Thanks for the music: the world rocks on John Peel Day
John Peel Day was a global event, but its constituent parts were as down to earth as the man himself. The life of the late DJ was celebrated in a manner he would have approved: new bands, many of them unsigned, playing at venues of varying sizes, from the backrooms of pubs to large concert-halls.
Marking one year since his final Radio 1 show, gigs were played in the US, New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Lithuania as well as across the UK.
Radio 1, the pop channel Peel joined at its birth, which organised the memorial together with his family, dedicated six hours of programming to the DJ, sending presenters out in radio cars to relay live music from Birmingham, Liverpool and Cardiff. The station also played recordings from a memorial concert held in his memory at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday night headlined by New Order, The Fall and the Super Furry Animals.
Through the day, Radio 1 gave airtime to some of Peel's favourite tracks, including the White Stripes' "Hotel Yorba", The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks", Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Underworld's "Born Slippy".
The music broadcaster died from a heart attack on 25 October 2004 on holiday in Peru. His life was not commemorated through music alone. Liverpool FC, another of his great loves, staged a tournament in his memory at its academy in Kirkby, where teams representing some of Liverpool's most famous musicians competed for the John Peel Memorial Trophy.
Peel's son, Tom Ravenscroft, entered his own team, Ravenscroft Stanley, playing against teams representing The Farm, The La's, Shack and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. There was also an organised bike ride from the south coast to the family home, Peel Acres, in Suffolk.
Peel championed many of the bands and artists who paid their respects, including Bloc Party, who played at the Birmingham Academy, the Mercury Music Prize winner Badly Drawn Boy, who performed in Manchester and Half Man Half Biscuit, who played Liverpool's Carling Academy.
The Eels and Royksopp took the stage at the Manchester Academy, K T Tunstall performed at the Sheffield Octagon and Black Mariah took over the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. And in Leeds Grammar School, which produced the Kaiser Chiefs, a 15-year-old pupil persuaded teachers to hold a tribute.
Radio 1 wants the second Thursday of October to become a fixture in the music world's calendar as a day to celebrate new music.
Jason Carter, the head of live music at Radio 1, who organised the day, said: "We wanted to make sure we continue his legacy and support a day of new music on whatever scale from pub gigs to arena dates. As soon as we announced it, everybody bought in to it. You only have to say the words 'John Peel Day' and everyone knows that means new music. It got its own head of steam. There were still people registering gigs this week."
Peel, born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft in Heswall, Wirral, in 1939, was among the UK's most influential music broadcasters during his 40-year career. On 22 October, he will be remembered in a special edition of Home Truths, the Radio 4 show he hosted, featuring his widow Sheila and their children at Peel Acres.
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