Almost one year from that terrible day on which we heard Peel had died in Peru, I am writing the sleevenotes for John Peel " A Tribute (I lobbied for 'Farewell To Fatty' but the record company was having none of it). And I'm listening to minidiscs sent in by listeners of Peel engaging me in matey DJ chat, recorded in the days when our programmes sat next to each other on the Radio 1 schedule like naughty schoolboys.
Tomorrow I am invited to a memorial lunch at which a few of John's old buddies will drink too much red and share their Peel stories. I will, most likely, tell the one about the testicular cancer scare, the Harley Street consultant, and the bicycle seat.
Peel " and he would be delighted to know this " is proving more of a nuisance in death than in life. And what the blazes was he doing in Peru? He used to have anxiety attacks before family holidays in France.
John was the single most important figure, if not in Peruvian travel writing, then in British music since the birth of rock 'n' roll. He was the biggest influence on my life. And my experience is typical of the impact John had on the lives of millions. As a schoolboy, my discovery of the Peel programme in the mid-1970s blew my horizons wide open.
Music " and that variety of it " became my obsession. I can still feel the shudder of excitement as John might bring to my bedside radio the Buzzcocks, Sandy Denny, Lightnin' Hopkins, Ivor Cutler, Kitty Wells and Ranking Trevor. Those nightly tutorials laid out the breadth of my musical landscape. And they must have taught me a great deal about how to communicate with listeners as equals and establish an almost one-to one relationship with them.
Once John had pointed to the horizon, there was no stopping me and within a few swift years I arrived at Radio 1 in the summer of 1985. I have always suspected the bosses drafted me in as the upstart from BBC2's Whistle Test because they had a secret agenda to replace Peel with me and push the old boy, Eeyore-like, into the paddock to chew thistles. If so, their plan …