1980-1984 - New decade, new music
As the new decade dawned, John was still besotted with punk and the injection of venom it spat into a stale music scene. But his endless quest for the new and obscure meant that he was constantly looking for something that was going to shake things up a bit. By January, John had recorded sessions with UB40, Simple Minds and Bauhaus. His playlists were becoming ever more eclectic, and reggae tracks were making their first tentative outings on the BBC.
The close of 1982 heard John playing artists from yet another new musical direction: hip-hop. Now, any listener tuning into Peel would be likely to discover Dick Dale sandwiched between Grandmaster Flash and Robert Wyatt, with a bit of punk, reggae, new wave and Krautrock thrown in for good measure. Lovely.
The 1980s saw commercialism and marketing become the major driving forces behind getting bands onto the radio, but John remained determined to back the underdogs of the musical underground. Between 1980 and 1982 John had embraced sessions from New Order, a fledgling Pulp, The Cure and Cocteau Twins.
Ironically, this was also the period in which John made the majority of his memorable appearances on Top Of The Pops. Although his first go at presenting the programme was in 1968, and his only other time on the show had been as part of The Faces' line-up in 1971, in the 80s, he suddenly found himself presenting TOTP and introducing bubbly pop-tastic, big-haired acts like Bucks Fizz and Nicole - acts that totally went against the grain of Peel's underground ethos.
Some priceless footage of John's various TV appearances through the years.
Despite having to pay lip service to big-name, charting stars on Top Of The Pops, Peel continued to discover new bands and rope them in to record sessions. Peel's producer, John Walters, saw a band from Manchester perform at the University of London with a be-coiffed lead singer who had a fondness for dancing with daffodils. The Smiths were discovered and they played their first Peel Session in September 1983. Guitarist Johnny Marr penned The Smiths' classic "This Charming Man" especially for the session, claiming they didn't have enough songs to play.
Another Peel favourite was discovered during a show when John told his listeners that he was hungry. A plucky fella from Essex turned up to the Maida Vale studios with a copy of his demo and a Biryani curry in hand. Billy Bragg was rewarded for his efforts by being offered a session on the spot.
Other Peel-championed acts during this period included The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Wedding Present, whose lead singer, David Gedge, would become a lifelong friend of the Peel family. Gedge continued to record sessions for the show, even after The Wedding Present dissolved, under the name Cinerama.