John Peel first came to prominence in the UK with his post-midnight Perfumed Garden show on pirate Radio London. John was part of Radio 1’s launch team in September 1967 and presented Top Gear on the second day of broadcasting at the fledging station. But what’s this? Before the Marine Offences Act came into force in August 1967 John had already made it back to the mainland in a BBC Home Service feature, Peel’s Progress.
|Radio Times 6 June 1967|
Peel’s Progress was a short feature in the daily afternoon magazine programme Home this Afternoon. “Each week”, proclaimed the Radio Times, “John Peel talks about people and places he has come across as he walks from Land’s End to John O’Groats.” In actuality this isn't the John Peel. John had left Californian radio station KMEN in February 1967 and had joined Radio London by March. Chances are it was Tory MP William John Peel or, as Robin Carmody suggests, a former BBC scriptwriter of the same name. If you have any further information please let me know.
During John’s career he was increasingly used to introduce or narrate programmes with themes far removed from his usual musical tastes. He’s an example from 1968 which is, however, music-related, The Voice of Pop, looking at pop lyrics and censorship. Here’s how the Radio Times reported on the programme that was first broadcast on Saturday 19 September 1968. Note the appearance in the programme of Elektra Records boss Clive Selwood, who would go on to run Dandelion Records with John, and in the discussion afterwards, Gillian Reynolds then radio critic at The Guardian now of The Daily Telegraph.
In 1988 John provided the opening and closing announcements to a Radio 1 four-part series in which listeners talked “openly about romance, sex and love” in What’s Love Got to Do with It? John’s voice presumably offering reassuring, trusting bookends to the mix of frank vox pops. Here’s part of the second programme called Is That All There Is? Broadcast on 19 September 1988. Warning: this programme includes material of an sexual nature.
By the mid-90s John was presenting and narrating an increasing number of TV programmes. One such was the Channel 4 series Classic Trucks. Here’s an edition from that series about Britain’s post-war buses, Ticket to Ride. One can only assume that John found the early footage of buses in Ipswich of interest as it was just 16 miles down the road from Peel Acres. This programme was first broadcast on 24 January 1995. The recording is of the repeat on 30 April 1996.
And finally, in this random selection, everytime Radio 1 commissioned a new jingle package they recorded a DJ ident for John even though he rarely used them; on the occasions I heard his daily late-night show I can’t ever remember him playing it. So it fell to other DJs to play John’s jingle. Here from 30 March 1978, in a tantalisingly short clip, is Paul Gambaccini sitting for an absent Mr Peel.
Read more on the John Peel wiki site.