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1986-1989 - Fifty years of John

John PeelIn 1986, John managed to disentangle himself from Top Of The Pops - he'd never made a secret of feeling uncomfortable with the programme (although he'd still make the odd appearance in the 90s). He gave up television almost entirely, only resurrecting his small screen presence during the mid-90s, for the BBC's Glastonbury coverage and various one-off projects.

Musically, in the mid-to-late 80s John unearthed some unusual gems. He covered world music, Welsh-language indie bands and, in 1987, a hardcore invasion, headed-up by the brief and brash Napalm Death.

In October 1988, the John Peel Show moved to an earlier time slot, going forward an hour and a half to 8.30pm. It was the first schedule change for John, who'd enjoyed a lengthy and comfortable run of broadcasting at the same time every night, for over ten years. His audience figures doubled.

The end of the 80s was a time of mixed emotions for John. Another football tragedy struck in the summer of 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium during the FA Cup semi-final versus Nottingham Forest. John reacted by opening his next show with Aretha Franklin's version of "You'll Never Walk Alone", before bursting into tears on air.

Happier times were just round the corner. Friends organised a 50th birthday party for John at London's Subterranea Club, featuring live performances by The Fall and The Wedding Present amongst others. John was also presented with an award for being 'a decent bloke', which he received with tears in his eyes.

Musically, John always looked to the future and his final shows of 1989 included tracks by Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, Pixies, Tad, Mudhoney, James, Morrissey, De La Soul, 808 State, Senseless Things, Jesus Jones, New Order and a fledgling Nirvana.

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