Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and county in South West England with an estimated population of 449,300 in 2016. It is England's sixth and the United Kingdom's eighth most populous city, and the most populous city in Southern England after London. The city borders the Unitary Authority areas of North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with the historic cities of Bath and Gloucester to the south-east and north-east, respectively. The city of Bristol in the UK has spawned various musicians and artists, and is typified by its urban culture. While the city is most associated with a group of artists who emerged during the 1990s, especially the "Bristol Sound", the city maintains an active and diverse underground urban scene.
Links To Peel
Bristol wasn't one of the English cities whose music scene came to national attention in the 1960s, but in the later half of the decade it became the home of a lively country blues revivalist scene. Peel supported it by playing records on the Matchbox label, an offshoot of Bristol-based Saydisc Records, particularly the anthology Blues Like Showers Of Rain. As Ian A. Anderson pointed out (in Ken Garner's The Peel Sessions, pp. 50-51) Peel followed up this interest by booking many of the artists involved for sessions on Night Ride, including Anderson himself, Mike Cooper and Jo-Ann Kelly.
Bristol was also a student centre and the major city of the West Country, the area of England favoured by the hippy culture, with Glastonbury and Bath, both known for rock festivals, not far away. Yet the only Bristol-based act to appear regularly on Peel's shows during the early 1970s was the popular live band Stackridge, who did seven sessions for him - more than any other artist from the city.
The year 1979 proved to be a watershed for the Bristol music scene, with Vice Squad and the Pop Group starting to make a name for themselves, plus the release of the regional sampler album 'Avon Calling, The Bristol Collection' on Heartbeat Records, which Peel described as "The compilation by which all others should now be judged... truly superb and not a bad track on it".  Peel played tracks from the album on his October 1979 shows.
Peel would regularly go to Bristol for his roadshows in the 80's, especially at Bristol Polytechnic, and visit gigs to see musicians perform. In his January 26, 1986 column in The Observer, Peel reviewed Half Man Half Biscuit's first gig outside the North West – at Bristol’s Tropic Club, supported by local band the Flatmates. He wrote: “In Bristol they [HMHB] were a tonic, giving me my best night out in years. You must see them.”
From the mid-80's, several labels in Bristol promoted indie pop, including the Subway Organization and later, Sarah Records, with Peel giving airtime to many releases. Sarah compilation albums were named after places in and around Bristol, and numbered after the buses that went to them.
The multi-ethnic city also came to be known for its mixing of musical styles across racial boundaries, from the funk and reggae influences employed by the Dennis Bovell-produced Pop Group and its numerous offshoots to the drum and bass of Roni Size & Reprazent. Peel gave sessions to reggae outfits from the city including Black Roots and Talisman, while artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky all enjoyed Festive Fifty entries from the mid-1990s with variations of a recognisable "Bristol sound" reflecting the impact of sound system and hip hop culture.
In 1995, Peel immersed himself in Sound City in Bristol, broadcasting his programmes live from the city and including recorded performances from the festival in his shows.
The following artists from the Bristol area recorded Peel sessions:
- Aspects: (1 session, 2001)
- Beatnik Filmstars: (5 sessions, 1995-97)
- Black Roots: (2 sessions, 1981-83)
- Brilliant Corners: (3 sessions, 1984-87)
- Cortinas: (1 session, 1977)
- East Of Eden: (2 sessions, 1970)
- Flatmates: (2 sessions, 1986-87)
- Flying Saucer Attack: (2 sessions, 1994-96)
- Glaxo Babies: (2 sessions, 1979-80)
- Heads: (3 sessions, 1995-2000)
- Lupine Howl: (1 session, 2000)
- Maximum Joy: (3 sessions, 1981-82)
- Movietone: (3 sessions, 1994-97)
- John Parish : (1 session, 1996)
- Pigbag: (1 session, 1981)
- Pop Group: (1 session, 1978)
- Propellerheads: (1 session, 1996)
- Rip, Rig & Panic: (2 sessions, 1981-82)
- Shoes For Industry: (1 session, 1979)
- Roni Size & Reprazent: (1 session, 1996)
- Stackridge: (7 sessions, 1971-76)
- Strangelove: (2 sessions, 1992-93)
- Talisman: (1 session, 1981)
- Third Eye Foundation: (1 session, 1999)
- Vice Squad: (2 sessions, 1981-82)
- Robert Wyatt : (2 sessions, 1972-74)
The following artists from the Bristol area had Festive Fifty entries:
- Flatmates: I Could Be In Heaven #42 (1986 Festive Fifty)
- Flatmates: Shimmer #42 (1988 Festive Fifty)
- Massive Attack: Teardrop #21 (1998 Festive Fifty)
- John Parish: Taut #23 (1996 Festive Fifty)
- John Parish: That Was My Veil #17 (1996 Festive Fifty)
- Pigbag: Papa's Got A Brand-New Pigbag #39 (1981 Festive Fifty)
- Portishead: Sour Times #08 (1994 Festive Fifty)
- Propellerheads: Velvet Pants #28 (1997 Festive Fifty)
- Tricky: Black Steel #22 (1995 Festive Fifty)
- Robert Wyatt: Shipbuilding #02 (1982 Festive Fifty), #11 (All Time 2000 Festive Fifty)
- Robert Wyatt: Biko #35 (1984 Festive Fifty)
- Robert Wyatt: The Wind Of Change #47 (1985 Festive Fifty)
(LP - Avon Calling - The Bristol Compilation) Heartbeat
- 02 October 1979: Glaxo Babies: It's Irrational
- 04 October 1979: Essential Bop: Chronicle
- 04 October 1979: Directors: What You've Got
- 04 October 1979: Various Artists: Own Up
- 08 October 1979: Sneak Preview: Slug Weird
- 08 October 1979: Stingrays: Sound
- 09 October 1979: X-Certs: Anthem
- 09 October 1979: Apartment: The Alternative
- 09 October 1979: Numbers: Cross-Slide
- 10 October 1979: Vice Squad: Nothing
- 10 October 1979: Stereo Models: Move Fast - Stay Ahead
- 10 October 1979: Double Vision: My Dead Mother
- 16 October 1979 (Virgin In-Store): Sneak Preview: Slug Weird
- 17 October 1979: Moskow: Too Much Commotion
- 18 October 1979: Vice Squad Nothing
- 22 October 1979: Glaxo Babies: It's Irrational
- 12 December 1979: Vice Squad: Nothing
- 21 April 1995: Moskow: Too Much Commotion
- 22 April 1995: Essential Bop: Chronicle
- 26 March 1979: Peel mentions a "rather disastrous" gig in Bristol on Friday 23rd March.
- 23 October 1979: “That Mike Read looks awfully like Lord Lucan, you know. I never noticed it until today, but I wonder … no, surely not. Last night I mentioned that on this programme I might be playing a stack of singles because we’d rather fallen behind with releases. Not that this is by any means a mopping up operation, but every one a winner, coming as they do from Boston, London, Detroit, Cheltenham, Sunderland, San Francisco, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool, Derry, Kingston, Cardiff, Belfast, and to start the programme, from East Anglia.”
- 06 May 1980: (JP: 'I'm having one of my hopelessly incoherent nights tonight. Somebody said to me the other day in Bristol that they thought I did it on purpose to be cute. Can you imagine that? It's rather a sickening prospect, all things being considered.")
- 16 March 1981: Peel in a generally good mood at the start of the week and returning from "an invigorating weekend cruising round the West of England with gigs (jigs rather) in Bristol and Plymouth and a great deal of accompanying merriment".
- 15 May 1993: (JP: You may remember that they [Flying Saucer Attack] had a single out perhaps towards the end of last year, perhaps it was at the beginning of this, which I played several times thinking it was an expensive foreign import that you couldn’t get your hands on. And then when I found it came from Bristol of course I stopped playing it. Being that kind of elitist chap. Here’s the second one. This is, I think, called 'Wish'. I’m not quite sure which side is which to be honest with you.’)
- 28 April 1995: John reminisces about going to Bristol Anson for Sound City the previous weekend, and looks for an excuse to return to Glasgow.
- 20 January 1996 (BFBS): John relates how he was sent to Bristol to record the narration for a science-fiction based documentary (see Beam Me Up, Scotty). He had raging toothache and the rest of the team went to lunch, leaving him to write the script.