When John Peel passed away, after the grieving for someone who, among thousands and thousands of people who had never met him, he was considered to be a friend and advisor, there was a concern felt by many that his programmes would also die. Initally, these concerns were allayed by the onemusic shows with three music lovers, Stevens, Kwame and Da Bank, and the retention of John's producer, Louise Kattenhorn. It would have been better without Stevens' tendency to have the volume level on his micorphone too high and Da Bank's insistence of having downtempo lounge music playing in the background when he is speaking between songs; however, the keen genuine interest and love of music of the three aforementioned DJs is obvious.
This week, the BBC has decided the time is right to finally seal John's coffin, and forget about him. Behold, it's Colin Murray. Murray seems like a nice guy but he is a professional DJ and TV presenter. He is not a music lover. No doubt, he is popular in the music business and can readily persuade bands to "do" interviews, but he is not a music lover. John Peel never sought kinship within the music business, he never felt the need to have lots of bands as mates and he never kissed anyone's arse. John Peel was respected for what he did, often from afar. There is a world of difference between thinking someone is a nice guy and respecting someone for what they do.
Why have the BBC made the change they have? Are they so obsessed with listening figures? No, I doubt that the number of people listening to Radio 1 between 10-00pm and midnight is of the highest importance. The BBC's decision is informed by stupidity: The BBC feels the need to give the public what they think the public wants, and, insultingly, after assuming that they type of music previously supported by John Peel applies only to the "youth", the BBC further assumes that young people won't take an interest in something unless it is presented in a manner that incorporates shouting, false excitement, hyperbole, overt pseudo-enthusiasm and other techniques that should really be confined to programmes for the under-fives.
John's style of presentation didn't change throughtout his broadcasting career, from Dallas to Radio Caroline to thirty-seven years at the BBC. He respected his listeners, he assumed they were intelligent and he assumed that they loved music. The only excitement John expressed occurred when a song genuinely affected him. John's show had the highest percentage of listeners aged under sixteen of any national music radio show. Young people liked his style. He spoke to them as an equal, he didn't speak down to them as a voice of authority, even though, clearly, he was a voice of authority.
I note that Stevens, Kwame and Da Bank's repsective shows are still present on Radio 1: Stevens is at midnight, Da Bank is at midnight on Sunday and Kwame is at 2-00 am. How could anyone who goes to school listen to the shows at those times? It was slightly comical that it took three young men to replace one old man. There are good potential successors to John Peel, two of whom work for the BBC: Roger Hill and Steve Barker.
Don't accuse me of sentimentality or nostalgia. John Peel's contribution to music can never be over-estimated. However, it wasn't just the music he played and the preparation for each show, including endless hours listening to new music, it was also his style, a natural style, that was important. Also, don't talk about the myriad of outlets for new music including internet radio, myspace, etc. The ease at which new music can be heard now doesn't diminish at all the need for a superior, unbiased and independent (of the music business) radio programme.
The BBC are morons.