Favourite John Peel quotes

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Here are some of my favourite quotes from John's radio show for the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) in Germany:

It's time again for two hours of John Peel's Music, guaranteed to put a smile on your face, a song on your lips and something undescribable on your feet.

*working at BFBS*
It's wonderful down here at BFBS, because occasionally you get people coming around to sit in and watch the programme and listen to some of the sounds. And you know that they're gonna come in like 'I say, this is all jolly interesting, goodness me. So that's what a studio is, that's what a John Peel is like, is it?' And they sit there and then after about two records they crawl out like broken men.

A curious thing happened while that was going on: a member of the BFBS staff actually came into the studio and asked me about a record which I played on my domestic programme. She has actually taken an interest in the music, so of course she's been drummed out of the building as you can imagine, she's been beaten up by security people just around the back.

And from Richard, one of the three pieces of mail which arrived this week, and it says 'Look out for the german all-female ensemble called Breast. Have they made any records?' Well if they have I certainly wouldn't be able to play them on the BBC, not with a name like that, because at the BBC nobody has breasts of course. But here at BFBS they look at things very differently. I've got quite a reasonable set of breasts myself actually.

There's nowhere here to put my bicycle. In the old buildings, before we moved down here, I could take my bicycle and just leave it in somebody's office. But this can't be done any longer, because somebody whose job it is to go through all of the regulations to try and find things to obstruct people, and they came across the information... something to do with like, will the bicycle possibly foul the carpets in some way, although I'd like to see it doing it, or it constitutes a fire-hazard within the meaning of the act and all that kind of stuff. So it means that my bicycle is manacled to a parking-meter outside. But I did bring in the front wheel in case somebody stole that, and left that in the place where I normally leave my bicycle, to see exactly how much of a bicycle constitutes a bicycle. Because I had this problem once before with somebody else who would never allow me to bring my bicycle into their building, and I wanted to know how much of it you could bring in in parts before it became a bicycle. And of course people really aren't interested in these kinds of sophistries, they're more likely just to punch you in the face and tell you not to be such a smart aleck. But within the law, I think I'm right in saying, if you are riding a bicycle, then you are yourself part of that bicycle, so if the bicycle is banned from the building, then it seems logical that the rider should be as well, so in fact I shouldn't be here, as I am part of a bicycle, or indeed you could even say that I am a bicycle.

I was trying to get hold of a cup of coffee while that was going on and there is, immediately outside the door here, a large coffee making machine, but I'm told that this is for the use of BFBS UK only, which is quite wonderful. It's the kind of thing you think doesn't happen in 1984. I expect they got their own toilets somewhere as well, and their own lift, and they're probably allowed to bring their bicycles into the building, too. Privilege - what a wonderful thing it is. (plays a record)
Very pleased to report that the BFBS UK elitist coffee machine seems to have broken down. There are lots of puzzled looking men probably called Eric staring at it this very moment, hands on their hips.

Here's an oldie which I always enjoy, you probably loathe it, I don't know, don't really care. It's my programme, not yours.

Kevin (one of the engineers), our man in the studded leather bracelets and AC/DC tour jacket says that they sound like a very sick Judas Priest, but of course in my estimation Judas Priest sound like a very sick Judas Priest.

Charles (one of the producers) was also suggesting that we should get the Emerson, Lake & Palmer version of the same piece and play that in next week's programme. First person to take a step towards me with it, I tell you, he gets it.

A little scratchy towards the end, that's Barrington Levy and a ripple of applause for the BFBS equipment which was built out of old washing-machine parts in the late 1940s.

And this week's programme is being engineered by Nicky, who's loveliness is enough to drive fat men to drink, but in her defence she'll come and have a drink with you while you do it. But Kevin has dropped into the studio to tell me that he's just been to see, in the last week, Yes and Status Quo. So representatives from the Peel Foundation are taking him outside for a full frontal lobotomy in the hope that something can be done to improve his emotional condition.

*letters and phonecalls*
Not a great deal of mail this week, and I wish you would write, I'd be very grateful if you did, because BFBS interpret this as the programme becoming even less popular and it'll end up as being an insert into 'The pruning fork in peace and war - an eight part documentary starring Wendy Craig as nursy'. You have been warned.

And a letter, this is very welcome indeed, from Cyprus. It's been quite a long time since we had one from there, and it's from sapper Sam Parker in Nikosia, and as always I'll drag out the record to play you next week, but I just wanted you to know that your letter has arrived and has been greeted here with a great deal of excitement: 21 gun salute and massed brass bands playing in the street outside.

And here's a letter from Brad, who is Private Bradbury, from what looks like 1st Armoured Field Ambulance. Isn't that cheating? I don't know, I don't think you're allowed to do that. I mean the armoured ambulance is the sort of thing which happened in the First World War but not since. (plays a record)
I must admit I've been fantasising about those armoured field ambulances while the record was playing, the idea of the Red Cross on the back doors parting as they are thrown open and a 25-pounder sticking out of the back.

A card from Michael, and he says, could I play a record for his friend who has just come back from Nepal after two and a half years where he's been talking with the stones. I'm not entirely sure this isn't a medical condition actually, Michael. If the stones have been talking back to him, then I think we have real cause for concern.

Actually, judging by the amount of mail this week, I would say that the west's defences are being overlooked as you all sit there scribbling away on postcards and letters.

I'll play you another track from that LP before the end of the programme, cause I rather like it, I must admit. It's also the kind of record which gets people writing in to say 'I shall never listen to your programme again!' ... that kind of thing... and in a rather perverse way I enjoy that, which is why there's only about twenty of us left. We have a secret handshake and a tie and everything. We can recognize each other in the street.

And Kay wrote to me from Bielefeld, where he or she is stationed. He or she or uncommited, I don't know.

And this is from Section 25. I have to warn you that this copy of the record is pressed off centre. In fact all of the copies of the record that I've got are pressed off centre, and I've got four copies of it, cause they sent me a new one each time I complained that they were pressed off centre, and the new one was always pressed off centre. So this is for Micky who, if the postcard he sent me is to be believed, lives in the middle of a field, and he'll probably appreciate a record that's pressed off centre.

This is for Monty, who wanted something by Crass for Angelica, which I thought was stuff you put on top of cakes, but in this case it seems to be a person.

My day started off particularly well with a phonecall from Richard in Germany who told me, he says 'Do you want any wine? My father owns a vineyard.' Owns a vineyard??!! So I said 'Next time I come to Germany I shall come and stay with you - probably for several years'.
(plays a record)
I'm always very pleased to get letters or indeed phonecalls from anybody whose family own vineyards - or Mercedes Benz dealerships, or, because I have so many children, a toilet paper factory as well, if you want to get in touch.

Well I'm rather reluctant to get into more deeply military requests after all the mess I made with that 'S.T.A.G.O.N.' business earlier on. Simon says I still got it wrong, after what he said to me I misinterpreted it or something. Who really cares? I mean you all know what 'bobbies' mean, yet in our house if you said the word 'bobbies' people would fall over.

Somebody has sent me, for which I'm extremely grateful, a postcard which actually's got water in it. I mean it's got liked a sealed... do you hear the water splashing about? That's a postcard! Actually's got a bit of the North Sea in it apparently, a picture of a trawler or something like that. It's probably full of disease, too, if it bursts it'll probably kill the whole of central London.

(after Violent Femmes’ 'Ugly' which ends with the singer shouting 'You're so ugly' repeatedly) - Oh I don't know, with the light from behind and a polythene bag over my head I can look quite arresting.

The people you don't actually know and who don't know you...when you turn up, and of course they're expecting you to look like one of Echo & The Bunnymen or something like that, and when you turn up looking like Echo & The Bunnymen's dad who hasn't been well for very many years, one can almost sense... the disappointment is almost tangible you know, which is why I tend to lurk here in the studios and not venture forth. It's like the 'Elephant Man' you know, bag over the head, that kind of stuff.

I've chosen to go to Portugal in the week of the Milk Cup final, so I shall be lying motionless in the sun like a beached whale while the lads are battling at Wembley.

They go on a great a length, I mean obviously to get their record played, but go on a great length about my sexy voice and so on, and of course that's one of the reasons why I don't travel very often, cause you always find... you gonna turn up somewhere, as I was when I first went to Berlin, and... people are gonna expect someone like Simon LeBon of Duran Duran to get off the plane, and when somebody who looks like Simon LeBon's uncle who had the unsuccessful operation gets off the plane... quite clearly, you see a lot of crestfallen folk, and it's more than I can stand frankly. And I just had another look at the letter that I mentioned before, and it says on the other side of it 'Would you please send us a photograph'. I've found actually, over the years, that it's best not to do this, because then you never hear from the people again and they stop listening, and quite often go into...you know, take holy orders, or go and start a new life in Papua New Guinea, and I think it's preferable if they don't do this.

One of the highpoints of my weekend in Berlin was the Atonal-Festival, and we weren't there for very long, it was just a lot of people shrieking really, banging instruments in a rather random fashion... But a young woman there did seem to show some kind of vague sexual interest in me, and like twenty years ago I should've been most gratified by this and probably tried to do something about it. But of course when you've deteriorated to the point that I've deteriorated to, you become a little uneasy. And I wondered, like, is she a dedicated sociologist who is prepared to stop at nothing to support some half-baked theory she has, or is she smashed out of her head, or is she just plain mad. And I rather suspect that she was smashed out of her head, because trying to get off with me is roughly equivalent to eating all of your meals out of wastebins.

I'm back from Crete, a gorgeous golden brown. If you could see me I'm sure you would want to dance around me.

As I mentioned before I never get invited to parties, and this is probably a good thing, because I'm the kind of bloke who ends up doing all the washing-up in rather a sulky fashion while everybody else gets undressed. I did once go to an orgy, but it was deeply embarrassing, because I haven't really got the figure for orgies and I had to sit there, pretending to be asleep for about four or five hours, while everybody else got on with it. Not for me at all.

This week, as with most weeks actually, I'm feeling terrible, but obviously the show goes on, and I put on a brave face and things, but I always feel ill, and I've always attributed this to the fact that I just work to hard really. I'm the classic kind of bloke who drops dead, and I was just discussing this with Simon, and he said 'Have you ever thought of glandula fever?' in much the same way as you might say 'Have you ever thought about the glass-topped coffee-table?' And so I shall have to look into the symptoms of that and perhaps by next week I'll have developed it, who can possibly say. What a little ray of sunshine he is for sure.

While it was going on my gums started bleeding. I'm not exactly sure what the significance of this is, perhaps it's the prelude to a religious experience. I certainly hope not.

Why am I laughing? I don't know... it's incipient madness, that's what it is. I'm quite looking forward to that actually, as I drift into an unattractive middle-age. I quite like the idea of waking up one morning quite plainly mad, I mean not dangerously mad, but just mad enough to be sent off somewhere where I can just sit and watch television and eat Indian meals for the rest of my life. I should be entirely happy doing that. You know, just waking up one morning imagening that you're something like an umbrella stand or something like that, and I find it quite an attractive prospect, I must say.

(Sizzler: 'Rat Race') - Well, me too, at times, I have to admit, I'm a victim of the pressures of modern life. I know that one of these days something's going to snap in my head and I'll start imagening that I'm a two and a half mile section of the East Langs Road or something - or Phil Collins, whichever is the least interesting.

(XXOO: 'How will I know when I'm really in love ?') - Your hat will fall off. I thought everybody knew that.

(Brilliant: 'Scream Like an Angel') - How do these people know what an angel screams like? Answer me that. On one side of a paper only.

(Hugh Griffith: 'Chant Down Babylon') - Well at our house, before we go to bed every night, we always chant down Babylon for five or ten minutes, and yet it's still there in the morning.

(In Excelsis: 'Carnival of Damocles') - I'm not entirely sure Damocles was the kind of chap who went to Carnivals much, but that's the title of it.

(A Certain Ratio: 'I Need Someone Tonight') - Ah, I do like a deeply meaningful lyric, although I suppose if you need someone tonight, it is a meaningful lyric.

(Sisters of Mercy: 'Temple of Love') - I think that if I found myself in any temple of love I should just lie down on the pews and have a bit of a sleep. That comes with age.

(The The: 'This Sinking Feeling') - That's The The and on the record it says 'With every kick in the face and every hurdle you pass the rewards get greater.' and if you've been passing hurdles you should see your doctor as soon as you possibly can.

(Kukl: 'Songull') - Now this is... talk about not being able to pronounce things, I'm in real trouble with this next one, because the name of the band... well it's spelt K U K L. Now how would you pronounce that? I mean given that it's some kind of nordic language that you're not entirely familiar with. Well I checked around a bit, with people who know the band and they said, well, it's pronounced 'Curcle'. So I said 'Curcle', I mean that seems, you know, feasible... daft, but feasible... so K U K L, Curcle, so I went ahead and that's what I said when I did a radio programme featuring this domestically, and a member of the band phoned up and said 'No, it's not Curcle at all, it's...' he didn't say it like this at all but he said '... it's pronounced Krchk'. And I said, well how can it be pronounced Krchk, I said, cause there's no 'R' in it... there's an 'L'... and the 'L' is at the end, you know, all that kind of thing. Anyway, he says it's Krchk, so this is Krchk, and frankly the title of the piece I have no intention at all of trying to pronounce, it's spelt S O N G U L L and it's almost certainly pronounced 'Lester'. (plays the record)
That's Kukl, pronounced Krchk and this is John Peel's Music, pronounced “Excuse me, but isn't that my ladder?”

(The Ruts: 'In a Rut') - I think it's fair to say that modern music is back in that rut again, actually, lots of beautiful youths in meaningful trousers.

(Vex: 'Sanctuary') - That's Vex and on the back of the sleeve it says 'four individuals with no set ideals making music to provoke thought' - and the thought which most immediately comes to me is that it's almost time that we've had enough records like that.

(Daniel Ponce: 'Bastardo Cuentos') - The name of the next artiste appears to be Daniel Ponce but it's actually pronounced, I think, Pon-che, and the track itself is called Bastardo Cuentos which translates approximately as 'Oh no, not another spanish referee'.

*about jamaican pre-releases (on recycled vinyl)*
…pressed on Weetabix...

…with real hazelnuts...

As you can tell, somebody has gone over that with the old Black & Decker sander just to give it that authentic feel.

It may not have done full justice to that expensive tuner you just bought, but it's a great record.

*about loud or 'difficult' records*
Well I expect they love their mothers.

Aren't you glad they don't rehearse next to you?

Well I'm glad I'm not their postman.

I don't think I shall be inviting them to my birthday party. They are the kind of people who park their vans so that nobody else could get in or out.

They sound like somebody's given a good kicking - set to music.

With that record he has qualified for the immortal soul.

We're coming up to exam results, you see, for our William, and he's got to get a certain number of passes at A level in order to get into university and do the thing that he wants to do, which is archeology, and in the way that fathers do, I insist that the main reason he wants to do archeology is because he's got it in his head that this means that he can lie virtually motionless for days on end in the accumulated filth of centuries, so he won't have to change his lifestyle particularly.

Rip, Rig & Panic have in fact broken up, because some of them live across the road from my mum. Not that they've told me that they've broken up but I can see them in there and they look broken up.

Really needs to be played loud enough to start a civil defence alert...

The musical equivalent to those children's TV programmes where you make a model of the Battersea power station out of egg-boxes.

It's called 'Another Black Friday' and the press of it has been good as far as I can tell: 'the best production at the present time','"a rise to new musical directions', 'a brilliant fusion of body and brain' ... I don't know, that sounds like a motorcycle accident.

This is a record by Ledernacken, which can't surely mean what I think it means.

'Party Line' by Abbreviated Sealing, and of course whenever I criticize the name of a band somebody will write in and say “Of course what you don't realize is that it's a quote from Jean Jacques Pissoir's ‘Vortex - A Threnody”, and it may well be so.

That's Stump and that's another track in the forthcoming Peel Sessions EP series, if you see what I mean. It's not quite that but I'm not gonna try and reconstruct the sentence in front of you.

Arno Matthias (Arnie Matthews), Monday, 28 August 2006 14:30 (eleven years ago) Permalink

That was exceptionally fantastic. Must have taken ages to transcribe, as well. Many thanks for bothering!

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 07:51 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Thanks for reviving as well - every time it happens I read the whole thread again.

StanM (StanM), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 08:03 (eleven years ago) Permalink


mark grout (mark grout), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 08:41 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Arno, thanks for the many many classics.

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 08:53 (eleven years ago) Permalink

that made my lunch break--many thanks Arno!

patita (patita), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 17:00 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Well, I'm happy to share my memories - here's another one. Not John's exact words, but you get the idea:

I don't like encores. It's like, if you see a great painting, you don't want an extra bit painted on the side.

Some of you might want to look at or contribute to Wikiquote at

Arno Matthias (Arnie Matthews), Sunday, 3 September 2006 15:10 (eleven years ago) Permalink

A member of "The Dawn Parade" is now immortalised.

mark grout (mark grout), Monday, 4 September 2006 10:11 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Hi mark grout,

I'm terribly sorry but I couldn't make any sense out of your last two postings. Could you please spell it out for me?

Thanks a lot
Senior Aircraftsman 2nd Lieutenant Arnie Matthews (this is the name John gave me to 'impersonate' a member of the Brith Forces in Germany)

Arno Matthias (Arnie Matthews), Monday, 4 September 2006 11:02 (eleven years ago) Permalink

pip : I bump up the thread for people to peruse.

Dawn Patrol: From the Wiki link.
Quotes About John Peel
Can't believe they gave that greatest Briton shit to Churchill when there's a man among us who still plays Half Man Half Biscuit on the taxpayer's buck.
A member of The Dawn Parade

And how is the weather in Station 1-2 right now?

mark grout (mark grout), Monday, 4 September 2006 11:24 (eleven years ago) Permalink

.. which is a reference to the old "family Favourites" that used to run on Radio 2 on Sunday afternoons, etc keep up etc.

mark grout (mark grout), Monday, 4 September 2006 11:25 (eleven years ago) Permalink

four months pass...
There was one particular evening around 1982 when Peelie featured poems by the Scottish poet Ivor Cutler and a session by German industrial band Einsteurzende Neubauten. I've been a lifelong fan of both artists from this single broadcast which I taped and played over many times.

He did a brilliant transition from Ivor Cutler's surreal 'My Darling' straight into 'Kango Licht' by E.N. with the comment "Well if that was an example of Ivor Cutler's reality, just imagine what his dreams must be like".

Later in the program, after playing the second (and last) session track by E.N called 'Sehnsucht' he said "That was the second track of our Neubauten session. I only wish they'd recorded a few more for us, although I imagine they spent a great deal of their time in our studio brooding".

Loved it John.

Simon Reboul (reboul), Sunday, 21 January 2007 09:01 (ten years ago) Permalink

That's tops, man. Thanks for sharing.

White Dopes on Punk (Bimble...), Sunday, 21 January 2007 09:11 (ten years ago) Permalink

Love all this folks! I do think JPs columns for Sounds, the Observer and Radio Times ought to be anthologised. He wrote for RT for years, always very funny indeed. Is somebody already doing this?

Joan Firwell (Jaboblas), Wednesday, 24 January 2007 17:39 (ten years ago) Permalink

eleven months pass...

I only met the great man once, but that was enough. The tale started many years before when i had emailed John regarding a track he had played many years before but had never left my conciousness. The track was 'The Sound of Worms' by a certain Tony Burello. My e-mail asked a) did he remember the track and b) where i might be able to get a copy of said record. A few days later i received a mail from john@hometruths, it never registered with me automatically that it was indeed his Peelness but when i read it i put the 2 together. He replied by saying that he did remember the track but could not remember who had recorded it, but that if he found it in his collection he would send me his copy..I was bowled over, stunned and amazed. Would I, me, be the proud owner of a disc form John Peels private collection, and not just any disc but The Sound of Worms.

I never heard anything back. But receiving that e-mail was like winning a trophy, i was honoured.

Fast forward 3 years and John is playing at the Triptych Festival in Glasgow as part of a showcase with Pan Sonic, Wire, Irmin Schmidt and a few others. I arrived and went to the bar, there was music playing in the bar area and i look over to see John Peel standing, record in hand, no more than 10ft away, he played a cracking dub reggae number, and a smile played accross my face. All the while i can hear Pan Sonic destroying the place in the main hall, half of me wants to stay and pray at the altar of Peel, the other half wants to go and twitch to the brutal frequencies of Pan Sonic. I hurry to catch them. Pan Sonic end a brilliant set and at the back of the hall the soundboard and some decks are set up , it is then that i notice John lurking about the decks, oh yes. As soon as Pan Sonic fin(n)ish, John plays 'Love will tear us apart', and it sounded immense, the sound system in the hall was superb and it was a pretty big space. I took this opportunity to go and speak to the man himself. As the records are playinh John lounges to one side, no scratching, no dicking about with the eq's, no looking intense and no gay flourishes. I walk to the barrier and he comes over for a chat, i shake his hand and i simply say 'The Sound of Worms'. 'Tony Burello', he says immediately, he remembered!! For a brief moment i thought he was gonna produce the record and present it to me. To be fair i think that would have been too much to take and I may well have fainted. We chatted for a minute or so, about what i cannot remember, but it hardly matters. He was accomodating and polite and i imagine would have been happy to talk about wine and music all evening.

He went on to play a brilliant set, very much like one of his shows, some hardcore techno, an amazing samba track that got faster and faster and a whole load of brillant tracks. In the end he finished up to great applause and Schmidt came on and dj'd a whole load of Can tracks that sounded incredible in the big hall..

All in all a brilliant night, but there is no time to be sad, John Peel will live forever.

neonmeatedream, Tuesday, 15 January 2008 11:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

he made a lot of people very very happy, which is an amazing skill in of itself.

stevie, Tuesday, 15 January 2008 12:03 (nine years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

This is one of my favorite threads on ILM.

Mark, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 00:32 (seven years ago) Permalink

I just read this from start to finish, every single Peel quote in his voice in my head. Wonderful wonderful stuff.

ailsa, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:34 (seven years ago) Permalink

Kat's Karavan is on Spotify, there are a bunch of Peel quotes inserted inbetween some of the tracks...

Mark G, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 21:32 (seven years ago) Permalink

if that doesn't get to number one then i'm gonna come and break windin your kitchen

jumpskins, Tuesday, 26 October 2010 21:43 (seven years ago) Permalink

five years pass...

Hello=Re John Peel quotes, im looking for This one fades in, or this one starts quietly< does anyone know where i might find links? thanks Neil.

Neil Mac, Sunday, 15 May 2016 12:44 (one year ago) Permalink

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