The Best Session

Last Saturday would have been the 75th birthday of pioneer DJ John Peel, so BBC 6 music had a dedication to this champion of all sorts of music, who used to have a late night show on Radio 1 which most people listened to under their blankets as it was past their bedtime. 

The people who contributed was pretty much a who’s who of the great, the good and the strange but all originals. 

DJ Mary Anne Hobbs was a close friend of John and spent a lot of time at his family home, in the wilds of Essex where many bands went to record sessions for him which now form a wonderful archive of live music which is one of the best things about the BBC. She claimed that Peel had been fascinated by Elvis, and all his problems and thought that if he had had some time at Peel Acres he might have lived longer. Probably true. He also had a lot of visits from John Lennon who liked to travel on the London Underground to escape the bubble of the Beatles and loved the reaction of people who thought it was him, but of course it couldn’t be… 

Tom Robinson wrote to him and got hand written replies, which he still has, and when he became a musician, Peel was a champion of him and many others. 

Hearing Jarvis Cocker chatting with him all those years ago was utterly charming – the naive child yet to become a megastar. 

When Jo Whiley had her first child, she had doubts if having children was compatible with being involved in music, but seeing John with his large and much loved family inspired her to continue with both. 

I loved Liz Kershaw’s story of how she was at Peel’s funeral in the company of Billy Bragg, Robert Plant and Jack White, and they all let rip on ‘Abide with Me’. Who wouldn’t want a gig featuring them? 

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