Gavin Esler talked to Michael Bradley of the Undertones, and Mark E Smith of the Fall following the death of veteran DJ John Peel.
Mark E Smith during the interview with Gavin Esler
Presenter: I'm joined now from Derry by Michael Bradley of the Undertones, and from Manchester by Mark E Smith of the Fall.
Michael, first, in Derry, we heard a bit from Feargal Sharkey there about how important John Peel was to getting you started, but how did you actually make that connection with him?
Michael: I think like hundreds of other bands, what you did was, if you made a record, and it was an independent record, you posted it to John Peel, Radio 1, London. And, er, hope for the best, and we did get the best.
He played it, he loved it, and so.. that's what people did in those days because there was nobody else to send it to.
Presenter: But, he helped you make your demo tapes as well, didn't he?
Michael: Yeah, we sent him, sent him our demo tape, but it wasn't very good, to be perfectly honest about it, but er he, he, liked something about it, and then he asked us then to go into a studio in Belfast to make another tape, and he paid for it himself, and he did eventually broadcast it wasn't very good quality either to be very honest about it.
Michael: But, er, he paid for it out of his own pocket, you know.
Presenter: Mark, what about you, was it the same story with the Fall?
[Mark is leaning back, head to one side]
Mark [eyes looking top right]: Er, er, no, not at all, er, I got in touch with him through, er, John Walters... his producer... [Looks down, chews a bit]
Presenter: and what happened, how did you get in touch, did you just phone him and said you'd got a band, or what?
Mark: Er, they just, just wrote to me and said, erm, you know, nobody else is going to er, put your music on the radio, so, but we will. So I appreciate him, and John for that.
Presenter: You wonder, Michael, how he got through all this stuff, I mean if everybody, every 16-year-old who had a guitar who wanted to make it sent John Peel a tape in the way that you did how would he ever listen to it all.
Michael: Well, as it said in the film there, he just put his head down and did it. He had a terrible conscience, erm, and he didn't really want to let anyone down and that was so obvious even whenever he came to Derry, he did er, a documentary film about the band and he came to Derry, anyone who stopped him and, er, 16-year-olds coming here looking to talk to him, he would stand and talk to him for as long as they wanted, and you know, we often had to move him on because otherwise he would still be there probably.
Presenter: Mark [now leaning into the camera], he seemed to become obsessed with The Fall, well, I suppose he became obsessed with lots of people from various points he's played endlessly and endlessly.
Must have been an incredible compliment.
Mark: [mouth gapes: does tongue thing]... what, for The Fall?
Mark: Yeah...[jabbery bit] Me and John had an agreement, you know, we never were friends or anything like that, you know, er, this is what I admired about him, he was always objective - people forget that.
Presenter: What did you, ah, just, erm, I'm interested to know what you thought of his programme, Mark, when you, when you, listened to it - presumably you did listen to it a lot - I mean what did you actually think of him as a broadcaster?
Mark: Ah, I listened, listened to it in like, the early 70s when I was a teenager and that, er [mouth tic], and I heard a lot of the Jamaican stuff and German stuff through, through, him, you know.
But, er, you know, we were always like, er, at arms distance..
Presenter: Mike, well you knew him a bit better, what did you make of him?
Michael: He was exactly the same whenever you met him in person as he was on the radio, and Mark's right there, when he said that he wasn't friendly with any of the bands, you know, we met him a couple of times, but he was, I think he was always very careful to keep his distance.
He didn't want to be, er, associated with any type of show business at all, he was er, very reluctant to take any credit for what he did on, on, er the radio.
All he ever described himself as doing was playing records.. he said he was incredibly lucky to be able to do that.. and he was very very self-effacing and er, very funny.
Presenter: (Mark exploring mouth again) [jabbery bit] Mark, that is amazing just to listen to that er tribute to him there from [indistinct].. that everybody, from T-Rex onwards, every generation seemed to find, or he seemed to find something for every generation, including The Fall.
Mark: ..er, am I allowed to speak now?
Presenter: yeah, go ahead...
Mark: er, right [chuckle] er, er, yeah, whatever, whatever you say. [looks a bit puzzled]
Mark: eh, are you the new one? Are you the new DJ? [Smiles: mouth/tongue thing]
Presenter: heh, probably, probably, Michael, a final thought on that.
Andy Kershaw called him the single most important figure in the history of British rock music, it's certainly true that British popular culture, er, Irish popular culture as well [Michael smiles] would have been very different without him, wouldn't it.
Michael: Oh, yeah, definitely, er, I think, you know, a lot of people would have the same taste as John Peel, it's just that very few of them made it onto a career on the radio.
We were kind of lucky that I suppose somebody with a bit of sense lasted so long at Radio 1, and for all sorts of bands if John Peel hadn't been there, you know, who knows, the records may have never made it onto the shelves
Presenter: OK, thank you both very much, thank you.
This interview was broadcast by Newsnight on Tuesday, 26 October, 2004.
Veteran broadcaster John Peel died on holiday in Peru on Monday, 25 October aged 65.