Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of John Peel, the most influential DJ in the history of British radio and possibly even the world (it's arguable). Most affiliate a good disc jockey with a listenable voice but the best are those who become tastemakers for their community/listening base. They didn't make the music but they make sure that you hear it. John Peel was influential in launching many a band to stardom, such as Pink Floyd, but the five listed below could not have gotten by without a push from Peel far before their names went up in lights.
Other had recognized Roxy Music before John Peel; after all, they were opening a gig for Genesis when the DJ first caught them in action. He was transfixed however and he booked the group for four recording sessions on his Sounds of The Seventies radio program. This was during 1971, more than two years before the group released its debut. If you follow the logic that Roxy couldn't have made it without Peel, then you must also ultimately agree that the its members, including Bryan Ferry and legendary electronic artist Brian Eno, could never have spun their own projects without Peel either. After all, would anyone care about Here Come The Warm Jets if Eno had never been heard of before?
Peel first got wind of post-punk act Joy Division when it released the EP An Ideal For Living during 1978. He managed to get the group into his studio during 1979 to record their first session together (the band would release a later EP featuring its Peel recordings during 1986). A few months after Peel began playing the band, Joy Division would release Unknown Pleasures, an album that would find massive critical success. New Order formed, of course, after Division lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide.
Even if you think we're overhyping Peel's role in launching the careers of Roxy Music and Joy Division, even guitarist Johnny Marr acknowledges that the DJ was a major factor in The Smiths cracking into the big time, stating that the band's first attention was "largely due to the John Peel show." Admittedly, the group's early penchant for controversy within its lyrics didn't hurt the cause.
The fact that Peel reached out to Roxy Music two years before it released an album is fairly telling. However his initial contact with Pulp came far, far before the group struck it big. Jarvis Cocker, the frontman for the band, offered Peel a demo and eventually landed a session for the group during 1981. Again, the group would release its debut It two years later but Pulp didn't find true mainstream acceptance until 1994 with His 'n' Hers. Pulp had a modest collection of those in the know throughout the '80s and early '90s but only one person had been spinning them the entire time.
The White Stripes
Peel jumped on The White Stripes bandwagon after stumbling an imported version of the duo's self-titled debut, a critical hit in the U.S. but not on the same scale as releases such as White Blood Cells would later cause. The pair's impact on Peel's life was almost as great as his impact on their airplay in Europe. Following his death, Channel 4 revealed the contents of a box that held 130 of the DJ's favorite singles from every era. The Stripes came out on top by a long shot, placing 11 songs among Peel's favorites. He would describe them in his later days as important to music on a scale that rivaled Jimi Hendrix and The Sex Pistols.