John Peel's Desert Island Discs

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of his passing, and as a memorial to his exquisite taste, here are John's Desert Island Discs.

Originally broadcast on BBC Radio Four in January 1990, John's Desert Island Discs tell the story of his life, standing as a testament to his eclectic and uncompromising taste in music, which he describes during the show with his own inimitable wit:

"I like it when people are making records because they have to be made. If they are in any way successful there comes a point where they are making records to order, not just to the requirements of the record company, accountants and so forth, but also to the audience. A mass audience having a record by a particular band, want something which is vaguely similar the next time out, it's a bit like when you buy cornflakes, and go to the supermarket to buy them again, you don't want them to be ginger-flavoured or something whimsical like that, you want them to be pretty much like they were previously".

We've adapted the program to our Record Box format; using his own words from the show, recording his choices (on his broadcast room turntable) using records from his collection, and photographing the sleeves so that you can actually browse through John's own Desert Island Discs.

You can listen to the show in full on the BBC website here.

George Frideric Handel - Zadok the Priest 1685

The first record would be Zadok the Priest as recorded at the coronation of George VI. Somebody in my study at school - you were moved around as a junior boy from study to study and each term and obviously hoped that you didn't fall in with some of the more disagreeable of the house - and one chap had a complete recording of the coronation of George VI. He was a man I much admired, mainly because of the way he overcame his stammer and his shyness, and his speech in 1941, 'A man stood at the gate of the year', I regard as one of the great recordings of all time, but this seldom fails to move me to tears.

"This seldom fails to move me to tears"

I'm not really quite sure why, I think that with all the things I like and all things that are done well anywhere on earth, it's like when people ask me as they often do what criteria do you apply to choosing records for the programme, I've never known the answer to that nor would I wish to know the answer to it because I feel that the core of everything that's worth doing there must be a kind of kernel, something which is unidentified and indescribable.

Roy Orbison - It's Over Impact! 1971

I was standing in the fog at Stowmarket station and there was no-one else on the platform waiting for the train to London and the only light was very diffused light through the fog, and I was standing at the end of the platform. And behind the station there's an industrial estate and very faintly and very tinnily from the industrial estate I could hear Roy Orbison's "It's Over" and it was a magical moment.

Jimmy Reed - Too Much Joy 1969

This is by Jimmy Reed, I moved to America when I completed my National Service and lived in Dallas, and everyone there used to listen to a program called Kats' Karavan (spelled with 2 K's) and the big hero on Kats' Karavan was Jimmy Reed - at the time I was going out with a girl called Nancy Bowling and this record was 'Our Tune'.

Misty in Roots - Live at the Counter Eurovision 79 People Unite 1979

This is from Misty in Roots at something called the Counter-Eurovision in Brussels in the late 1970's and the start of this sums up, I like to think anyway, if there is an ethic of anything we do on the Radio One programme this describes it.

"If there is an ethic of anything we do on the Radio One programme this describes it."

"When we tread this line, we walk for one reason. The reason is to help another man to think for himself. The music of our hearts is roots music, music which recalls history, because without the knowledge of your history you cannot determine your destiny.

The music about the present because if you're not conscious of the present you're like a cabbage in this society.

Music which tells about the future and the judgement which is to come. The music of our hearts is roots music."

The Undertones - Teenage Kicks Good Vibrations Records 1978

I was driving up to see Liverpool play and I was in a traffic jam round Stoke-on-Trent, I think, and I heard Peter Powell play the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" which I'd been playing for months, but to hear it played by someone else was a stupendous thing and I actually burst into floods of tears in the traffic jam - I'll try not to cry now...

" hear it played by someone else was a stupendous thing and I actually burst into floods of tears"

It has been widely reported that such was John?s enthusiasm for Teenage Kicks that he gave it twenty eight stars, using his star rating system that usually only went as high as three, however as you can see, John?s copy of the record has two stars and the infinity symbol.

Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor 1900

When my daughter Florence was born about 8 years ago, Sheila, my wife, was very ill and it turned out subsequently that we both feared for her safety really, she thought she was going to die and I rather suspected that she might as well, she lost a lot of weight and as I say was very ill indeed, and I had to sleep in another part of the house because she made so much noise when she was trying to sleep, and it sounds selfish but it was something that we agreed on as it was the only way that I could get any sleep, and she came to me about 4 o'clock one morning and said that she thought that the baby was about to be born and she climbed up onto the ledge above where I'd been sleeping in the room where I play my records and lay down and I went and made her a cup of tea and put on Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto.

"Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto means an immense amount to both of us still."

When it had finished we both drove off to the hospital, both of us thinking separately that she was going to be very ill, possibly die. In the event she was perfectly alright, and Florence was born, a most healthy and pugnacious child, and so Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto means an immense amount to both of us still.

John gave his copy of Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto to Florence on her 18th birthday, so was not available to record.

The Fall - Eat Y'self Fitter Rough Trade 1983

Over the past decade there's been one band whose music has pleased me more than anyone else's, that's been The Fall from Manchester, they're still around, I suppose they're one band who have lasted from one end of the decade to the other. Almost any of their records would give me great pleasure but Eat Yerself Fitter is a particular favourite.

The Four Brothers - Pasi Pano Pane Zviedzo Cooking Vinyl 1989

This is by the Four Brothers from Zimbabwe. A few years ago I went to Zimbabwe to open a British Consul exhibition on pop music, a replacement I should say for Dave Lee Travis who didn't want to go, so that kind of keeps you humble, the knowledge of that, and my wife came with me because I always insist that she goes everywhere because I just wouldn't like it if she didn't, and we went out into one of the townships to the Zaratoga Club to see the Four Brothers play and it was something like a film, someone asked her to dance and she's a very exuberant and lively dancer.

"I wish the Four Brothers could play at my birthday party"

She danced for about 3 numbers and when she left the dance floor everybody applauded like in a John Travolta film and I said to her later "I wish the Four Brothers could play at my birthday party" and she genuinely organised this without my knowing anything about it at all - we had a marquee in the garden and I wasn't allowed to go into it, and when I was allowed to go in, the Four Brothers were there, it was stupendous and I maintain they are the best live band I've ever seen.

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