Sheffield Today 27th October 2004

Pop stars' tribute to legendary DJ Peel

SOUTH Yorkshire bands have paid glowing tributes to radio legend John Peel, the DJ who helped champion them in their fledgling careers.

Bernie Clifton

The veteran Radio 1 DJ, who died from a heart attack while on a working holiday in Peru, helped give the likes of Pulp, Human League and Def Leppard some of their earliest national exposure.
Peel also went on the record as being a fan of Sheffield itself. Married to Sheila and a father of four, his son Thomas went to university in the city and in 1999 he received an honorary degree from Sheffield Hallam University.
"I did go up with Sheila to take Thomas to Sheffield Hallam and, in fact, I visited him more than the others - I like Sheffield," he once said in an article about kids leaving home.
But it was his appetite to seek out and champion new bands and fresh sounds for which he will best be remembered.
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker said: "It would be absolutely impossible to write a history of the last 40 years of the British music scene without mentioning John Peel's name.
"He was one of those few people about whom you could truly say the world would have been a much different place without him. For many years he almost single-handedly championed new and challenging music in the UK.
"Through his radio sessions he allowed unknown and unsigned bands to be heard for the first time. Through his work with the BBC World Service he brought some of those same bands to a worldwide audience."
Cocker, from Intake, Sheffield, said: "On the few occasions I was fortunate enough to meet him I found him to be a witty but quite shy man who was completely unimpressed by the 'razzmatazz' of the music industry but who could instantly lay his hands on any obscure single you could mention hearing on his show whilst in your teens.
"In a world that is becoming ever more homogenised and pre-programmed, John Peel stuck up for the 'sore thumbs' of the music scene and I really can't think of anyone who could have done it better or who's going to do it now he's gone.
"I will miss him greatly and my utmost sympathy goes out to his friends and


Phil Oakey, singer with the Human League, said he was devastated by the news. "On a couple of occasions he was personally very kind to me when he didn't need to be," he said. "He helped us get our break. We did a session for him twice. And years later after we had made it he came up to me at an awards ceremony and took me on one side and told me 'me and my kids enjoy what you have been doing'.
"I have this memory of a man who went out of his way to be kind. I was so stunned I did not really say enough to him and I never have done."
Phil's first brush with Peel's influence was in 1978 when the band was striving for success. "He was playing our stuff when no-one else was interested. It was one of the classic steps along the way.
"He so obviously lived his whole life for music. He couldn't do what normal people do like watch TV or go out and get drunk because he must have spent so much time finding new stuff and championing it."
Peel was always respected for his eclectic taste. Innovative and uncommercial Sheffield act Cabaret Voltaire gained early airplay through Peel while at the other end of the musical spectrum, Def Leppard got a break through Peel's show and went on to become one of the UK's biggest musical exports.
Bass player Rick Savage said: "He was the first person to play our record on Radio 1. It would have been Get Your Rocks Off which was our self financed EP, before we had a recording contract.
"He was doing a roadshow down at the old Polytechnic in '78 and we went down just to give him a copy. He took it off us and said 'maybe'. We were not sure what he would do - at the time it was right at the height of the punk thing, but three weeks later he played it and rang us to tell us.
"He would give anybody a shot. Because it was John Peel it had so many spin-offs and helped open a few doors for us.
Peel was with Radio 1 from the start in 1967, establishing himself with the late night programme Top Gear.