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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Peel's huge impact on music
John Peel with Jarvis Cocker
He gave Pulp a radio session 13 years before they found fame
John Peel, BBC Radio 1's longest-serving DJ, has died aged 65 while on holiday.

John Peel gave big breaks to more bands than anyone else in the UK music industry.

From Pulp and The Smiths to The Undertones and The White Stripes, he discovered some of the most popular and influential acts of the last few decades.

With extremely broad tastes, he championed all forms of alternative music and was one of the first to give punk, reggae, hip-hop, techno and drum 'n' bass exposure.

Almost every notable band - and hundreds more that have never quite reached notable status - have recorded a Peel Session, a live performance for his show.

Some, such as Blur, even performed at his home, Peel Acres, where he took to recording his shows.

U2, Nirvana, The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols and T-Rex are among the others he helped introduce to the public.

The Doors
The Doors were among the bands on John Peel's early shows
But his achievement was not just to give new bands a leg-up - he provided a soundtrack for the lives of several generations of listeners.

When he began broadcasting in the mid-1960s, the hippy era was in full swing and his Radio London show The Perfumed Garden was essential listening.

His playlist included The Doors, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, and he got the first play of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

He joined Radio 1 as the host of Top Gear, continuing to showcase his eclectic and intuitive tastes - despite the fact he said station managers hated him and wanted him to play pop.

Peel said the early 1970s were "kinda boring" - except for Roxy Music - before punk exploded at the end of the decade and he became a hero for another scene.

Peel is best-known for loving and championing The Undertones' song Teenage Kicks. He said he could not hear the punk anthem without bursting into tears.

Legend has it the band sent Peel a tape and he wrote back, signing his letter with a rubber stamp: "John Peel, The World's Most Boring Man."

Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey
His favourite song was The Undertones' Teenage Kicks
When Peel played the song, an executive from the Sire label signed the group.

He once played the song twice in a row on Radio 1 because "it doesn't get any better than this".

And he said he would like the song's line "our teenage dreams so hard to beat" on his tombstone.

The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks and The Clash were among other bands featured on his shows, often mixed with reggae and other styles.

He also helped usher in the next generation of rock artists such Joy Division and their later incarnation New Order, plus The Fall - who recorded a total of 24 Peel Sessions.

At that time, Pulp were starting out and singer Jarvis Cocker handed their first demo tape to Peel on one of his roadshows.

Peel invited them in to record a session in 1981, giving them their first national airplay - although it would be another 13 years before they would get mainstream acclaim.

The Smiths singer Morrissey
Peel was a champion of The Smiths' first single in 1983
With his roadshows, he took his record collection and favourite bands to nightclubs and colleges around the country, often with promising unsigned local bands on the bill.

If he liked them, it is said, he would give his DJ fee to the local band - to the annoyance of his wife.

Three years after the first Pulp session, Peel said he fell in love with The Smiths because he could not work out what their influences were - something he always looked for in a band.

He championed their first single, Hand in Glove, in 1983, when they too recorded their first Peel Session - but the song failed to reach the chart.

More than 20 years later, The Smiths are regarded as a seminal British band.

He also gave an early session to Nirvana, in 1989, and a more recent discovery was The White Stripes. Peel was in a Dutch record shop when he saw their first CD on import and bought it on a hunch.


"People say, what's gonna be the next big thing?" Peel once said. "But the pleasure for me is in not knowing. I like to be taken by surprise myself."

He eschewed the overly populist or popular - Oasis were among the few bands that did not record a session, and not because the band did not want to.

He said he did not want to be applauded for playing new music because "I'm just doing what I'm paid to do".

"Bands discover themselves - they make the records, the records arrive," he said.



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