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Reliving John Peel's Radio 1 show 'Top Gear'
John Peel in 1969
John Peel appeared regularly on the airwaves from 1967 until his death in 2004

BBC Leicester presenters have been telling the remarkable history behind their personal objects as part of the 'History of the World' project.

Chris Highton kept various documents from his time working as a technical operator at Radio 1 in the late 1960s.

One particularly interesting example is a programme running order from John Peel's show 'Top Gear', dated for transmission on Sunday 23 March 1969.

The paperwork was saved from being destroyed five years ago.

A radio life

Chris first applied to work at Radio 1 as a 16 year old, but was advised to do his A Levels and try again later.

John Peel's running order

At the age of 19 he found himself back at the BBC working as a technical operator across the national stations, and doing all he could to swap shifts onto his favourite music shows.

During this time many of the Radio 1 DJs has originally came from pirate stations and included Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Dave Cash and John Peel.

Chris has particularly strong memories of working with "the mad American" presenter Emperor Rosko.

"He used to ring up people like the Rolling Stones on a Saturday morning and I used to have to edit the tapes down, take all the swear words out of it, before it went on air."

While working on John Peel's show Chris would be in charge of playing in the reel to reel tapes of pre-recorded sessions with the top music acts of the day.

Chris said, "To come from school boy stuff, where I used to play my drums in my band and things like that, and wire the school up for records and things and play tapes in at Spring fairs, here I am with a legend like John Peel."

Looking after history

The running order from 23 March 1969 included sessions with The Moody Blues, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Free, and also featured the latest releases from bands including Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Fairport Convention and Family.

Chris Highton
Chris Highton worked at Radio 1 between 1968 and 1971

Chris is grateful to have the piece of radio history, even if it is no longer in perfect condition.

A couple of years ago he nearly lost a lot of his saved archives when his parents had a clear out.

By chance Chris called them to check the whereabouts of the running orders, after being prompted by an old friend, on the day they had been ripped in half and thrown away.

Luckily it was nothing a quick trip to the bin and some carefully placed sticky tape couldn't fix.

"The running order means a lot more to me than money, because that takes me way back to when I was a teenager and to those wonderful days in Radio 1 when you could reach the moon, and they did reach the moon in those days!"

To Chris the great rock artists of the 1960s will never die, and neither will presenters like the legendary John Peel.


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