After John Peels death of a heart attack whilst on holiday with his with in Peru in 2004, an overwhelming amount of tributes flooded in for the 65 year old veteran BBC Radio 1 DJ. Its no surprise really as Peel had touched millions of lives in his 4 decade stint at radio one and championed new, cutting-edge, alternative music on his show when no other DJ would, thus helping countless bands and artistes achieve fame. Artistes such as The Undertones, Marc Bolan, The Fall, Pulp, The Damned and The White Stripes, just to name a few, would arguably never have reached their level of fame had it not been for Peel letting them play on one of his famous Peel sessions or playing their music on his show.
Its also no surprise that such an influential man would receive his far share of books and tributes. One of the first to come out, in November 2004, was by Mick Wall, respected writer for Sounds in the 70s, Kerrang! in its early days and Classic Rock magazine aswell as being the biographer of bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, among others. He was also a close friend to Peel but more than anything a fan. For that reason this book does read as a huge sending up of a man that really was already regarded as one of radio’s greatest and a national treasure.
It is obvious that Wall doesn’t have the greatest knowledge of Peels life, as although we manage to gain an essence of Peels feelings and attitudes in certain passages through second hand accounts, it does seem to skim over some of the more intricate details of his life. Such as his early experimentation with drugs and his adventures in the states in the 60’s, his personal friendship with Marc Bolan in the early 70’s and his controversial first marriage to then 15 year old Shirley Milburn. One thing that Wall does well though is to portray Peel as a man who was dedicated to his family and we get a great insight into his family life in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He also goes into a lot of detail of his early life living on the outskirts of Liverpool, lifting the veil on what turns out to be a very privileged upbringing which he subsequently rebelled against.
Overall, Mick Walls take on John Peel is more of a tribute than an in depth analytical biography. People who know very little about John Peel and want an introduction to his life will be content with this book. However those that want a more probing account of his life and believe that Mick Walls book is missing Peels laconic commentary are probably swayed more towards the Margrave Of The Marshes autobiography released in 2006. This contains half an account of his life written by the man himself before he died, finished by his wife.