John Peel, Dandelion Radio, Andrew Morrison - Peel Day: Dandelion Radio

Bill Cummings 08/10/2010

After the death of legendary BBC DJ John Peel it was hard to find radio shows that offered the breadth of music that his did. Increasingly disappointed by what national radio had to offer, a bunch of Peel aficionados decided to help fill the gap themselves and set up an Internet station playing music that is new, challenging, different, strange, and often a combination of all four. Now the official home of John Peel's Festive Fifty annual listeners' poll, and soon to release their debut compilation album on Odd Box Records, Dandelion Radio continues to blossom from its humble seeds. One of its founding members (and former voice of John Peel's “offensive content” announcements), Andrew Morrison tells us about the station and its origins…

In October 2004, I was enjoying being an extremely minor cult hero (of sorts) thanks to the tongue-in-cheek announcements I'd sent to John Peel at the BBC, when the sad news came through of his death. Unbeknown to John, his producer Louise had lined up my family and I to be surprise guests on his Christmas “techno special” at Maida Vale studios that December. Instead, I attended Radio 1's 'Keeping It Peel' tribute night at the same venue. Both “keeping it Peel” and Maida Vale became recurring themes over the following years, as myself and members of a John Peel related email group met there to watch live bands on Rob Da Bank and Huw Stephen's shows while formulating our plans to launch an Internet radio station inspired by John's ethos.

Our broad mission statement was to create a legal, fully-licenced station serving the needs of people who create and distribute new and interesting music, and to provide a unique listening experience with the essence of Peel running through it.

A year and a half later, after much research and scaling of several steep technological learning curves, Dandelion Radio sailed its maiden voyage across the airwaves, with just five shows from Peel fans repeating in a continuous loop. This wasn't the Corporation seeking to replace John. It wasn't even us trying to touch his legacy. Named after Dandelion Records - the label John ran in the early 1970s - it was simply amateurs with some basic equipment and an appetite for releases that excited them, seeking them out in John's absence, and presenting it to those that fancied listening. No playlists; no adverts; self-funded; no agenda - just bags full of passion.

Dandelion Radio is staffed entirely by volunteers, with DJs across the globe, all involved for the love of music from outside the mainstream. Our monthly shows broadcast to a steadily growing audience, with listeners on every continent except Antarctica (but we're working on it). It's hard work but it's also a huge amount of fun. We now have 20 passionate and dedicated volunteer DJs who spend their spare time listening to demos (some good, many dreadful!) and recording shows while juggling full-time jobs and family commitments. Our presenters also organise and take part in live music and DJ events and strive to make sure everyone knows what a great place this planet is for music.

In addition to introducing listeners to exciting acts they won't have heard elsewhere, Dandelion has given many people their first taste of bands such as Vampire Weekend,Dan Le Sac, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Passion Pit, and The Wombats. All, and many hundreds more, were played by Dandelion DJs long before a record company got wind of them.

We marked the fifth anniversary of John Peel's death with a “Peel legends” month featuring new recordings by artists that guested on his shows. We felt this was a fitting way of looking back while focussing on the future, and we were pleased to receive contributions from such luminaries as Fun-Da-Mental, Martin Carr, Magoo, The Crimea, I, Ludicrous, Calvin Party, Beatnik Filmstars and Eat Static.

Portsmouth's Autons were the very first act to record material specifically for Dandelion Radio. Since then, we've featured over 170 exclusive sessions and live sets from signed and unsigned artists as diverse as The Horn The Hunt, Ed Askew, The Orb, The Manhattan Love Suicides, Decoration, Dilworth, The Nightingales, Dave Swain,Extradition Order, Errors, The Truth About Frank, Lord Numb, Gideon Conn, My Device, and Rival Consoles. Many of Dandelion Radio's sessions have since found their way onto official releases and digital downloads.

In 2010, Dandelion Radio DJs were asked to handpick tracks for the Odd Box Records compilation album 'Broadcast One'. This limited edition CD pulls together over an hour of great tunes from various acts, many of which are taken from sessions and exclusive to this release. The album covers an eclectic range of styles, from the assured folk-tinged opener byRachel & The Lawngrower, to the breathless, edgy, toothache-inspired horror-story closer from Hazel Winter. In-between there's everything from the electronic adrenaline of Atomizer to the quirky, animal loving indie of The Lovely Eggs, and the uncompromising wall of distortion that is The Chasms.

John Peel presented the first ever Festive Fifty chart on Radio 1 back in 1976, and continued to do so until his death in 2004. The final Festive Fifty broadcast on the BBC was hosted by Radio 1's One Music show in 2005. Keen to see this famous listeners' poll continue, Peel's former production team asked Dandelion Radio to take over the sleigh reins from 2006 onwards. Listeners pick their three favourite tracks of the year in October and November, with Dandelion DJs co-hosting a countdown show that repeats daily from Christmas Day until the end of January. To place your vote and see past results, visit www.dandelionradio.com/festive50.

The adolescence of virtually all our members was soundtracked by John Peel's shows. Dandelion Radio aims to ensure that the thrill of discovering something sonically special, yet enticingly obscure, is a sensation fans of true alternative music can continue to savour.

To listen to Dandelion Radio, view tracklistings and find out more, visit www.dandelionradio.com. Shows stream constantly and are refreshed with new ones at the beginning of every month. 'Broadcast One' is released by Odd Box Records on 22 November - order your copy at www.dandelionradio.com/broadcast.

World international John Peel day takes place this Saturday the 9th of October.