You ask the questions: John Peel

(Such as: John Peel, if you're such a nice guy why do you call your wife the Pig?)

Wednesday 06 January 1999 01:02

Broadcaster John Peel, 59, was born in Heswell near Liverpool. After finishing his military service in 1962, he began his career as a DJ in America. In 1967 he returned to Britain and became one of the 22 DJs to launch Radio 1. He lives in Suffolk with his wife Sheila and they have four children.

Did you lose your indie credentials the day you met the Queen?

Jane Fisher, Leicester

I think the fact that I don't strive for "indie credentials" (whatever they might be) probably helps listeners come to terms with the fact that I could be their grandfather.

Don't you get bored with your Mr Nice Guy image?

Nigel Short, Nottingham

I'd rather people liked me than disliked me. There are times when I'd like to be a bit of a hooligan, though. Inside every quiet bloke there's a madman struggling to get out.

You're a 59-year-old landowner with an OBE - do you ever feel out of touch with your listeners?

Dan Lillier, Carshalton

Having an OBE hasn't really transformed my life. A lot of people will claim, before they are offered an honour of some sort, that they would turn it down. I did discuss it with the family and they said, "What would be the point of doing that?" and I couldn't come up with a convincing answer. We had a wonderful day out, it was incredibly interesting. My mum and dad would have been really proud of me. Do those read like excuses? As to the landowner, we have about eight acres. Two fields and scruffy copse, so it's hardly acres of rolling parkland with amusing follies and water features. I suspect listeners would be more appalled if I tried to be deeply street and a friend of the stars.

Which pop star fulfilled your expectations when you met them?

Wendy Spurling, Norfolk

I liked John Lennon a lot. Elton John used to be a nice bloke. I don't know what he's like now. Polly Harvey scares me. Courtney Love was really sweet to my daughters once. So was Kylie. I was able to get Tom Jones's autograph at Glastonbury.

You're well known for enjoying a happy marriage, so why do you call your wife the Pig?

Joe Morrison, Brighton

Sheila is called the Pig because she snorts when she laughs.

What was your most embarrassing moment on air?

Ken Holloway, Eastham

I took Bob Dylan's "Hurricane" off the turntable in the middle of playing it as a world exclusive. I do make a lot of mistakes on air. Cynics think I do it deliberately to be cute, but at my age? Come on. It's just that a) I'm listening to the records and b) I play music from almost every format so, for example, 7" singles that play at 331/2 can cause trouble.

Do you play obscure indie music just to be different? Surely you can't really like it?

Chris Norton, Hampstead, London

I don't play anything I don't like. I'm just curious to hear things I've not heard before, so I gravitate towards what you style "obscure", remembering John Lennon's dictum that avant-garde is French for bullshit.

Were you surprised not to be sacked after the Radio 1 shake-up?

Alice Taylor, Lincoln

I didn't think about it much. What I do is very different from what Simon Bates and Dave Lee Travis do. I'm not suggesting, said he quickly, that it is inherently better - just different. The BBC has tended to respect this difference despite the eternal conflict at its heart between the need to draw a big audience and the desire to attract a thoughtful audience.

Which band are you proudest of discovering?

Jack Steedman, Lewisham,


I really don't think of myself as discovering bands - any more than a newspaper editor discovers the news. I'm quite proud of having helped to make people aware of Captain Beefheart, I suppose.

What was the first record you bought, and the most recent?

Callum Alder, Sheffield

"Blue Tango" by Ray Martin & His Concert Orchestra. Most recent - "El Shaddai" by Jahmali (reggae).

When will you start listening to jazz, folk and classical music like most men your age?

Vic Shepherd, Whitstable

I listen to jazz on programmes introduced by Humphrey Lyttleton - a bit of a broadcasting hero - and I listen to Radio 3 a lot, mainly, in the hope of hearing something amazing I'd missed before. It still happens.

What would you be doing if you weren't a DJ?

Alex Deacon, Mansfield

I often wonder that myself.

Did punk change anything?

Sam North, Wrexham

Yes. It took the reins off everything from architecture to literature. You can see it in a more personal way in the clothes and haircuts of people in our village shop, anywhere. Liberation, that's what it was and it liberated itself from the entrepreneurs who sought to control it too.

Which do you think is the most innovative album of all time?

Jasmine Ewens, Stroud

Trout Mask Replica (Captain Beefheart) still sounds pretty astonishing to me.

Which band has given you the most pleasure over the years?

Emily Cohen, Chelmsford

The Fall - they are always the same but always different.

If you had to have a DJ moniker, what would it be?

Jessica Harris, Essex

DJ Pretty Tired would suit.

Does your wife ever tell you to turn the music down?

Angie Clifford, York

Sometimes, if she's on the phone. She does pretty much like the same stuff, although she's never come to terms with country.

Can you tell me something you haven't told a newspaper before?

Jo Stoppard, Camden, London

My late mother's boyfriend was Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi.

Which means the most to you, Liverpool Football Club or The Fall?

Zoe Tait, Liverpool


Is there any musical genre that you don't like?

Anna Lewis, Hove

I have trouble with opera and anything by Benjamin Britten.

What was your drug of choice in the Sixties?

Penny Evans, Cardiff

I smoked lots of grass in California.

What's your new year resolution?

Dale Thomson, Cambridge

To read more books, see more films, do something other than listen to 12" dance remixes all day.

Next Week

Daytime tv presenters Richard and Judy, Followed by Tara Palmer- Tomkinson

Send questions for TV husband-and-wife team Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, or "It" girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, to: You Ask The Questions, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL (fax 0171-293 2182; e-mail by noon on Friday, 8 January

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