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How It Is

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OverviewEdit

How It Is was a youth-orientated music and discussion programme transmitted on BBC1 TV in 1968, on which JP was a co-host and on the set of which he met Sheila for the first time. One of Peel's co-hosts was the Australian author and "futurist" Richard Neville, widely known as the co-editor of the Australian and UK versions of the counterculture magazine Oz, at the obscenity trial of which Peel testified.

The original series ran from July to December 1968; a short-lived follow-up, entitled How Late It Is to reflect its changed time slot, ran for ten episodes in spring and early summer of 1969. Both series were produced by Tony Palmer, who was also responsible for the 1968 TV films All My Loving and Cream Farewell Concert, which were shown in BBC1's arts series Omnibus, the former in particular provoking a controversy by linking the aggression of rock music to the violent political upheavals of the 1960s.

Palmer was quoted in International Times as claiming that his superiors at the BBC had taken exception to the presence of "long-haired ruffians" Peel and Neville among the show's presenters. Guests included the student leader Tariq Ali, at the time considered a dangerous revolutionary by the British press. Despite its growing audience the show was too controversial for an increasingly nervous BBC, under pressure from the "Clean Up TV Campaign" led by Mrs Mary Whitehouse; it was taken off and Palmer was fired.

John Recalls The ShowEdit

There comes a time in your life when almost every day is the anniversary of something, but the Pig's just pointed out, well, has brought in an invitation that reads thus. It says, "BBC TV invites you to shout, sing or listen during 'How It Is', on Friday November 26, Studio 2, Riverside Studios, Griff Road, Hammersmith. Doors open 5.15, no admittance after 5.30, dress wild. Admit one." She was the one they admitted, and the TV programme, called 'How It Is', on which Richard Neville and myself used to talk in a thoroughly opinionated and ill-informed way on a topic of our choice, and this is therefore the 33rd anniversary of the first time our eyes met across a crowded BBC studio. Isn't that romantic? (JP, 29 November 2001 show.

Peel Meets Pig On The ShowEdit

Sheila also recalled the programme in Margrave Of The Marshes (Bantam Press, 2005, p. 209-10):

One of my friends occasionally acquired, through her lecturer, tickets for recordings of television shows. I hadn't been to one before, but I had recently split up with a boyfriend, and found myself at a loose end one Friday night, so I trundled off with her to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith to watch the recording of a show called 'How It Is'. One advantage of attending those shows was that you got paid. Nothing grand - no repeat fees or anything like that - but the meagre stipend of ten shillings was doled out, once you had signed a contract promising not to leave before the programme was finished...Of course, the downside was that you had to stay put no matter how soul-crushingly tedious the show became.

Peel relates [1] that for two weeks only the programme had been moved from its usual recording location of Lime Grove to Hammersmith. The show's guests that night included Barbara Cartland and the Spinners. The 'highlight' was apparently Peel's section where he, Ronald Fletcher and Neville sat on high stools and offered a satirical view of the week's news. Sheila notes that John and Neville had 'prepared' for the show by inspecting the queue before the start of recording to find girls he liked the look of, but it was Sheila that caught his attention. Since JP had a gig to do, he left before the recording had finished (which she claims not to have noticed), but he asked Fletcher to give her a note requesting that she call him at the weekend. The rest is amply documented in Margarve.

AvailabilityEdit

It is unknown (and also extremely unlikely, given the BBC's wiping policy of the 1960s-1970s) whether any partial or full shows of this series survive. A folk music website lists a performance by Fairport Convention of "Meet On The Ledge" on How It Is: the date given is December 13, 1968. This may well be the clip featured in BBC4's "Folk Britannia" series, but so far no Internet confirmation has been found.

The Missing Episodes website states that no complete episodes of the shows exist, but has a list of dates and performers, including many Peel favourites such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pentangle, Spooky Tooth and Chicken Shack. Performances by The Nice (from How It Is), Family and Richie Havens (both from How Late It Is) can be found on YouTube. In addition, the BFI Film and TV Database lists The Flying Burrito Brothers as appearing on the episode of 1969/03/14, but does not show Peel among the show's participants; instead, his Radio 1 colleague Pete Drummond features in the cast list.

LinksEdit

Footnotes
  1. In Purely Peel, broadcast 2005 and repeated several times since. See Interview: On Meeting Sheila for full transcript.

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