January 30, 2022

John Peel: a visit to his record collection

BBC journalist Kevin Core paid a visit to the house in Suffolk where fabled DJ John Peel lived and breathed music. They talked to his son Tom Ravenscroft, who is now a DJ at 6 Music.

Spread across the house, the earliest LPs from the '60s are held in a long corridor of vinyl next to the DJ's studio, where he broadcast not only his Radio 1 shows, but hand-cut shows for British Forces in Germany using tape and a razor blade.

Because these records were placed in chronological order as Peel bought or was given them, a walk along the shelves sees the bright-eyed pop of his pirate radio days morph into British psychedelia and the glam and soul of the 70s.

In his study, were he worked at a standing desk with a typewriter, the album collection heads into the '90s and 2000s. These however don't include tens of thousands more 12 and seven inches stored elsewhere in the property.

Here, Peel filled in tens of thousands of filing cards representing each album. The alphabetised filing card offered a linked album number so the record could be found on the shelves.

For broadcast purposes, the DJ didn't trust the timings offered on the sleeve by the record company. Almost unbelievably, he stood with a stopwatch personally timing each track of the albums and typing up the result on to the filing card. This is a level of dedication Tom refers to as "basically a form of madness".

Each record also has Peel's "star system" of preferred plays, with three stars signifying it was probably played on air.

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