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Monday, 30 August, 1999, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
Peel's still top of the pops
Radio 1 DJ John Peel
Peel: 32 years as Radio 1's rebel without a pause
Veteran DJ John Peel has been championing cutting edge music for more than three decades. As he turns 60, BBC Radio 1 has pledged not to put the legend out to pasture.

A former pirate radio star, Peel reaches 60 on Monday. He is the only remaining disc jockey from the original line-up when Radio 1 was launched in 1967.

While the likes of Tony Blackburn, David Hamilton and Dave Lee Travis have all fallen by the wayside, Peel's night-time show is still attracting listeners whose parents barely remember the 1960s.

"It's really gratifying that John is 60 and John is still playing this really adventurous music," gushes Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt.

"He will continue, as long as I am controller of Radio 1, to do exactly that."

Broadcasting legend

John Peel
The enemy of musical "porridge"
Wirral lad John Robert Parker Ravenscroft adopted the surname Peel during his pirate radio days.

Since he has become a broadcasting legend, promoting acts as diverse as The Smiths, Pulp and Jimi Hendrix.

"He's the most important individual in British rock music history," declares veteran radio producer John Walters.

He helped introduce the nation to drum 'n' bass and hip hop, but is perhaps most notorious for giving his devotees in the 1970s their first taste of punk.

However, Peel's love of music's cutting edge has put him on a collision course with the Radio 1 management and fellow DJs alike.

Hatred of mediocrity

He famously dismissed the mainstream output of the BBC's pop music station as "incredibly predictable porridge".

His hatred of "mediocrity" did not stop with just the playlist. Peel held Radio 1's stars such as Tony Blackburn and "Diddy" David Hamilton in equally low regard.

DJ Simon Bates
Simon Bates narrowly escaped the wrath of Peel
"As far as I was concerned they represented the enemy," Peel admits. He once hatched a plot to beat up Our Tune DJ Simon Bates in a BBC car park. Bates was nowhere to be found.

In the studio, Peel was just as willing to break the rules. One of Radio 1's only fans of punk, he became the first DJ to play a record twice in a row.

The track, the Undertones' Teenage Kicks, remains one of his favourite records to this day.

Young listeners

Peel, now a holder of the OBE, still hosts a late-night show three times a week. His straightforward style, and occasional blunders, have seen him voted Melody Maker's top DJ 11 times in a row.

"He's as important now as he's ever been," says Jarvis Cocker, whose band Pulp received their first playing on Peel's show in 1981.

The late-night programme boasts a following amongst the station's youngest listeners, attracting a high proportion of teenagers.

John Peel
The "Queen Mother" of Radio 1
"I'm old enough to be their grandfather. In the case of some of the uglier ones. I very possibly am," he jokes.

However, ventures beyond Radio 1 have attracted the scorn of Peel's former allies. Home Truths, a Radio 4 series which invites listeners to discuss their family lives, has been slammed by broadcaster Andy Kershaw.

The DJ calls the award-winning show "piffle". "Home Truths is cloying, sentimental and indulgent. I can't understand why he got involved with it."

"I've been upset by the hostility it has triggered," says Peel defending the programme. "Some criticism has been grotesquely personal."

Peel, who can count among his fans Prime Minister Tony Blair, has little to fear. "He's become like the Queen Mother," reckons John Walters. "Everyone loves him."

BBC Radio 1's John Peel Special is on Tuesday at 8pm.

The BBC's Max Flint: "John Peel is just as popular at 60 as he was at 30"
See also:

16 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Peel's birthday party
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