Stowaway Heroes – John Peel

This week’s stowaway hero really is somebody who needs no introduction. John Peel remains a household name, not just in the UK, although people further afield may not quite be sure why he’s so special. A highly influential BBC Radio 1 DJ for five decades, I’ve always thought it was fair to say that he was single-handedly the inspiration for the radio station BBC 6 Music as well.

His blissful semi-professionalism was a wonderful part of his show, as he regularly played records at the wrong speed, and often made them sound much better in the process. It’s tempting to wonder if that might be why he championed the Cuban Boys (see here if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

An early champion of Joy Division, they appeared twice on his show and were played many more times. Here he is with the sad announcement of Ian Curtis‘s death in May 1980:

Pretty much any act worth their salt appeared on his show at some point, and you could pick any of them to showcase just how good the show was. Here’s my choice, The Human League, performing Being Boiled in 1978:

Sadly, Peel left us much too soon, dying in 2004, aged 65 – and while that would have made him nearly 80 at the time of writing, the world was a much richer place with his show in it. We all have different reasons to like Peel, but there’s really no way that he can’t be one of our stowaway heroes.

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