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Autographed Beatles Albums, Letters From David Bowie and Freddie Mercury: John Peel’s Astonishing Archives Go Up for Auction

John Peel
Courtesy Bonhams

For those who don’t know, the late, legendary, longtime BBC Radio DJ John Peel was one of the most influential and important people in British music from the 1960s through his death in 2004.

He arose in the mid-1960s as the BBC was forced to modernize its programming, and for the next four decades, he played a vital and arguably peerless role in just about every wave of contemporary music, from psychedelia through punk and Britpop and electronic music. His incredible taste is reflected in the list of artists whose careers he supercharged with his many radio shows and “Peel Sessions,” from Pink Floyd through Rod Stewart, T. Rex and David Bowie to countless punk, new wave, shoegaze, grindcore and other artists. While his reputation has been tarnished by allegations of sexual abuse, his influence on popular music is vast and undeniable.

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Courtesy Bonhams

And some 18 years after his death, dozens of precious items from his archives are being auctioned off by Bonhams — and the catalog is a museum exhibit in itself (check it out here). Many of those artists were his friends — and as we see here, many future superstars sought his attention.

 

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Courtesy Bonhams

There are letters from John Lennon, Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Bolan, and handwritten lyric sheets from the latter. There are autographed albums and test pressings from Lennon and Yoko Ono, including one of the notorious “Two Virgins” album, with a cover photo of the two of them nude (estimated auction price: £15,000-20,000 — i.e. $25,000) and an original copy of the Beatles’ “White Album” autographed by Lennon.

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Courtesy Bonhams

There’s a copy of the rarest Rolling Stones album — the 1969 “Promotional Album” — signed by all five members of the band (£6,000-8,000), and acetates of the group’s 1970 live album “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” as they originally intended it, as a double disc with a companion album featuring opening acts B.B. King and Ike & Tina Turner on Apple Records.

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Courtesy Bonhams

There’s copy of U2’s early “Three” EP with a note from Bono written on the sleeve.

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Courtesy Bonhams

There are test pressings or acetates of records by the Stones, Lennon, Pink Floyd, T. Rex, Captain Beefheart, Elvis Costello, the Specials, the Smiths and many others. A cassette of the first demo from the Smiths with a handwritten letter from Morrissey. There’s a poster of a 1967 concert that Peel organized featuring Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Pink Floyd, the Move, the Animals and more.

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Courtesy Bonhams

An original acetate from Bob Dylan and the Band’s legendary “Basement Tapes” sessions. A ticket to the 1968 premiere of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” film. Joy Division’s insanely rare first EP, “An Ideal for Living,” with a letter from drummer Stephen Morris (£4,000-6,000).

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Courtesy Bonhams

Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones 1973 tour T-shirts. A copy of “Queen II” with a letter from Freddie Mercury. A bounty of rare Sex Pistols items, including test pressing of their first single and a poster from their notorious 1976 “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour with the Damned, the Clash and Johnny Thunders. Gold and silver discs from the Specials and Siouxsie & the Banshees, P.J. Harvey, New Order, even the Fugees.

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Courtesy Bonhams

And toward the end of the catalog, there’s an autographed Kate Bush singles boxed set. Nirvana’s legendary first single, “Love Buzz” (No. 470 of 1,000: £3,000-4,000).

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Courtesy Bonhams

For people who can afford such things, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But for music geeks like us with considerably shallower bank accounts, it’s an equally rare opportunity to dream… and drool. Enjoy