In memory of Peelie

EMMA LEE Almost a year on from his death, more than 300 gigs will be held across the country today in memory of the legendary Suffolk broadcaster John Peel. EMMA LEE previews the first Peel Day and looks at other ways the influential DJ’s spirit is being kept alive.

EMMA LEE

Norwich Arts Centre is renowned as a place to catch up-and-coming bands before they hit the big time. Nirvana, Oasis and Coldplay are among the groups that have graced the St Benedict's venue on their way to the top.

But on one night in the mid-'90s, it wasn't the band on stage in the converted church that was causing the buzz.

It was a middle-aged, bearded man wearing an anorak who had sneaked in at the back of the auditorium.


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News of his arrival spread like wildfire. “John Peel's here - look, over there.”

Soon, music fans were queuing up to shake him by the hand - and he happily chatted away to them.

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When Peel died of a heart attack on holiday in Peru last October aged 65, it sparked sorrow across the generations.

Discovering his eclectic show on Radio 1 had been a teenage rite of passage for many - while others were fans of his Radio 4 programme Home Truths. He was admired by readers of both the NME and the Radio Times.

The obsessive music fan, who lived near Stowmarket, was a rarity in many ways. He didn't care about playlists or music genres - if he liked something he would play it, although possibly at the wrong speed.

He's credited with giving bands including The Smiths, Pulp and more recently The White Stripes their early breaks - but he was equally likely to play a Belgian happy hardcore dance track.

In recent years he had championed several bands from Norfolk including the Norwich groups Bearsuit and Kaito, and Magoo, from Narborough.

Last night Peel's wife Sheila was due to attend a special concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

Some of his favourite acts, including New Order, The Fall, Super Furry Animals, Laura Cantrell, Jawbone, Misty in Roots and Venetian Snares, marked the start of a series of tributes to him.

Today has been designated the BBC's John Peel Day, and more than 300 gigs are being held across Britain by artists including KT Tunstall, Royksopp, Dizzee Rascal and Bloc Party in memory of the broadcaster.

Three John Peel Day gigs are being held in Norwich. Bearsuit are headlining a show at the Nelson pub, Violet Violet top the bill at the Ferryboat in King Street and up and coming teen rockers The Subways' Waterfront concert is dedicated to Peel.

Other events are being held in Spain, Germany, Italy, America, Holland, New Zealand and Canada, and Radio 1 will broadcast a six-hour show from 7pm today featuring music from some of the nationwide gigs plus highlights of the Queen Elizabeth Hall tribute.

A single - a new version of Ever Fallen In Love by The Buzzcocks, which was one of Peel's favourite songs - featuring music legends such as Elton John, Roger Daltrey of The Who and Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant received its first play simultaneously across all the BBC radio stations on Monday.

Speaking of his decision to appear on the record, Sir Elton said: “It's always important to remember people who encouraged you and helped you early in your career.

“The thing I loved abut John was his passion for new music and his praise for things he totally believed in.” It is released on November 21 to coincide with Peel's induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and proceeds will go to Amnesty International.

A two-CD compilation featuring some of Peel's favourite artists from his near 40 years on air, ranging from Jimi Hendrix to New Order and PJ Harvey, will be released on Monday, the same day as his memoirs, which he had started writing and were completed by his family.

Part of the profits from the record will go to the East Anglian Children's Hospices, the Salvation Army and Kariandusi School Trust - set up for the advancement of education among children and young people in the Rift Valley of Kenya. Peel was patron of the trust.

Speaking about his career when he was awarded an OBE in 1998, Peel said: “You get free records, you get paid for playing them on the radio, I choose all the music for my own programme. . . . it seems to me to be almost the perfect life, really.”

NORWICH PEEL DAY GIGS

t The Nelson, Nelson Street. Bearsuit, Laila, Goathoven and DJs. Starts at 8pm. Admission free.

t The Ferryboat, King Street. Violet Violet, Zeeb?, DieAwayFromMe, Adrenochrome. Doors 7.30pm.

t The Waterfront, King Street. The Subways and the Kooks. The gig is sold out, but check with the box office for returns on 01603 508050.

t For updates visit www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/alt/johnpeel/johnpeelday

TV TRIBUTE

BBC Four will be broadcasting a night of programmes dedicated to Peel on Wednesday, October 26 - the first anniversary of his death. The evening begins with Dear John, presented by fellow Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley. Musicians, friends and fellow broadcasters will recall what Peel meant to them. Contributors include Nick Cave, Johnny Marr, Alan Hansen and John Humphrys.

It is followed by The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith, which looks at Peel's favourite band, The Fall and archive performances by some of the bands he championed including Pink Floyd, Joy Division, The Smiths and The White Stripes.

The evening closes with a look at another of his favourites, Captain Beefheart, a concert by PJ Harvey and a programme Peel made himself in 2001 about the career of The Undertones, who wrote his favourite ever track Teenage Kicks.

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