Good Night and Good Riddance : How Thirty-Five Years of John Peel Helped to Shape Modern Life
M ore than 10 years after his untimely death , John Peel — as an idea, a symbol, a cluster of fonder-than-fond memories, perhaps a reproachful ghost — still exerts a spell over the present. Countless websites and online forums are devoted to uploading and distributing home-taped recordings of his shows. BBC Radio 6 Music has inaugurated an annual lecture in his name. The Glastonbury festival has a John Peel stage. In , the BBC, which never seemed sure whether he was a marvel or a menace, renamed a wing of Broadcasting House after him. Given that the man claimed — not always definitively — to be more interested in the future than in the past, are these tributes in actual fact betrayals?
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Tellingly, Peel was placed at the end of the front row. Everyone agreed that Peel, who had been a pirate broadcaster, was the least likely of the broadcasting buccaneers to survive on dry land. Yet he outlasted all his contemporaries from that famous photograph and was still working at the BBC 37 years later, when he died, from a heart attack, in Peru on October 25th, By that time Peel had completed a remarkable odyssey from radio pariah to national treasure, a status barely dented by allegations that he made a year-old girl pregnant in Over pages he offers an assessment of programmes broadcast between and , each one displaying the presence of an uncompromising tastemaker.