- (This page is about the city in north-west England. For the football team of the same name, see Liverpool.)
Liverpool is a city in Merseyside, England. In 2014, the city local government district had a population of 470,537 and the Liverpool/Birkenhead metropolitan area had a population of 2,241,000. (Read more at Wikipedia.)
Links to Peel
- "I was always very, very proud of being associated, in my own mind at least, with Liverpool. I mean, people in Liverpool didn’t think of me as being a Liverpool person at all, but I thought of myself as being a Liverpool person because that’s where I like to be and that’s where I worked and that’s where my father worked, and my mother and father both came from there, and so on. So I thought of myself as a Liverpudlian. And the people of Liverpool have always I think thought of Liverpool in rather the way that people living in Italian city states did sort of a couple of hundred years ago – as being whether they liked it or not part of a greater whole but actually really not being, not because they were compelled to be. And so there was this incredible independence about Liverpool where it was obviously geographically part of England, but everybody knew that really in their heart of hearts that it wasn’t at all."
Although Peel was born in Heswall Cottage Hospital in Heswall on the Wirral Peninsula and grew up in the nearby village of Burton, he always maintained a strong identification with Liverpool, on the other side of the Mersey, as seen most clearly in his fanatical devotion to Liverpool football team and public support for music from the city. In his adult life, he lived away from Liverpool but continued to visit his favourite city regularly. Two of his four children went to Liverpool University.
Peel’s earliest memories of Liverpool went back to his wartime childhood on the Wirral. In the 2002 TV documentary Going Home, he said:
“I do remember standing in one of the upstairs bedroom windows [of his family home] … and looking over to where Birkenhead and Liverpool were burning [after German bombing raids]. It was the middle of the night, I was aware of that, but it looked as though the sun had just gone down – a big red glow in the sky.”
On a happier note, in the same programme Peel also fondly recalled the warmth of his Liverpudlian nanny, Florence “Trader” Horne, as well as her sisters and friends in Liverpool, “who could kind of become secretly friends of yours as well, and they were people that your parents didn’t know.”
As he grew older, Peel became better acquainted with the city across the water, despite being sent away to be educated at Shrewsbury School. He later wrote with delight about buying Teddy Boy drainpipe trousers and lime-green socks in Liverpool’s Scotland Road (“symbols of wide-eyed rebellion I was anxious to keep from my family”), as well the acceptance he felt playing five-a-side football at Shrewsbury House club in Everton (“Father found these visits incomprehensible and assumed I was taking a less than wholesome interest in young boys”).
Before going to America, Peel briefly followed his father into Liverpool’s declining cotton trade. During his sojourn in the USA, he returned to the city for holidays on a few occasions, writing about one such visit in early 1966, in the Kmentertainer. On his return from the States, now a professional radio DJ, he soon became acquainted with the Liverpool poets of the hippie era. He subsequently returned often to the city, most frequently to attend Liverpool matches or live music events but also for work related to the BBC.
But I hope to still be doing radio programmes somewhere. And I suppose I would like to go at some stage back to Liverpool. I mean, not being romancing, people like our Brian, or Sue actually, who is the programme secretary, and even John Walters, who is a cynical old brute, but when he was in Liverpool recently he went most of the way to admitting that it is quite a special place. So that’s where I would like to go back eventually.
Yet Radio 1 kept him on far beyond his 55th birthday, so this never happened. In November 2001, he happily acknowledged the inconsistency of living so far from the city while still proclaiming his love for it:
"There are an awful lot of people who love Liverpool who don’t live there, and I am but one of them."
- (Main article: Liverpool)
Peel was a huge fan of Liverpool FC and attended many matches at its Anfield stadium in the city. Two of his children were named after the ground.
- (Related article: Liverpool: Sessions)
Peel’s Merseyside background opened the way to his professional start in radio – as a “Beatles expert” for KLIF in Dallas – and he remained keen to support music from Liverpool, the city where he bought his first record and also attended his earliest gigs. In September 2004, he was still touting a local musical hero of the late 1950s and early 60s, Billy Fury, as the only “credible UK rocker”.
On his return to the UK in 1967, however, he didn't have many immediate opportunities to promote Liverpool artists, as by then the Merseybeat boom was over and newer talent tended to come from other parts of the UK. Nevertheless, he was a passionate Beatles fan at the time, and also gave plenty of support and airplay to the Liverpool Scene. In his International Times column of 1967-11-17, after describing how he had "gathered spiritual strength" on a visit to Liverpool, he mentioned that he was anxious to obtain a copy of the Big Three's single "You've Got To Keep Her Under Hand" and asked his readers if they could help. As time passed, he seemed increasingly fond of the more obscure Mersey groups of the 1960s and played tracks from compilations of their work - as well as reviewing one such anthology for Let It Rock magazine in 1975 (see below).
On 15 April 1997, Peel cheerfully claimed:
"There are a couple of ways of getting records played on this programme that are pretty much near certainties. One is to have a song with the word Pig in the title, and the other is to come from Liverpool."
Generations of bands from the Liverpool area benefited from this partisanship, in the form of airtime for record releases and Peel sessions, from Liverpool Scene and Scaffold in the late 60s to Ladytron and Clinic in the early 2000s. Thirteen artists on the city’s Probe Plus label were booked for sessions, including Half Man Half Biscuit, while other long-term local favourites included The Farm and Wah!, whose 1980 debut single Peel described as “further proof that Liverpool is the cultural centre of the globe.”
In February 1979, Peel had been pleased to see that "things are beginning to happen in Liverpool again, after domination by rival Manchester in that area of the world ... for a couple of years anyway", singling out groups on the local Zoo label such as Big In Japan, Teardrop Explodes, and Those Naughty Lumps. He would later favour other "new Merseybeat" bands who emerged from Eric's club on Mathew Street such as Echo & The Bunnymen, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Pink Military, China Crisis, Wild Swans and Dead or Alive, as featured in the related Rock Family Trees documentary narrated by Peel.
In later years, Peel’s most-cherished songs came to include 'Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?' by Amsterdam, which he first heard on a promotional album issued by Liverpool club The Picket as part of its fight against closure. With lyrics alluding to historic events and landmarks in the city, the song appealed to both his sentimental nature and enduring local pride. On 10 December 2003, he admitted:
“It’s now reached the point at which it makes me cry every time I hear it.”
John Peel in Liverpool, 1982
- R1 week in Liverpool, 1983
- 14 March 1983 / 15 March 1983 / 16 March 1983 / 17 March 1983
- You'll Never Walk Alone(2): Peel tours Liverpool and plays songs from the city.
- The Peel and Jensen Merseyside Music Show: Live music with Icicle Works, It's Immaterial and Wah from Royal Court, Liverpool, followed by hour of records with Peel.
- Sound City, Liverpool, 1999
(Songs played by Peel referencing the city of Liverpool. Cover versions are excluded, unless no plays are known of the song by the original artist.)
Artist | Track | First Known Play
- Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside? 16 October 2003
- Beatles: Strawberry Fields 30 December 1976
- Better Beatles: Penny Lane 22 September 1982
- Judy Collins: Liverpool Lullaby 14 August 1967
- Delaney & Bonnie: Liverpool Lou 10 January 1970
- Gerry & The Pacemakers: Ferry Across The Mersey (session) 24 April 1973
- Mike Hart: Almost Liverpool 8 22 March 1973
- Liverpool Scene: Entry Of Christ Into Liverpool (session) 19 January 1969
- Steeleye Span: Bring 'Em Down (session) 27 March 1971
- Teenage Filmstars: (There's A) Cloud Over Liverpool 05 September 1979
- Wah: Come Back 30 May 1984
- Wah: Heart As Big As Liverpool 26 November 1998
(The following list of various artist albums was compiled only from the database of this site and is chronological, by first play of the release. Except for “Jukebox At Eric’s,” assembled by Eric’s club founder Roger Eagle, all of the releases feature music from the Liverpool area. Please add more details if known.)
(LP – This Is Mersey Beat, Vol. 1) Oriole
(2xLP – Mersey Beat 1962-1964) United Artists
(LP – Street To Street: A Liverpool Compilation) Open Eye
- 02 August 1979: Modern Eon: Benched Down / 70s Sixties
- 09 August 1979: Big In Japan: Match Of The Day
- 14 August 1979: Id: Julia's Song
- 21 August 1979: Echo & The Bunnymen: Monkies
- 25 August 1979 (BFBS): Activity Minimal: Television Game
- 22 July 1982: Big In Japan: Match Of The Day
(2xLP – Mersey Sounds) Decca
- 04 June 1980: Big Three: Cavern Stomp
- 12 June 1980: Big Three: By The Way
- 30 June 1980: Big Three: Don't Start Running Away
(LP - A Trip To The Dentist) Skeleton
(LP – Jukebox At Eric's Vol 1: Rock 'N' Roll) Eric's
- 01 April 1981: Fabulous Wailers: Shanghaied
- 02 April 1981: Rays: Elevator Operator
- 12 September 1990: Playboys: Jungle Fever
- 28 April 1999: Tommy Blake: F-olding Money
(LP – Street To Street, Volume Two) Open Eye
- 30 July 1981: Chinese Religion: Eden
- 03 August 1981: Cooling Towers: The Thesis
- 04 August 1981: Egypt For Now: Days On Edge
(LP – Live At The Cavern) London
- 22 August 1981: Marauders: track unknown (Peel forgets to give title), introduced by Bob Wooler, "the Andy Peebles of his day" (JP)
(LP – To The Shores Of Lake Placid) Zoo
- 25 February 1982: Big In Japan: Society For Cutting Up Men
- 08 March 1982: Those Naughty Lumps: Iggy Pop's Jacket
- 15 March 1982: Echo & The Bunnymen: Pictures On My Wall
- 18 March 1982: Big In Japan: Society For Cutting Up Men
- 22 March 1982: Echo & The Bunnymen: Read It In Books
(LP - Liverpool 1963-1964 Volume Two) See For Miles
(LP - The Zulu Compilation) Zulu
(LP - Small Hits & Near Misses / The Inevitable Compilation) Inevitable
(LP – Jobs For The Boys) Natalie
- 18 March 1985: This Final Frame: Mondays Child
- 08 April 1985 (BBC World Service): Broken Promise: Beneath Those Lines
(LP – Ways To Wear Coats - A Compilation From Vulcan Studios) Vulcan
- 26 November 1986: Da Vincis: The Book
- 29 November 1986 (BFBS): Half Man Half Biscuit: Arthur's Farm
- 02 December 1986: Da Vincis: The Book
(2xLP – This Is Mersey Beat) Edsel
(LP - Liverpool Today "Where It All Began") Capitol
- 01 December 1990: Richmond Group: I'm All Right (John opines that this must be a collectors item now, and even at the time. John was only at the Cavern twice and once it was to see the Richmond Group.)
(CD/LP – The Zoo Uncaged 1978-1982) Document
- 01 December 1990: Teardrop Explodes: Camera Camera
- 03 December 1990 (Ö3): Big In Japan: Nothing Special
- 15 December 1990 (BFBS): Teardrop Explodes: Bouncing Babies
- 16 December 1990: Teardrop Explodes: Treason (It's Just A Story)
(LP - The Dark Side of the Pool) Liquid Noise
- 04 January 1992: Freefall: Rip Me To Pieces
- 05 January 1992: Use: Dredge Peg
- 19 January 1992: Dr Phibes And The House Of Wax Equations: Lucifer Sam
- 26 January 1992: Jules Verne: Strangely Enough
- 16 February 1992: Mr Ray's Wig World: Elvis Begins With An E
(LP – Hits Of The Mersey Era, Vol.1) EMI
(2x7" - Liverpool) Plastic Cowboy
(CD – The Great Liverpool Acoustic Experiment) Viper
(CD - Rhyme Pays: Liverpool Compilation) Picket promo
- 16 October 2003: Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- 25 October 2003 (BBC World Service): Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- 04 December 2003: Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- 10 December 2003: Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- 24 December 2003: Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- 26 December 2003 (BBC World Service): Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- 06 July 2004: Amsterdam: Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
- Cavern Club
- Chambre Hardman And The Lost City of Liverpool: Peel-narrated TV documentary on celebrated photographer of the city.
- Rock Family Trees: The Mersey Sound: Peel-narrated TV documentary on the Merseybeat bands that swept the national charts in the wake of the Beatles in the 1960s.
- Rock Family Trees: The New Merseybeat: Peel-narrated TV documentary on the Liverpool bands that grew up around Eric's club in the late 1970s, including Big In Japan, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Dead Or Alive, OMD and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
- Peel On Record Cover Sleevenotes: Peel wrote sleevenotes for the Liverpool-themed compilations Street To Street (Open Eye, 1979) and Mersey Boys and Liverpool Girls (EMI, 2001).
- John Peel's Archive Things: album of BBC archive items, as aired regularly by Peel on Night Ride, kicks off with a Traditional Children's Rhyme, 'I Know A Little Girl', delivered by children from Liverpool.
- Let It Rock: January 1975 issue contains a full-page review (p.33) by Peel of the double LP Merseybeat 1962-64 (United Artists UAD 305/6). The review is entitled "The Quality of Mersey", with the sub-heading "An aging scouse DJ reports on the new compilation album that encapsulates 'an era of Shanklyesque energy'".
- John Peel's Record Box: Peel's box of 142 most precious 45s included "You've Gotta Keep Her Under Hand / If You Ever Change Your Mind" (Decca Records,1964) by Merseybeat cult heroes the Big Three, as well as a Russian-pressed EP, "Come Together / Octopus's Garden / Something (Melodica, 1969), by the Beatles.
- The End: "My favourite magazine is The End from Liverpool, which concerns itself with music, beer and football. The very stuff of life itself."
- John F. Kennedy: Following Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Peel passed himself off as a reporter for the Liverpool Echo in order to attend the arraignment of Lee Harvey Oswald and he and a friend can be seen in the footage of the press conference shortly before Oswald's assassination. He later phoned in the story to the Liverpool Echo.
- ITN: Peel comments on TV news about Liverpool music in the post-Beatles era.
- Portrait Of The Artist As A Consumer
- Liverpool Echo (10 Feb. 2014): Who topped our poll of the 100 Greatest Merseysiders?: Peel at #6 (up from #36 in 2003), with Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit at #10 (up from from #57).
- On music’s front line, 25 years of The Picket, Liverpool: Peel features in video about celebrated Liverpool venue.
- KeepingItPeel Podcast – John Peel – Liverpool
- Keeping It Peel Podcast – Lost Liverpool Bands
- A Celebration of BBC Radio’s very own Liverpool music legend John Peel
- Interview: On Liverpool FC, Heysel, Hillsborough
- Including national service in Anglesey, several years in America and extended periods in London and Stowmarket.
- See William Ravenscroft and Florence Ravenscroft. In 2000, Peel himself was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the same institution. He also received a fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
- He later paid tribute to her by naming one of his daughters Florence Ravenscroft ('Flossie').
- Margrave Of The Marshes (hardback edition, pg99).
- IT 21, 1967-11-17, p12. In the same column, he also mentions a visit to his old nanny, "Trader" Horne, then 78.
- See Football (Known Matches Attended).
- Including, notably, the 1997 Hillsborough Justice Concert at Anfield. On a happier note, he would remember his DJ set at Chibuku club in the city on 2004-03-21 as "one of the best nights I've had in all of my life." (See also Margrave Of The Marshes (hardback edition), p. 230, 379-80).
- For example, Radio 1's week in Liverpool, mid-March 1983, and Liverpool Sound City in 1999 (26 October 1999, 27 October 1999, 28 October 1999).
- See 08 November 2001. Earlier the same year, in the sleevenotes for the "Mersey Boys & Liverpool Girls" compilation, he wrote: “Cynics say you love Liverpool more the further you live away from it, and it’s true that I now live about 250 miles away outside Ipswich.”
- See Alexandra Ravenscroft and William Ravenscroft. His two other children also had names that referenced the club (see Florence Ravenscroft and Tom Ravenscroft).
- 'Blue Tango' by Ray Martin (& His Orchestra), purchased at Cranes. ("Record Shops", Punch, 1980-01-16, republished Olivetti Chronicles, hardback edition, p252.) He also later spoke of being served by Brian Epstein at NEMS record shop in central Liverpool  and visting Frank Hessey’s record shop in the city. 
- The first "gig" was Obernkirchen Children's Choir, at Liverpool Stadium, followed by Frankie Laine at Liverpool Empire, among others. See Gigography 1954-1966. As noted by Sheila Ravenscroft in Margrave Of The Marshes (hardback edition, pg208-9), Peel only went to the city's celebrated Cavern Club twice, on visits home when living in America, to see the Spencer Davis Group and the Richmond Group, respectively.
- IT 21, 1967-11-17, p12. A copy of the single was later found in John Peel's Record Box.
- Merseybeat era artists Billy J. Kramer and Gerry & The Pacemakers both had only sessions that were broadcast on 24 April 1973. In 1995, Peel told BBC World Service listeners: "Thirty years ago, I was pretty heavily into Merseybeat: not just your Beatles and Searchers, but also the Escorts, [sings] 'Cry cry cry cry,' you remember, of course you do. The Big Three, the Mojos and so on."
- At the same time, he was also forced to acknowledge the continuing strength of music from Liverpool's northern rival. (See Manchester.)
- Peel supported the campaign to save the venue, including by writing a letter to the government's culture secretary, Tessa Jowell MP. 
- On 16 October 2003, the DJ said the song "sounds amazingly like something that Pete Wylie might have done." The Wah singer was a Peel favourite whose lyrics often invoked the writer's home city, including 'Heart As Big As Liverpool' (2000) and 1984 Festive Fifty #5 'Come Back' ("Down by the docks the talking turned...").
- Traditional sea-shanty: "In Liverpool I was born and bred ..." (see lyrics).
- See reference note 18, above.