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There's been an awful lot said about John and about his connection with The Undertones. As well as the obvious help he gave the band, there was also the fact that his show was where we heard many of the records and bands that inspired us. He was also as nice and as decent in real life as you would imagine from listening to him on the radio.

Michael Bradley - The Undertones

















I was numbed when I heard about John’s death. My deepest sympathy goes out to his wife and family. My memory of John is of his unconditional love and generosity to The Undertones.


My first encounter with John Peel was back in 1978 when as a smug teenager I phoned BBC Radio 1 and asked to speak to 'Mr Peel'. I guess I wanted to make him aware of The Undertones and have us associated with all the great records that he was playing on the radio. Unbelievably he took my call. He was so gracious, patient and considerate. This was the first link with John Peel and The Undertones.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1978 I would phone 'Mr Peel' and requested songs for the band’s friends. He played gems from the New York Dolls and would name check The Undertones, who at this time had no record deal.

Once we had recorded the Teenage Kicks EP it was dispatched immediately to “Mr Peel”. One of the greatest moments in my life was when 'Mr Peel' played our record on the Radio. It wasn’t the excitement of having our record played on the Radio, it was the fact that it was played on the John Peel show. He not only played it once but he played it again to the astonishment of a young bunch of lads from Derry. He left us speechless, this was beyond anything we could have imagined our wished for.

When The Undertones got a record deal on the back of the air play from John Peel and Peter Powell subsequently making it record of the week, we inevitably ended up in the UK, playing support to The Rezillos. During the time that we were in London I would phone Radio 1 and ask to speak to “Mr Peel” and sure enough he would take my call. I would give him an up to the minute report of how we were doing. He was so concerned about the apparent pitfalls and difficulties we would experience and the big bad world of Rock n Roll that he was always apologising. He felt so responsible towards us.

As our career gradually progressed I got the confidence to address “Mr Peel” as John. I always felt uncomfortable about that; I mean he was the Man.

When John came to Derry a few years ago to do the documentary on The Undertones I was a bit uncertain as how we would all get on. What will we talk about, is he not shy, what if he doesn’t like us, what if he gets bored? Even with all these thoughts I was so excited. Once again another precious opportunity came along to meet him.

I needn’t have worried. From the first polite handshake when we met to the crushing bear hug when he left he charmed his way into the hearts of not only the band but also every one that he encountered during his weekend stay in Derry.

When you hear about the death of some one whom you have so much respect and love for it is difficult to comprehend. They seem immortal, infallible. It’s so sad, so very sad. 'Mr Peel' you are the Man.


Billy Doherty - The Undertones































I was lucky enough to meet John Peel a couple of years ago when he came up to Derry to interview us for The Undertones documentary. It was the first time I had met him since the early days of The Undertones career about 20 years earlier. The most obvious thing you instantly got from him was genuine warmth of feeling that he had to everyone around him. He instantly had this knack of making you feel at ease that you almost forgot that he was this incredible legend, he became more like your favourite uncle or drinking buddy instead of being the most important and influential disc jockey in the recent history of rock and roll. He was a ‘one off’, a genuinely nice person who continued to have an indefatigable enthusiasm for all kinds of music.


I first started to listen to him when I was about 15 years old. By then I had discovered my brothers Beatles and Bob Dylan records and started reading the N.M.E. which at that time was by far the best of the music papers. The charts then, as now, was pretty woeful, and apart from the odd David Bowie or Roxy Music record to look forward to, Radio One’s output was as insipid and bland and the daytimes’ disc jockeys were themselves. That was until I started tuning into John Peel’s ‘Top Gear’ every Tuesday and Thursday night – it was then that my music education really began in earnest. And I’d say that my experience was pretty similar to the majority of people my age who developed an almost fanatical love and passion for music ever since. We all owe this incredible debt to him.

A couple of years later The Undertones had been formed and John Peels’ by then, nightly show was essential listening to all of us. I remember just before the first Ramones record came out, around the time he was championing ‘pub rock’ bands such as Dr Feelgood and Kilburn and the High Roads, that he played the latest Eddie and the Hot Rods record, ’ Live at the Marquee’. It became a bit of a watershed for us. Here was a band, obviously similarly influenced by British R+B but playing the songs at twice the speed. It literally hit a chord, or three, with us. Then, once he played the full side of the first Ramones record a couple of months later, that was it – we suddenly felt we weren’t alone. We may have been stuck in Derry with seemingly no future (man!) but the world suddenly got smaller, friendlier and full of possibilities. That’s what music does for you and that was exactly what it continually did for John Peel. He recognised the essential ingredient to the best music and in particular to the best rock and roll, is PASSION. The fact that he felt this from our first record will forever be as incredible a compliment as we could get. Of course we don’t deserve it. Of all the people he championed, The Faces made better singles, Joy Division and the Fall made more innovative records, Reggae and Hip Hop are better music forms, but the very fact Teenage Kicks will forever be linked to John Peel is about as great an accolade as any of us could ever have wished for.

He will be greatly missed.

John O'Neill - The Undertones



There is little one can add to the sentiments already so eloquently expressed on these pages, but I just thought I had to include mine. Like everyone, I was deeply saddened to hear of John's untimely passing. And like so many, I owe him a great debt of thanks for what he brought to my life through his programmes - It's such a cliche, but I really did grow up listening to him, and his voice is such a central part of the landscape of my memory that it is very hard to come to terms with yesterday's sudden news. Almost everything I heard, I heard it there first.


I can honestly say that the experiences of meeting him in Derry (having a meal in our local Italian with John Peel, for God's sake!) and being given the chance of recording a Peel session were two of the most thrilling moments in my life, with memories I shall cherish all the more today. To have been however small a part of that legacy is a real honour.

I was lucky to speak with him recently. I rang him in my capacity as a radio producer, to see if he'd come on and talk about his then-imminent 65th birthday. He said he was fed up talking about himself but he'd think about it. He didn't do it in the end - he'd been fielding calls like mine all that week, from all sorts of journalists, editors and producers - even some good ones - but I remember thinking that he was just too polite to say no.

As Michael has said, everyone knows how important John Peel was. That he was also such a thoroughly nice man for it is what made him truly special. His place in the hearts of all lovers of music is assured.


Paul McLoone - The Undertones

JOHN PEEL

(1939-2004)