Pete Townshend delivers inaugural John Peel Lecture in Manchester

The Who’s Pete Townshend delivered the inaugural John Peel Lecture in Manchester, England yesterday, an event which was broadcast live on BBC 6 Music. The lecture can now be heard on demand on the BBC 6 Music Web site.

By John Curley

The Who’s Pete Townshend gave the first John Peel Lecture at The Lowry Theatre in Manchester, England’s Salford area yesterday (Monday, October 31st). The event was broadcast live on BBC 6 Music. It is hoped that the John Peel Lecture will become an annual happening featuring a different guest speaker from the music world.

The theme of the lecture was “Can John Peelism survive the Internet?” John Peel was, of course, the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ who famously championed new music on his program. Peel died in October 2004 at age 65.

After being introduced by BBC 6 Music DJs Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe, Townshend spoke for about 35 minutes. A Q&A session followed Townshend’s lecture. During the lecture, Townshend expounded on how new artists are having a more difficult time than ever because radio playlists are getting tighter and their music isn’t getting heard. Townshend also took aim at iTunes for not nurturing new artists, referring to Apple as a “digital vampire.”

Townshend often paid tribute to Peel during the lecture. At one point, Townshend said:

Peel was not a musician. He was a listener, a patron of the arts, a broadcaster with almost no censorial mandate or agenda. He only played what he thought deserved to be played. I don’t think it always mattered that he himself liked it. In China, in Chairman Mao’s day, he might have been sent to prison if only for being the first to play Jesus and Mary Chain, The Undertones, or The Proclaimers—all of them were a little bit political, but also radical and outspoken. When I first heard them on John’s show, I thought they were a bit dangerous.

Pete Townshend’s John Peel Lecture can be heard for six more days from today (Tuesday, November 1st) on the BBC 6 Music Web site. To hear it, go to and click the “Listen now” audio link.

The BBC News Web site has some video footage of the lecture at

The Web site of UK newspaper The Guardian has published the full text of Townshend’s lecture at

Townshend has already received some bashing in the media for his harsh stance on Apple and iTunes. He does deserve some credit for being brutally honest about the situation. Because if things continue as they are in the music world, where are The Whos and the Led Zeppelins of tomorrow going to come from?

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