(Related page: John Peel's Record Box)


John in a typical pose with part of his collection as backdrop.

"I have bought far, far too many records, even having two rather artfully chosen collections stolen in their entirety, [1] and still spend between £25 and £30 a week on the blamed things. Much of this money is squandered in minuscule specialist shops physically and spiritually at several light years removed from the glossy houses where cowed customers line up to buy whatever is currently the subject of extensive television advertising." (Record Shops, Punch, 1980-01-16, reprinted in Olivetti Chronicles, Corgi edition, p. 343.)

Peel was a self-confessed vinyl junkie who filled Peel Acres with all manner of obscure and one-off recordings. His preferred format was vinyl: he was never a fan of compact discs, and would only purchase a CD of an album if there was no vinyl equivalent. He once incurred the wrath of his family and show staff by spending hours in Groningen searching for a record shop that turned out to be directly opposite the hotel where he was staying. [2] He would frequently beseech listeners to send him copies of records he did not have and beg friends and acquaintances going on holiday to exotic parts of the world to bring him back recordings from those places. He was loath to part with any of them, instituted a card index system in 1969 to catalogue them, and even had a shed built at his home to accommodate part of the groaning mountain of ephemera.

He also instituted a star rating system to help decide whether he would play tracks on his radio shows. Peel described this on his 28 May 1979 show: * = 'I might play it to you', ** = 'I should play it', *** = 'I must play it' and **** = 'A live classic'. On occasion, Peel put more than 4 stars on tracks: Teenage Kicks had 44 stars on the singles cover.

Despite all this, it appears his appetite for amassing recorded music remained undimmed and that he could never have enough: for example, he was put out on hearing that Mike Read was given an entire collection by a fan.

"What I want to know is, why doesn't this happen to me?" (12 February 1980)

Moreover, his obsession did not go unnoticed by others, even at the start of his BBC career. On 31 December 1967, he remarks that he is short of money and the show's co-presenter Tommy Vance observes that Peel spends some of his earnings on "the most way-out album collection in London". Much later, he told his listeners:

"I('ve) got a very small part in a film....called Five Seconds To Spare....The part I play (I don't know what on earth gave them the idea for this) is that of a grumpy bloke who spends most of his life filing records at a radio station. What an imagination." (07 February 2000 (BFBS))

According to The John Peel Centre For Creative Arts (JPCCA), the collection comprises over 26,000 LPs, 40,000 singles and thousands of CDs.

The Space / John Peel Archive

In April 2012, an online virtual museum (The Space) was created with the purpose (in part) of outlining Peel's collection. It was organised and funded by the Arts Council and the BBC: the driving force behind the project were Sheila, Eye Film And Television and the JPCCA. Copyright difficulties precluded direct access to the music: instead, at the rate of 100 LPs a month, chosen alphabetically, were highlighted by specially filmed video interviews with the artists concerned and a limited online listening facility provided via Spotify. In addition, previously unseen Peel footage, including home movies, was provided to view. The project ran for 26 weeks until the initial grant ceased, after which further funding was sought.

Supplementary information on the project was released via other sites:

At the end of February 2013, resumed the online release of details of the collection, with the first 100 LPs by artists whose names start with numbers. Material originally released via TheSpace can now be found at the JohnPeelArchive site.

A-Z (John Peel Archive)

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 1-9

A-Z (Lists)

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 1-9

In September 2014, TheSpace and JohnPeelArchive websites launched a new Record Boxes series, featuring selections from John Peel’s record collection by key music figures.

The series is unrelated to John Peel's Record Box, a wooden box of favourite singles that became the subject of a TV documentary in 2005, or the Peel's Record Box monthly lists of current favourite singles and albums that the DJ submitted to the BBC Radio One website from 2002.

Record Boxes (John Peel Archive)

Joe Boyd | Desert Island Discs | Mala |
Don Letts | Pete Paphides | Shane Embury | Brian Eno | Simon Raymonde

Record Boxes (Lists)

Joe Boyd | Desert Island Discs | Mala |
Don Letts | Pete Paphides | Shane Embury |
Brian Eno | Simon Raymonde

Elsewhere, John Peel Archive has collaborated to explore different aspects of Peel's record collection at a range of events, including exhibitions[1] [2] and Classic Album Sundays interviews with artists on landmark releases.[3] [4][5] [6]

In April 2016, Nothing Leaves The Archive was a double 7” single of four tracks by four different producers, featuring music sampled from items in Peel’s record collection.

See Also


  1. It is unknown when these occurred. Apparently he left his entire collection, "along with everything else I own" (16 July 1967), in California when he returned to England in 1967. According to the first interview he gave to Melody Maker, in September 1967, it included 800 LPs. But, as he mentioned on the Top Gear of 27 July 1969, he eventually had it shipped over from the US, after which it was held in Customs for a month. Years later he was able to regale listeners with items he had 'borrowed' from the radio stations he worked for. In 1985, his car was broken into when he was in Amsterdam.
  2. 11 January 2000.