Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Can't believe I missed this: John Peel is dead. One of the most influential DJs of all time -- right up there with Wolfman Jack, Alan Freed and Murray the K "the fifth Beatle." Peel had a huge impact on pioneering British music and, particularly, as an advocate of punk rock. Whenever an act appeared on BBC Radio for a "Peel session" on his show, you could guarantee you'd hear some of their best work. Among my favorite Peel sessions I own are discs from David Bowie, Joy Division and The White Stripes. The man constantly challenged his listeners by promoting new acts and breaking boundaries.
“If it wasn’t for John Peel, there would be no Joy Division and no New Order,” band member Bernard Sumner said. “He was one of the few people to give bands that played alternative music a chance to get heard, and he continued to be a champion of cutting-edge music throughout his life.” Read more about the man here or here.
Peel's death reminds us the radio can actually matter sometimes. I don't think I've actually regularly listened to any non-NPR radio since college, and that's because most radio stations in the U.S. today are timid, corporate owned mouthpieces with playlists determined by some boardroom somewhere. I loved our radio station in college, where the DJs could actually choose what music they wanted to play. Peel promoted reggae, hip-hop and punk on the sometimes conservative BBC, and championed acts ranging from Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie to The Smiths, The Fall, Pulp and Northern Irish punks The Undertones, whose “Teenage Kicks” Peel rated his favorite song. Peel was the world's most influential modern DJ. It's a shame the radio industry apparently wasn't listening.

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