In 2002 Peel touched the life of a young student living in Norwich. John Osborne won a competition on Peel’s Radio One show and his prize was a box of 150 records from Peel’s own shed, all sent to Peel by bands who hoped he would champion their music.
Radio legend, John Peel, inspired generations of listeners during his 40-year career. After his death in 2004, tributes flooded in from bands like The Undertones, Pulp and The Smiths, who had all been championed by Peel in their early days.
The story of this box is the basis of Osborne’s show, John Peel’s Shed, which took place at the Wales Millennium Centre this week. Although at the time Osborne had no idea how important this win would become to him.
The tracks would take eight years to listen to and would form the basis of Osborne’s first radio show on Future Radio, Norwich in 2010.
But when the box was delivered from Suffolk, by two of Peel’s friends, Osborne realised a slight problem - he had no record player of his own.
Witty and down-to-earth, Osborne told the story of his life so far, from working at a dull desk job to becoming a radio-expert and writing his own book on the subject, Radio Head: Up And Down The Dial Of British Radio.
As a youngster, however, Osborne preferred listening to DJ Steve Lamacq, who played Blur, Oasis and The Spice Girls. “I wanted to be one of his listeners,” said Osborne who started listening to Peel’s radio shows in the hope he would like them. “I was like a teenager drinking beer and hoping they will like the taste.”
His first epiphany came when he heard Peel playing The Smiths. Soon Osborne was hooked, and was always ready at 10pm for Peel’s show. “John Peel played such a huge scale of music that people my age were able to get into it as well,” he said.
During the performance, Osborne treated the audience to some tunes from Peel’s box, which he described as a box full of people’s hopes and dreams. The music came from unknown punk bands with curious names like Oi-Punk and Atom and His Package.
Fans of Peel are looking forward to May, when Peel’s whole record collection will go online. But the show wasn’t just for radio aficionados.
Osborne’s tales of office boredom raised sympathy and several laughs from the crowd.
After graduating he found himself working for a company doing data inputs. Radio provided an escape from his dull routine of everyday life and made him see there was something else out there.
Perhaps the best part of the show came with the story of Sharon, a lady who phoned in to speak to Christian O’ Connell on Virgin Radio.
Sharon accepted a marriage proposal from a man only a few hours after meeting him. The man, who was going through a divorce, needed to remarry in order to keep custody of his young son. For Osborne, stories like this, which come out of the blue from a single call, are part of the magic of radio.
He said: “I was late for work that day. I was desperate to know the end of the story.”
His passion for radio is something he learnt from Peel. Osborne’s knowledge of radio may have matured since but his enthusiasm for weird and wonderful frequencies still remains.