1998-1999 - OBEs and Home Truths
In 1998 John was invited to curate the prestigious Meltdown Festival: a two-week-long celebration of contemporary arts, hosted by London's Royal Festival Hall. The festival gave John the chance to plan his own programme, with a line-up of Peel favourites including Atari Teenage Riot, The Delgados and Cornershop. Meltdown coincided with the 1998 France World Cup, which meant that one night, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci had to wait until after 11pm to take the stage whilst England lost to Argentina. (Nonetheless, Peel was happy because Liverpool's Michael Owen scored, so the match wasn't all bad!)
In November, John went to Buckingham Palace to receive the Order of the British Empire. He did recognise the family name by insisting on being called John Ravenscroft, even after Buckingham Palace had him listed as Peel. Nevertheless, he would now be known as John Peel OBE.
John seemed to earn a gong every couple of years during the 90s and 00s, including Melody Maker's DJ Of The Year eleven times, the Sony Award for Broadcaster Of The Year in 1993, NME's 1994 Godlike Genius Award, numerous honorary degrees and doctorates, another Sony Gold Award in 2002, and in 2003 an induction into the Radio Academy's Hall Of Fame, alongside the Goons, Alan Freeman, Richard Dimbleby, Annie Nightingale and Alistair Cooke.
John hadn't only operated within the confines of Radio 1. He'd been broadcasting on the BBC World Service and he'd accumulated 30 years on the British Forces Broadcasting Service, BFBS. He also began broadcasting on VPRO Radio3 in the Netherlands and on Radio Eins in Germany. The advent of internet broadcasting and his shows being available on bbc.co.uk/radio gained John many more listeners around the world.
However, John's biggest new project was a new show on Radio 4. He began presenting Home Truths in 1998. When he took on the job, Peel requested that it be free from celebrities, as he found real life stories more entertaining. Stories from real British families flooded in.
John's 60th birthday in August 1999 coincided with the many retrospectives and celebrations surrounding the end of the millennium. The Radio Times put him on its front cover with a headline that read 'Do You Think I'm Sixty?', BBC Two televised a 'John Peel Night', which included a Peel documentary with contributions from anyone who was anyone in music. John's actual party was not televised, but it was a cracker nonetheless. The Fall, Cinerama and Dave Clarke all performed live. Perhaps the most magical part of the night came when John was presented with a gift from The Undertones' Damian O'Neill.
As legend has it, Damian was in his loft one day and found the original hand-written lyrics for Peel's all-time favourite song 'Teenage Kicks'. As it was John's birthday soon, and as he loved the song so much, Damian framed the lyrics and gave them to John at his party. John was suitably moved, yet another rock 'n' roll circle was complete, and the world of music looked on approvingly.