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Bolan At The Beeb: Peel On Bolan (Transcript)

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IN 1993, Peel was among those interviewed for Bolan At The Beeb, broadcast in September 1993 as one in a series of four radio documentaries, introduced by Bob Harris, to mark the publication of Ken Garner's book In Session Tonight. The other programmes were on David Bowie, The Smiths and Led Zeppelin.[1] Peel's comments from the documentary on his former friend appear below.

Peel on Bolan

Friend

Well, it went back to the days when I was on the pirate ship Radio London and I got a letter from Marc along with a copy of an acetate of a couple of songs, and I played this quite a bit. And I arranged to meet him next time I was on land and did so and became good friends. We used to go off looking for records together and so on and doing hippy things like climbing Glastonbury Tor and going inevitably to Stonehenge, which was possible in those days. And as they made records I used to play them on the radio and we got them in to do sessions for Top Gear and so on. And when I went off and did my awful gigs around the country, for which we used to get paid like 25 or 30 pounds or something, I always used to insist that I took Tyrannosaurus Rex with me, otherwise I wouldn’t go. And I used to hire a little red mini because I didn’t have a car of my own, and you get all of their equipment into the boot of a Mini, because it was all toys and stuff. And we’d drive to far-flung places like Exeter and Newcastle where they by and large didn’t much like what they heard, but they didn’t much like me either. So we’d drive back afterwards because we couldn’t afford to stay anywhere. And there was a particular place that we liked right at the bottom of the M1 where they were trying different road surfaces and as you drove along it made different noises – and we had this scheme to get the motorways of Britain orchestrated, which would have been quite nice, I think.

Radio Guest

Anyway, we were booking Marc for sessions on Top Gear and when they recorded the first couple of LPs - My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows, if that’s the right title, and Prophets, Seers & Sages, The Angels Of The Ages, Marc came in on occasion. I used to have a programme, I used to work on Night Ride, which was from midnight until two on Radios 1 and 2 - I think it was intended for strong, muscular men who were thundering through the night at the wheels of vast machinery. And I used to have this programme which combined classical music and people reading bad poetry rather badly and me interviewing people and talking the most appalling codswallop. And occasionally tapes of these programmes turn up and are crushingly embarrassing. And occasionally Marc would come in and read some of his poems as well.

Friends No More

It’s a difficult area for me this, because Marc and his first wife June had been best friends with my wife Sheila and myself for quite some time. We’d done a lot of things together. But you know how very few friendships last for more than like a few years and people drift apart and people’s priorities change and so on and you suddenly find you have less and less in common. And as Marc became more and more well known, he just started to run with a different crowd. And there wasn’t any kind of row or disagreement or argument at all, but I just saw less and less of him. And it happens quite a bit really in the glamorous world of showbiz, you know, because I’m not a showbiz type and over the years I’ve lost one or two friends to showbiz, and I suppose that’s one of the reasons I don’t have a great deal to do with it now, because you get involved with people and then they suddenly disappear out of your lives and it can be quite upsetting, I suppose. And Marc came along to the BBC one evening with an acetate of I think it was Get It On, or a white label, and left it at reception for me to play on the programme. And I took it up to the studio just before going on the air and listened to it and I thought to myself, “Well, if this wasn’t Marc I’d not play it.” And then I thought to myself, “Well, if that’s the case, then I mustn’t play it.” Because you have to be sort of true to yourself, in a rather fanatical way. And so I didn’t play it, and that was really pretty much the end of that. At that time, Marc was more of a friend with Bob Harris actually, who was on the radio at the time, and used to see more of him. In fact, I only saw him once more from then until his death and that was on a record review programme I think or somewhere, I don’t remember exactly where. Anyway, we were perfectly friendly there, but in a sense it was like meeting someone you’d not met before or like somebody’s older brother or younger brother – it didn’t seem to be the Marc that I’d known particularly well.

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