John Peel
A Fan's Notes

Even 48 hours later, it feels like nothing will be the same again.

Like everyone who grew up taping one show, whose ideas about the boundaries of listenability were stretched and shaped by it, who found almost every band I ever really loved through it, I can't imagine a world without John Peel.

For 40 years, British music was based on one certainty. No matter how obscure, violent, atonal, amateurish or plain deranged a record was, John Peel would play it. The obituaries have fixed on his role as the great incubator of British rock'n'roll, the first to play everyone from Hendrix to the White Stripes, the springboard for punk and indie.

But at the core of the show were the songs he played that never were picked up by the mainstream. Night after night, year after year, you'd hear records, artists, labels and whole genres that no-one else would ever play. For many bands - some great, some dire - a Peel session was the apex of their career.

And if 40 years as the stubbornly eclectic voice of the underground is why John Peel was so admired, his voice is why we loved him. I can't remember a time before I heard it, rolling out of my little transistor radio when I should have been asleep, talking about his family, talking about Liverpool FC, and most of all talking about music in a way I'd never heard; like it was part of life and the point of life.

The show never changed: he'd play records, play live sessions, then talk while he fumbled with the turntable, the tape deck, the CD drive. At least once a show he'd cue the wrong song, choose the wrong speed, start talking in a pause because he thought a track was over. In 40 years he never mastered the basic motor skills of the DJ, but that endless, gentle, amiable conversation with the listener, along with the constant, awesome music, made him unmissable. In later years, after I stopped being able to devote 6 hours a week to late-night radio, I'd catch a moment of the show after the pub or before bed, half-expecting it to be stale, and find myself shocked by a record, and laughing at one of his clumsy, awkward jokes. For 20 years, he never failed to keep me listening long after I meant to switch off.

And now he's gone. From today, young bands won't have the hope of getting their demo played on radio 1, and The Fall will, I guarantee, never get another spin on the BBC. And the shared rite of passage into music that's shown every teenager that the world is bigger than they could have imagined, that there really is nothing more thrilling than the perfect new record - I don't know where they'll find that now.