The Nation's Favourite -
The True Adventures of Radio 1

Extract

John Peel died suddenly on holiday in Peru at the age of 65. These are a few of the things he had to say.

Six years ago I conducted a series of interviews with John Peel at Radio 1 and in the wine bar nearby. It wasn’t difficult work: I turned on the tape-recorder and sat back, and after ten minutes of mild suspicion and Rioja he hit a groove of sad and funny stories that brought tears to his eyes and mine, and all I could do was hope the batteries were fresh.

My memory of him is of a hugely sensitive man who cared very much about his music and his family, but also about how he was regarded by others. A magazine interview he had given some months before had been very harsh on him, questioning whether he genuinely liked most of the records he played, and Peel had been terribly hurt by it. Looking back, it is significant how often in our conversations he considered his standing among his peers, and how much he relished his reputation as a pariah within the corporation.

This was a role he found useful to foster, but in truth he was a shy and quiet man, prone to internalising his anger. And he was immensely loyal; he knew that he could only function in public service broadcasting, and in time he became its best advertisement.

I had first met him eighteen years earlier when he provided the narration for a radio documentary I had written. I told him how thrilled I was to hear him voice my script, and was astonished when he replied that he was genuinely happy to have the extra work. The extent of his talents was not fully exploited until Home Truths many years later. His impact on so many lives has not been fully measured until this week.

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