Wirral born pioneering DJ, broadcaster, producer, and journalist, John Peel arguably did more for modern music than any single broadcaster.
He helped launch the careers of countless musicians, including The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Nirvana, The Undertones, The Fall, Pink Floyd, T-Rex, David Bowie, The Cure, The Clash, The Damned, and Queen.
Creator of the famous Peel Sessions on Radio 1, his legacy was marked with a stage named in his honour at Glastonbury Festival – ‘The John Peel Stage’ – a tribute to the late and great DJ, commemorating his influence on new music culture.
Now highlights from his personal archive, featuring radio-played test pressings from landmark musicians, rare records, personal correspondence, and memorabilia, will be offered at auction for the first time ever, at Bonhams Knightsbridge.
The sale, Live In Session: Property From The John Peel Archive, will be held on the 14 June, the week before the long-awaited 50th anniversary of Glastonbury.
Items on offer will include a Mono Pressing LP ‘Two Virgins’, 1968, annotated by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which has an estimate of £15,000-20,000.
Katherine Schofield, Director of Bonhams Popular Culture department, commented, “John Peel had an incredible impact on the new music landscape. Without his passionate advocacy of emerging talent, generations of music lovers may never have heard the sounds of The Fall, The Undertones, The Sex Pistols, and countless others.
“This collection, offered directly by the family, comprises some of Peel’s most collectible and rare records, spanning decades in music – many of which are accompanied by letters from the artists or their management.
“A number of the test-pressings in this collection were the source of the first airplay for landmark songs. This sale offers a chance to own highlights from Peel’s unbeatable personal archive for the first time, and to share in Peel’s passion for music.”
The Ravenscroft family commented, “By virtue of the role he played in it, John/Dad was in a position to have access to many of the most celebrated people and events in the history of popular music. This is reflected in a wealth of souvenirs he collected throughout his life.
“He had not only a voracious appetite for vinyl, but a keen sense of what memorabilia, ephemera and correspondence might find an interested audience in decades to come (though it could be argued that this was achieved by a strategy of keeping almost everything that crossed his path).
“In going through the accumulation of 40 years of pop music moments, we decided that some of the most interesting items might find a home, with fans of his programme or of the artists whose music he played.
“Bonhams have assisted us to carefully select what is being offered for sale, and we hope these items find the attention and appreciation that we’re sure John/Dad would feel they warranted. We had no desire to split up his beloved record collection but have included in the sale a selection of particularly rare or unique records that do not take away from the integrity of his archive.”
Highlights of the sale include:
- John Lennon/Yoko Ono: A Mono Pressing LP ‘Two Virgins’ Annotated by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1968. Estimate: £15,000-20,000.
- The Rolling Stones: A Promotional Album LP Signed by the Band, 1969. Estimate: £6,000-8,000.
- Marc Bolan: An Unreleased LP ‘Hard On Love’, 1972. Estimate: £5,000-6,000.
- Queen: A ‘Queen II’ LP with hand-written letter from Freddie Mercury, 1974. Estimate: £1,000-1,500.
- The Damned: An LP ‘Damned Damned Damned’ Signed by the Band, 1977. Estimate: £1,500-2,000.
- Joy Division: A 7″ ‘An Ideal For Living’, 1978, with Letter from Stephen Morris. Estimate: £4,000-6,000.
- Sex Pistols: An Acetate ‘Nevermind Buzzcocks’. Estimate: £5,000-7,000.
- Nirvana: A 7″ Single ‘Love Buzz/Big Cheese’, 1988. Estimate: £3,000-4,000.
- The Clash: An 8″ Single ‘London Calling’, 1979. Estimate: £2,500-3,000.
- U2: A 7″ Single ‘Joshua Tree Collection’, 1987. Estimate: £1,500-2,000.
- Pink Floyd/John Peel: An Important ‘Evolutions’ Foil Poster. Estimate: £8,000- 10,000.
- Joy Division: A ‘Unknown Pleasures’ Poster. Estimate: £3,000-4,000.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience: A ‘Christmas On Earth’ Poster for Olympia, 1967. Estimate: £1,000-1,500.
- David Bowie: An Early Five-Sided Handwritten Letter With Stage Sketches, Signed. Estimate: £3,000-4,000.
- Yoko Ono: A Note Regarding Forthcoming Demos. Estimate: £1,000-2,000.
- John Peel Handwritten programme running orders. Estimate: £300-500
- An NME Award for Godlike Genius, presented to John Peel in1993. Estimate: £800-1,200.
- A Horn Gramophone, First Half 20th Century. From John Peel’s desk in his studio at his home in Suffolk. Estimate: £800-1,200.
About John Peel
John Ravenscroft was born in Heswall in 1939 and known professionally as John Peel. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting from 1967 until 2004. As well as his wit and passion, the show was particularly notable for ‘the Peel Sessions’, which ordinarily consisted of four songs recorded by an artist live in the BBC’s studios – often providing the first major national outlet to upcoming bands.
In the 1980s Peel became one of the regular presenters on Top of the Pops, and later presented the popular BBC Radio 4 show Home Truths. Peel often appeared on BBC music programmes and live coverage, notably for Glastonbury Festival.
Peel was an early proponent of Psychedelia and Punk music and later Hip Hop, Reggae, Grunge and Drum ‘n’ Bass as well as having a reputation for launching unsigned acts to fame. Throughout his career he received and collected an enormous volume of records, CDs, and tapes from hopeful musicians looking for their big break on the airwaves.