The archive is part of The Space, an online arts project managed by Arts Council England, in partnership with the BBC.
Peel, born John Ravenscroft on the 30th of August, 1939, was one of the founding DJs on BBC Radio 1 when it launched in 1967, and was a regular broadcaster on the station until his death in October of 2004. Over the course of those 37 years he oversaw 4,000 live recordings, known as 'Peel Sessions', with a staggering array of artists from a multitude of genres (a full list of Peel Sessions can be found here).
It was the sheer breadth of his musical enthusiasm that Peel was best known for. He would think nothing of following a quietly introspective indie rock track with grindcore, and was once known to exclaim that, had Elvis been alive to hear it, he would have understood the appeal of happy hardcore. Peel, later accompanied by his producer and collaborator Roy Walters (who himself died in 2001), gave support to innumerable acts early in their careers, including David Bowie, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, The Undertones, The Fall, Joy Division, Billy Bragg, The Smiths, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Napalm Death, Orbital, Pulp and The White Stripes, and was an ardent supporter of new music until the day he died.
His epitaph, at his request, includes a portion of the lyric to 'Teenage Kicks' by The Undertones, and can be seen here.
On his reputation:
People ask me, "What was the best year for the music?" I always say, "This year is the best year for music. Prior to that it was the previous year."
On his methodology:
I never saw my programmes as all that radical - more an alternative to what was on at other times of the day. But at one time I was regarded within the corridors of the BBC as being the Baader-Meinhof Gang of British broadcasting, and treated with a certain amount of terror.
I listen to bands' demo tapes almost exclusively in the car in the two-hour drive home. The ones I don't like get thrown on the floor in the passenger's area and by the end of the week they swill about. The ones I do like get thrown over my shoulder into the back seat, and then harvested at the end of the week. I know that I'm going to die trying to read the name of some band in the headlights of a car behind me, and then drive into a truck in front. People will say, 'Oh, this is the way he would have wanted to go.