Melody Maker was a UK weekly music paper first published in 1926. Initially aimed at dance band musicians, it covered not only pop music but jazz (and, later, folk music) and was regarded in the 1960s as the most serious of the British pop weeklies. Besides its main news and feature pages, the paper included a large advertising section, with gig listings, ads from bands seeking to recruit new members, and offers of musical instruments for sale.
When Peel joined Radio 1 it was the pop paper most sympathetic to the music he played on Top Gear and featured pieces on many of the artists he admired.. In 1968 its readers' letters page often published letters mentioning Peel, from both fans of his programmes and detractors (see below). But by the end of the decade Melody Maker was thriving, gaining a large circulation by concentrating on the "underground" and "progressive" rock favoured by Peel's audience. This reflected the paper's tradition, going back to its dance band origins, of praising skilled, serious musicianship and mistrusting the more ephemeral, novelty aspects of pop.
In 2000 it was merged with the New Musical Express, the paper which had challenged its pre-eminence in the 1970s by hiring younger journalists (some of them from the underground press) and adopting a more irreverent approach to the music scene. Peel never wrote a regular column for MM, as he did for rival publications Disc & Music Echo and Sounds, although he took part in some of the paper's opinion features, such as the record review series Blind Date (in early 1968), was interviewed from time to time, and did contribute occasional pieces.
As discussed with John Walters on Peeling Back The Years, Peel's victory in the DJ section of MM's 1968 readers' poll over Tony Blackburn may have helped to cement his position at Radio One. Walters commented:
You look down a fairly straight poll – obviously the Beatles were in there and so on – and there was John Peel, and the top radio show was Top Gear. And I remember within Radio One people were absolutely astounded. And it was sort of resentment mixed with a reluctant acceptance that things had changed and that you had been a key part of it changing. After 1968 you were being seen as a figure of importance and influence.
Peel would eventually win the MM award 11 times.
On his show of 05 May 1997, which featured Blur's visit to Peel Acres, Peel showed off to the band his 1931 Christmas double issue of MM and also recalled a piece he did for MM's 50th anniversary, noting that the lead article of the first issue had been about whether there was still a place for the banjo in the modern dance orchestra.
Online articles on Peel
- July 18: JOHN PEEL: What's wrong with Radio One? The fact that you can listen to it for an entire week without learning anything that relates to what's going on. I don't know whether it originates from the producers or where, but... (read more)
- April 24: In the three years since he first won the Top DJ title in the MM Poll, John Peel has been mocked and worshipped. Today he wipes the slate clean... (read more)
- February 24: Focus On Folk, Folk News section by Karl Dallas: "By the way, Pentangle were beautiful, as John Peel would say, on Top Gear last Sunday. Come to think of it, I think he did say it."
- February 24: Mailbag - readers' letters: "Why pick on Peel?", one letter supporting Peel, one attacking him.
- March 9: Mailbag - readers' letters: "The case for and against John Peel" 
- July 20: Focus On Folk, interview by Tony Wilson with "Roy Harper, folk's one-man Mother": "What I'd really like to do is form a thirty-piece band with the Mothers, the Floyd, the Nice, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Liverpool Scene, Peel and me, and have the total PA all arranged in a big free space somewhere and just play for two days solid."
- July 18 "Cool or Uncool?" (p.8) Light-hearted article with lists of people and things which fit the two categories, including "Cool: John Peel - Uncool: Tony Brandon"
- ↑ For example, as guest reviewer for MM in 1991, Peel made PJ Harvey's debut 45 Single Of The Week.
- ↑ This is a frequently quoted figure - see, for example, Peel's Wikipedia entry - but no full list of the years he won is available. Please put a note in the Talk section at the top of this page if you can help with this.
- ↑ A Radio One DJ with middle-of-the-road music tastes, he was known as Tony "Birdbrain" Brandon.
- Wikipedia: Melody Maker
- Jazz Lives : 1934 photo of Louis Armstrong reading Melody Maker
- Pathe News: Peel at 1968 MM Readers' Poll Awards
- Pathe News: Peel at 1969 MM Readers' Poll Awards
- Archived Music Press: Melody Maker
- rocklist.net: Melody Maker Annual Critic Lists 1978-2000
- Melody Maker Pop Poll 1973 - Best disc jockey