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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
The master communicator
By Nicky Campbell
BBC Five Live presenter

John Peel was a broadcasting god. The Peelie you heard on the air was in every way the Peelie you met in the pub, chatted to in the record library and swapped gossip with in the corridor at Broadcasting House.

John Peel
Peel had been with Radio 1 since its launch in 1967

For any broadcaster that is the ultimate achievement. The man had a great brain.

He was erudite, knowledgeable and one of the most genuine people I've met in this or any other business.

He could also be achingly funny. When he was on the 8-10pm slot on Radio 1 I followed him from 10-12, and we got to know each other well.

Sometimes he'd make me laugh so much and always the ascerbic observation was delivered with the pointed and yet disappointed John Peel wryness.

'Deeply thoughtful'

When once I mentioned that one of our weird and wonderful colleagues had told me he patronised several charities, Peelie painfully sighed, "And can't you just hear him."

The then-controller, Johnny Beerling, had a command posted up on the studio wall in bright colours to remind us all not to get too carried away. It read: "One thought - one link."

John Peel
I looked through the glass from my adjacent studio and John was just weeping. Silently.

John found that hilarious and for Peelie to receive such a bumptious and presumptuous instruction was plainly ludicrous. He was a deeply thoughtful man with a fascinating intelligence.

His command of the mother tongue - forged by a post-war upbringing and then the radicalism of the 1960s, and throughout a manifest love of language - was inspiring to listen to.

He was a master craftsman. He was a master communicator. That, married to his perpetual adolescent love for the musically marginal and utterly outre was a wonderful combination.

He was a great guy to have a good gossip with whether about politics or the current state of Radio 1.

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I remember him once telling me playfully but with utter sincerity that another of our colleagues was "the most dangerous man he had ever met". Incidentally, he wasn't wrong.

And his strong sense of right and wrong, his hatred for bullies and charlatans and his humanity shone through all his work and came through the radio with every word and every record he played.

The Monday evening show after the Hillsborough tragedy was a piece of broadcasting I'll never forget.

He said nothing at the start of his show. He just played a record. A long slow record. It was Aretha Franklin's heart breaking gospel version of You'll Never Walk Alone.

I looked through the glass from my adjacent studio and John was just weeping. Silently. So were all of us - his listeners. Nothing more needed to be said.

I am pleased and proud to have known him, albeit a little. For my money, we have lost one of our greatest broadcasters.


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