole life through without mellowing or going mad.

He gave hundreds of truly great people the opportunity to shine and enrich the lives of millions to an incalculably large degree.

If music of the last 35 years means anything to you then you too should mourn his passing.

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