Peel the layers…

I truly, madly, deeply cannot believe that John Peel is dead. In my entire adult lifetime, no death outside my immediate...

November 5, 2004

I truly, madly, deeply cannot believe that John Peel is dead. In my entire adult lifetime, no death outside my immediate family has made me more depressed. It has been a really shitty week.

John’s death this week completely overshadowed the re-election of a malapropistic

eco-terrorist to the White House, which would otherwise have had me in despair.

But why?

I am not a music junkie. Not even a music afficionado. Truthfully I just don’t DO music.

My affection was entirely remote and entirely verbal. I only truly encountered John in the quirky middle class haven of ‘Home Truths’ on Radio 4, where I have always felt rather pathetically at home, but he, as a posh ‘Old Salopian’ was perhaps somewhat ill at ease.

My Peel intimacies were salvaged in occasional Saturday mornings, lying in when the kids were self-catering downstairs and I could occasionally embrace the gentle, soaring humanism of a man who could interview a literally faceless and limbless quadruple amputee without showing any sense of condescension or pity.

Radio, uniquely among all media, does occasionally break through the pervasive triteness and lethargy of modern life. Howard Stern could not have done his ‘thang’ on TV. Certainly not at the outset. Radio is special. Virtually, almost, very nearly, just about, within touching distance of being a human-scale medium. The last one we have.

At the other end of the shock/schlock spectrum from Stern, the uniqueness of Peel was in his genuine self-assurance, rather than celebrity projection. He just ‘was’.

Of course his broadcasts were stylised and scripted. We know it’s not real, right?

But he retained a unique voice…which somehow managed to sound authentic in a world of habitual fakery.

Even another of my mersey-beat heroes, Roger McGough, in presenting the Peel tribute last Saturday, couldn’t begin to emulate that sense of ‘end of week’, ‘start of wholesome weekend with family’ catharsis…!

Amidst the hundreds of articles and celebrity tributes to this legend of music and radio, one touchingly ironic quote in NME from the man from the Wirral ‘imself has stuck with me…I’ll be using it often….

I have never made a stupid mistake. Only very, very clever ones.” John Peel

I’ve never seen a better crystallisation of his self-effacing wit.

A true democrat has died.

Please do not ‘Rest in Peace’ John. We still need you.

Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.

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