John Peel

 by Martin Belam, 26 October 2004

So farewell to John Peel, who died today of a sudden heart attack whilst on holiday in Peru. He was without a doubt the single most influential person on the way that my music taste developed (although my dad should get an honourary mention for letting me play his old Rolling Stones, Eddie Cochran, Elvis and Hollies 45s when I wanted to play at being a DJ when I was a very small youngster).

I met him once years ago, at a Happy Mondays gig at Dingwalls in Camden. He walked out of the venue next to me, so I struck up a conversation. Naturally he was very approachable, even when I asked the eminently stupid question "Don't you sometimes feel too old to be still be going out to gigs like this?". Peel was very polite but quite firm in his belief that since going to gigs was one of his favourite things to do he didn't see any reason to stop doing it even if was older than the majority of the people in the audience. It was something that stuck with me - and keeps coming back to haunt me now as I often look around venues where I struggle to see any faces of a similar age to mine.

I paid my own tribute to John today by finally shelling out for a copy of the Rough Trade Indiepop 1 compilation. I should note that the purchase wasn't influenced by Jem's relentless one-man online promotional campaign for the album, although that had already come close to breaking my willpower to resist the purchase. Virtually every track on the CD I would have first heard lying in a darkened bedroom in my early teens, headphones clamped to my ears, desperately hoping my parents wouldn't realise I was still awake and listening to the exotic sounds of the fantastic John Peel Radio Wingding.

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