At the turn of the century my thirty-something self was gravitating towards the revamped Radio 2, and with Andy Kershaw sidelined to Radio 3, Peel's was the only show I listened to on Radio 1. Today I would struggle to name a presenter/dj on that station.
I had been a "regular listener" since discovering the show as a pre-teen in the late seventies; but to my eternal shame I'd lapsed during Peel's final year of broadcasting. Having treated myself to my first DAB the previous christmas, I became hooked on the wide range of new digital stations on offer, 6 Music especially.
Steeped in Peel's pioneering ethos, 6 mUSIC continuES where he left off when he left us, both in the music he once championed and in the championing of new music. Archive sessions are broadcast daily on many of the station's programmes; several current presenters were once in bands themselves who Peel first gave national exposure to.
So here's my little contribution to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the passing of this great man. The five sessions presented here - one from each decade spanning his career - are deliberately less obvious choices, perhaps in keeping with the spirit of John Peel himself, and reflect my own taste which, naturally, he helped shape.
1. Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) 2. Nights In White Satin 3. Dawn Is A Feeling 4. What Am I Doing Here?
Prior to my prized purchases my knowledge was limited to Nights In White Satin (mainly The Dickies version) and a clip from the BBC's archival sixties series The Rock 'n Roll Years. Among highlights including Frank Zappa's bass player singing mock doo wop in falsetto, Vivian Stanshall prancing about in a giraffe's head, Moodys singer Ray Thomas undertakes a cumbersome choreograph during the guitar break of Ride My See-Saw akin to a partially beheaded chicken
Perhaps naming your band after an Elvis album and looking like a bunch of otherwise unemployable chaffeurs for an unctuous entrepreneur who spend all their spare time (and wages) in a backstreet bookies isn't a strong selling point; being lumbered with the symphonic rock tag suggests (to me at least) menacingly-sideburned metalheads getting heavy with philharmonic orchestras in a bloated bout of prog pomp.
If you're coming from a similiar perspective, hopefully these recordings will convince you otherwise.
1. Singer Man 2. 54 46 3. Black and White 4. Moon Walk
Peel, of course, was the first radio presenter to give national exposure to the reggae artists, initially incurring the wrath of his rock-orientated listenership.
Greyhound are best known on these shores for their 1971 UK top ten hit Black and White (a version of which is included here). They had two more follow up minor hits before seemingly fading into obscurity.
This was their second session for Peel, having recorded their debut a year earlier in their original incarnation The Rudies. Sadly, a tape of this session has yet to surface,
All debt and gratitude go to Mr. Obscure who first uploaded the session for the world to savour, and from whom I unashamedly purloined.
1. Loss 2. Walk Away 3. Eat Me To The Core 4. She Comes Tomorrow
Named after a Fire Engines b side, Meat Whiplash emerged from the same stomping ground (musically and geographically) as The Jesus and Mary Chain, delivering what the Mary Chain promised pre-southernisation.
After releasing a now highly collectable single, Don't Slip Up, on Creation in September 1985, the group caught the attention of Peel, and were duly summoned to Maida Vale for this their only session.
They were the opening act for JAMC's infamous riot gig at North London Polytechnic in March 1985 and were beaten up on stage by members of the audience after a wine bottle was thrown in to the crowd.
The group recorded a follow up single, but unhappy with the results chose not to release it. By summer C86 they had called it a day, but returned briefly in 1987 for a second stab at stardom as The Motorcycle Boy with Alex from the Shop Assistants on vocal duties.
1. Traffic Jam 2. Language Of Violence 3. Positive 4. Exercise Your Right
I was never a fan of hip hop/electro/whatever it was called that week, but with Television The Drug Of The Nation domineering the analogue airwaves in the first quarter of 1992 amid all the doom-laden, parent-hatin', straight world beratin' smack-spiked scuzz of the lumbershirted longhairs, Michael Franti and Rono Tse seemed like the real deal (Dickinson-free) with something of substance to say.
Unlike others of their ilk, Franti's intelligent and narrative lyrics were delivered in an authorative rather than an aggressive manner, with Tse providing original and imaginative samples, and blending industrial soundscapes with precision funky rhythms. Not only did they use REAL drummers and bass players, they even had songs with actual - gasp! - melodies.
A total of eight songs were recorded at the session, four of which were broadcast on Andy Kershaw's show (which I don't have). Three of the songs were exclusive to this session (although a version of Exercise Your Right was included as a bonus 12" with the limited vinyl edition of Hipocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury). Language Of Violence is a radical rearrangement to it's album counterpart.
Franti would go on to form the soul-funk infused Spearhead; Tse released another album under the Hiphoprisy banner in 1993, this time collaborating with one William S. Burroughs.
1. Monster Melody
We started this mammoth-ish post with a Brum-based band and end it with another second city citizen.
If you're unfamiliar with Misty's Big Adventure then a) shame on you and b) chances are you won't know their quakery frontman or this sixteen minute quirky opus.
One wonders if Misty's had caught Peel's attention as they were active when this session was recorded. It would be nice to think if he'd stuck around for his 70th birthday they'd have been invited to play in the back garden of Peel Acres.