Sunday, 25 October 2015

From Inside The Pod Revisited #12

A special bonus post today to mark Keeping It Peel Day. As you know, our good friend Webbie started this back in 2010. Last year, he called time on it though his site is still active with news of Peel-related events taking place. I'm going to mark this year's 25th October with a repost of my second Peel podcast that I compiled for the 2011 event. The article is much as it was when it first appeared on From Inside The Pod, save a couple of tweaks for the sake of relevence.

Pod 20: #keepingitpeel2
(first published October 2011)

Today is Keeping It Peel Day 2011. When I decided to take part in the inaugural event last year, I had no idea how well received my contribution would be. Last year's podcast (Pod 08) was bigged up by #kip main man Webbie and became the most downloaded file I'd done.

It was a lot of fun doing that one, so this year I decided to do something a little different. While 2010's effort concentrated on some of Peelie's favourite artists and records, this year's is made up exclusively of session tracks recorded for his shows. Naturally, there were hundreds, nay, thousands of songs to choose from. Some were pretty tricky to track down, but well worth the effort. Some of the acts never achieved much in the way of commercial success (though proved to be quite inspirational to those that followed), while others went stratospheric. Either way, Peel championed them even when nobody else wanted to know.

As usual, I've stuck to my 10-track, 30-ish-minute rule, but I could have put together hours worth of stuff (my list of what I left off is as fascinating as the list of what made it!) Interspersed amongst the music are some words from the great man himself. What's interesting is the contrast of the young Peel's voice (early to mid-70s) and the more familiar baritone drawl of his later years.

I've decided against a eulogy this year. I said all I needed to say last year, and besides far better people than I will have said it all and far more eloquently. Instead, it's time to let the music do the talking. Oh, and no, I've not included Teenage Kicks or anything by the Fall. Been there, done that...

(And kudos to anyone who can identify the sheet music in the artwork...)

1. Cinerama Quick, Before It Melts (May 2001, 7th of 10 sessions)
Maybe only The Fall made more Peel sessions than David Gedge who recorded a total of 19 in less than 20 years. The first nine were as frontman with the Wedding Present, the next 10 were with Cinerama (though the last of these fell during the latter's transition back into the Wedding Present). This is probably my favourite Cinerama track and tells the story of a man's reluctant infidelity.

2. Robert Wyatt I'm A Believer (September 1974, 2nd of 2 sessions)
He may be one of rock 'n' roll's casualties, but Robert Wyatt is also one of its unsung heroes. Following the accident that left him paralysed in 1973, John Peel compered a benefit concert for Wyatt headlined by Pink Floyd. The following year, after a standoff with stuffy BBC executives, Wyatt eventually won the right to perform his version of I'm A Believer on Top of the Pops in his wheelchair. Apparently, bosses had initially deemed the prospect as unsuitable for family viewing. How times have changed, thankfully. Bizarrely, he has even spawned a new verb: 'Wyatting' - the practice of playing weird tracks on a pub jukebox to annoy the other patrons. Try it...

3. Laura Cantrell Pretty Paper (December 2003, Peel Acres, 5th and final session)
Peel described Laura Cantrell's debut album 'Not the Tremblin' Kind' as "my favourite record of the last ten years and possibly my life". The track Bee from her third album was dedicated to his memory. This beautiful performance of the classic Roy Orbison hit was recorded live in the Peel family's living room less than a year before John's death.

4. Datblygu Rhag Ofn I Chi Anghofio (January 1991, 3rd of 5 sessions 1991)
Datblygu were picked up by Peel through their debut single and went on to record five sessions for him. No one played Welsh-language music on English radio, except our John who also championed Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals. The title, by the way, translates as 'In Case You Should Forget'.

5. Napalm Death Raging In Hell (March 1988, 2nd of 3 sessions)
Who else but John Peel would play Napalm Death (and other bands of their ilk) regularly on the radio? While most acts recorded three or four tracks per session, this lot would have to do upwards of 10 in order to get a fair share of airtime. To Peel, grindcore artists such as Napalm Death were not novelties as they were to many others, but a genuine musical movement worthy of as much respect as anything else he played.

6. Misty In Roots Rich Man (June 1979, first of 9 sessions)
Another of Peel's all-time favourite records was Misty In Roots' debut 'Live at the Counter Eurovision'. His championing of it helped bring roots reggae to a white audience. They became regulars on his show, releasing a compilation of session tracks in 1995. They continue to tour. This also reminds me that there is not nearly enough reggae on this blog. Hmmm, must right that wrong...

7. David Bowie Port Of Amsterdam (January 1970, third of 6 sessions)
John Peel's relationship with the young Bowie is well-known. Peel nurtured the precocious talent from as early as 1967 when Bowie recorded his first session for him. In fact, it is widely accepted that it was John Peel who 'discovered' Bowie and was largely responsible for his ultimate fame. Sadly, the pair lost touch as soon as Bowie exploded into the mainstream in 1973, something John took personally. Here's Our Dave (as he's affectionately known in my house) with his version of the Jacques Brel song Amsterdam (which is based on the melody of the 16th C. English folk song Greensleeves which itself is often mistakenly attributed to Henry VIII).

8. Pixies Tame (October 1988, second of 5 sessions)
The greatest band to walk the Earth in my lifetime! John Peel obviously saw something in them as well, he had them in session five times! Tame is originally from the band's masterwork 'Doolittle'.

9. Queen Great King Rat (December 1973, 2nd of 3 sessions)
Yes, even Queen did Peel Sessions, three in fact. The first two were recorded for a show John presented called 'Sounds Of The Seventies'. The third, in 1977, came after the band had become huuuuuge and included a frankly amazing version of Spread Your Wings (available on the recent deluxe edition of 'News Of The World'). Great King Rat however, remains one of their finest early songs.

10. Son House My Good Gal [edit] (July 1970, only session)
How good is this? The legendary Son House played his only Peel Session in 1970 sounding as if he was possessed! To see him perform was like watching the devil himself - head thrown back, wailing and hollering, guitar practically beaten into submission. His unique style can still be heard in a slew of young upstarts, in particular Jack White who has long cited Son House as one of his biggest influences.