My Mentor: Bobby Friction on John Peel
'John started pontificating about how he'd been the first to play bhangra'
Monday 11 February 2008
I grew up in Hounslow in west London, deep within the Asian community, obsessing over Prince and black and Asian music, but I was aware of John Peel through a few of my white friends. I knew how revolutionary he was and it was mad how often people spoke about him – he was a real cult.
In the early 1990s I went along to a Cornershop gig. It was my first journalistic assignment and I was so excited. I walked in and there was a man wearing a mod parka, and it was John Peel. He asked me what I thought and bought me a pint and all I could think was: "I'm hanging with John Peel".
The next time I met him was my first day in Radio 1 in 2002; his desk was next to mine. Within a couple of hours he started pontificating about how, even though we were there playing Asian music, he had played it first. He reeled off all these bhangra bands who he'd played in 1982.
John's manifesto just slipped out as he was talking. He'd say: "As long as you're playing the music you love, that's what you've got to do. Don't let them upstairs tell you what to do".
He slagged off management constantly, and it took me a little while to realise that he didn't hate management, he felt it was his duty to question every single thing that came down from up above.
We talked a lot during the week running up to the big anti-war march in London. I knew a lot of Islamic hip-hop would be coming out, and I thought I would have a fight on my hands to play it. When a track called Post 9/11 Blues by Riz MC came out, I thought, whatever happens, I'm going to play this on Radio 1. As soon as John Peel died it felt like he had reverted back to being the cult of John again. I went and spoke about him live on Sky News, and all I could think as I was doing it was that I had to keep mentioning that John was the first person to play hip-hop and bhangra on Radio 1.
You can listen to Bobby Friction play the latest in cutting edge Asian music week nights from 10pm on Asian Network Radio. Listen at www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork
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