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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Peel's lasting influence on music
By Tom Bishop
BBC News entertainment reporter

John Peel
John Peel championed new music for nearly 40 years on Radio 1
John Peel, who died one year ago on Tuesday, became a UK institution by introducing an eclectic mix of music to a BBC Radio 1 audience.

A passionate supporter of new music for nearly 40 years, Peel helped acts such as David Bowie, Pulp, Joy Division, The Smiths and the White Stripes gain vital exposure.

How has the music world changed in the year following Peel's untimely death? Where do his listeners satisfy their appetite for unconventional acts, and how do leftfield musicians get themselves heard?

Radio 1 did not attempt to directly replace Peel, instead filling his late weekday timeslot with three DJs - Rob da Bank, Huw Stephens and Ras Kwame.

'Non-commercial' playlist

All three play "diverse, unpredictable and non-commercial" songs, with Stephens placing an emphasis on rock, Kwame playing hip hop and garage and Rob da Bank adding indie and dance. Fellow Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe continues to champion new music in his evening timeslot.

"John Peel fans may now find themselves listening to any of those four DJs, or to a range of shows on (digital station) 1Xtra or (alternative music station) XFm," said Music Week editor Ajax Scott.

"But while they all contain elements of what John played, none of the shows would follow him in playing Bulgarian nose flute music right next to the latest techno track from Belarus."

Art Brut singer Eddie Argos
We only get played on specialist shows, but it doesn't bother us
Art Brut singer Eddie Argos
Peel was given the freedom to be a true "broadcaster" - playing a wide and diverse range of songs - rather than a "narrowcaster" on a specialist, more focused show, Mr Scott said.

"It was the fact that he was so hard to pigeon-hole that earned him his cult following."

Eddie Argos, lead singer with eccentric rock band Art Brut, said upcoming acts greatly benefited from the kudos of Peel's endorsement.

"If a poster for a band you had never heard of contained an enthusiastic quote from John Peel, you knew it was always worth a look," he said.

Nevertheless over the past year Art Brut has built up its fan base by performing live - both headlining and supporting acts such as Oasis - and being played by DJs such as Rob da Bank.

"We only get played on specialist shows to be honest, but it doesn't bother us," he said.

Super Furry Animals
Super Furry Animals performed at a John Peel tribute concert
"Our band has managed to build up a big following in Europe, where we hardly get played on the radio at all."

Like rock band Arctic Monkeys - who reached number one primarily by attracting fans via their own website - Art Brut are boosting their profile by unconventional means. They encourage fans to call their own bands Art Brut and to cover their songs.

"Now we have an America Art Brut, a Southampton Art Brut and more," said Argos. "I don't really understand how promotion works but it's been good fun."

Festival stage

Art Brut joined acts such as Magic Numbers, The Go! Team and MIA on the inaugural John Peel Stage at this year's Glastonbury Festival, after its new bands tent was renamed in the DJ's honour.

"It just seemed like the natural thing to do," said co-organiser Emily Eavis. "A lot of people come to Glastonbury to see new bands and it seemed the most fitting way to remember John."

She added: "It was a great stage to book acts for because they were all keen to play in honour of John. We even had a little shrine to him at the back of the stage."

The John Peel Stage conveyed the eclectic spirit of his radio show, she said, and will become a permanent Glastonbury feature once the festival returns in 2007.

Laura Cantrell
We are always trying to find new and different ways to get heard
Laura Cantrell
US country singer Laura Cantrell was one of the last performers to be championed by Peel, who named her debut album Not the Tremblin' Kind "my favourite record of the last 10 years and possibly my life".

His support had a "palpable" impact on her career and helped her maintain a loyal UK following, she said.

"The fact that people heard me on John's programme means that my UK audiences are not just into country and western or folk music - their taste is more skewed. It is fantastic."

Over the past year Cantrell has joined major independent label Matador and returned to the UK to perform on Radio 1.

Earlier this month she joined bands including New Order and Super Furry Animals at a London concert as part of Radio 1's John Peel Day tribute, which comprised more than 300 gigs.

"It was great to see that the people in charge of the station since John's passing have been trying to keep that spirit of eclecticism alive," she said.

"As musicians we are always trying to find new and different ways to get heard. Any help we can get is always very welcome."


SEE ALSO
Selling the John Peel legend
25 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
John Peel Day gigs honour late DJ
14 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
Elton joins Peel tribute single
07 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
Tribute CD unites Peel favourites
21 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Tulip named to honour John Peel
23 Aug 05 |  Suffolk
New books on Peel 'distasteful'
06 Dec 04 |  Suffolk

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