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Peel On Record

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Related articles: Peel On Record Covers, Peel On Record Cover Sleevenotes

BackgroundEdit

John Peel, by his own admission, was no musician. He could not sing in any other than a vibratoless low baritone [1] and knew no instruments, [2], and so limited himself to spoken word appearances, whistling, and once only as part of a backing chorus to one of his favourite bands. (The exception to this rule is his performance of the original Top Gear sig on jew's harp, included on the BBC Records Top Gear album from 1970.) He started a project recording hippy poetry (including some by Syd Barrett) to musical backgrounds in around 1967, but abandoned it when he realised that it would be a dubious legacy that could come back to haunt him, and claims all available tapes were destroyed. [3]

He admired musicians and, especially in the earlier years of his career, valued his friendships with some of those whose work he championed. Peel first made some tentative forays into management and production in the United States, notably during his time in California when he attempted to promote the career of The Misunderstood. Back in the UK, his popularity during 1967-69 made him an in-demand LP sleeve note writer and occasional producer, although he played down his abilities in the latter role. Music business apathy towards performers he respected eventually caused him to found and run a record label called Dandelion in 1969. It lasted into the early 70s, but by his own admission (again) Peel had no head for business and therefore, by only recording material he liked personally, made no money at all (despite gaining a UK chart entry for the band Medicine Head.)

Nevertheless, he was namechecked in a variety of songs by grateful bands either during sessions or in early releases. (One band, the Mighty Jungle Beasts, even named their record label John Peel Is A Good Bloke Records and optimistically gave their sole release a catalogue number of JP051 [1].) This page is an attempt to catalogue any occasions when he was either a performer on an official release (having refused to participate in any of the session recordings) or mentioned in the course of a song by name.

AppearancesEdit

1960sEdit

  • Liverpool Scene: 'The Amazing Adventures of Che Guevara, Part 2 (LP- Amazing Adventures Of) (RCA: "Produced by John Peel")
Track features backchat between JP in control booth and poet Mike Evans in studio, following the lines "Billy Fury and John Peel track down/members of the outlawed Flint and/Denbighshire Hunt"
Peel reads a children's story at the conclusion of this track. He appeared to find this increasingly embarrassing, and on one show from the 90s did not play his contribution.
Another children's story reading.
Includes Peel playing the theme tune on the Jew's Harp.
Famously included in John Peel's Record Box, this curious version of a Hare Krishna chant is credited on the label as featuring Peel on 'tape, reels and vocal'. He also claimed (26 October 1991) that Sheila and John Walters were present on the recording (and that he had nearly all available copies).

1970sEdit

Despite his claim in 2004 that he had 'never sung on ANYTHING' with the exception of the Altered Images track, both John and Sheila are featured in the 'choir' singing Christmas carols. See Christmas.
John was featured on Top Of The Pops purportedly playing the mandolin part, which would be difficult, since he is holding it flat on his lap. In fact, in 2003, Ray Jackson of the band Lindisfarne, who actually played mandolin on this, sued Stewart for royalties. Jackson claimed he was paid a small sum for the session and never made any more when the song became a hit.
John appears along with other DJs in a short extract from 15 December 1971.
John plays the Jew's Harp.
  • David Bedford: 'Some Bright Stars For Queen's College (LP-Nurses Song With Elephants)' (Dandelion)
Released on his own label, this features JP as a 'pipe twirler' along with several others.
A live recording at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 1974-09-08, but not available until 1994, and not officially released. Peel plays 'percussion', and it is also notable that Ivor Cutler and Mike Oldfield appear on this CD.
Contains a Peel link from session tracks 'Ici Les Enfants' & 'Fat Fun' "...are you boys getting at me?"

1980s Edit

The only other time John allowed himself to be caught singing, in a kind of rugby chorus background and some whistling, which he claimed was his own idea. Peel related the story of this recording session a few years later to John Walters: "I think I did a gig with them at Leicester Polytechnic. They were very very good. I can say this now: I was very smitten by Clare Grogan, the only time I’ve ever felt infatuated by a pop star…She was almost the only person, apart of course from my wife, who could have persuaded me to go into a recording studio and sing! Her and the drummer [Michael 'Tich' Anderson] came and collected me after a programme. They hadn’t warned me about it beforehand, which is probably a very good idea, because I would have found excuses not to go. They took me out to a recording studio. On the way out there, I was horrified to find that the drummer and Clare, put together, weighed the same as me, which is a very depressing statistic. We got out there, and they wanted me to sing on 'Song Sung Blue', the Neil Diamond song." Transcribed from Peeling Back The Years, Part 5.
As might be expected, a spoken word contribution.
Sampled talkovers.
An ambitious album based on Dante's 'Divine Comedy'.
Vinnie samples Peel's voice introducing his only Festive Fifty entry, 'Road Pizza', and subjects it to tape loops.
This is a hardcore acid band, and the release was on purple vinyl.

1990s Edit

Includes a sample of Peel saying, 'what do you think of the programme so far?'.
An instrumental track that has in the background a recording of Craig Scanlon of the Fall, on the phone to Peel with a match report of Manchester City v West Ham. This is taken from the Peel show from 12 February 1994.
  • Rubher: Johnny Peel [Is Dead] (7 inch - Red Truck EP) Lighthouse (1995)
Different samples of Peel are played on the track.
  • Billy Bragg: 'Deck The Halls With Bows Of Holly' (Peel Session)
Bragg is playing live in the studio, and John joins in on this track: see 22 December 1996.

2000s Edit

  • High Fidelity: Pig Might Fly (LP - The Omnichord Album) Plastique
This 2001 album by Sean Dickson's project includes a track built around a melody composed and played on an omnichord by Peel.
A rare piece of music, where John Peel collaborates with Tony Blackburn on a cover of Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond's song and was played on BBC Radio One. Not surprisingly the record was not released. It can be heard on a show from 28 October 2004.
A posthumous tribute containing numerous spoken samples (2005).
 Cuban Boys: Ten Shillings A Years EP: The Cuban Boys On TV (WHITE LABEL==001)
"The History of British Radio" Peel sample can be heard alongside other radio broadcasters on show from 06 December 2000
Samples of John's voice are included. This made the 2005 Festive Fifty (#13).
Sadly, a posthumous contribution (released 2005).
Disc 4 of the box set includes snippets of an interview with the group's David Gedge, conducted at the 1995 Phoenix Festival and originally broadcast on 15 July 1995, along with the group's live set, recorded the previous day.
Disc 5 of the box set begins with Peel introducing the group live on stage at the Sound City event in Leeds, and includes later excerpts of chat with David Gedge, as broadcast on the show on 12 April 1996.
  • Various - John Peel's Festive 15 (compilation CD issued with 'Uncut' magazine, Jan 2006)
There is a 'hidden' track at the end of this disc, not listed on the CD sleeve. It comprises a 17 second snippet of Peel discussing the Smiths, presumably taken from a show in which one of their earlier sessions was broadcast.

Name ChecksEdit

Note that Peel's name is appended to every Strange Fruit session release and most of those released by other companies such as Sub Pop.

1960s Edit

"How would you feel/In the place of John Peel/You can't please all the musicians/All the time". A song about doing a Top Gear session; more details in Ken Garner, The Peel Sessions, p.64
Psychedelic folk rock duo (and see below) who Peel funded and persuaded to change their name from The Way We Live when they signed to Dandelion.
Her version of 'This Old Man', with lyrics altered to "Peel and Pig/Peel and Pig/My love for you is really big."

1970s Edit

Dave Vanian cheekily interjects the cry, 'Eat your heart out, John Peel!'
  • Damned: 'Burglar' (Peel Session)
'I'll nick anything that's removable, including John Peel's record collection. I'll have his priceless blues LPs away...'
Includes the line 'then they go to Rough Trade to buy Siouxsie & the Banshees / They heard John Peel play it just the other night'.
Previously recorded for a Peel session in the summer of 1979, the track features the exclamations 'Awright, John?' and 'Thanks, John!' which top and tail it. These were retained on the re-recorded version, released in October 1979, with one difference: the session version has a massed greeting at the start of the song, whereas a lone voice provides it on the released version.
Recorded live at the Marquee and famed for the 'chorus' of 'Albert Tatlock'. Originally recorded as a Peel Session.
Played on 14 August 1979 and 29 April 1980. Based on a Kenny Rogers song.

1980s Edit

Norman Lovett impersonates John, strumming one chord on a guitar to the memorable lyrics, "I gave myself a ring/To make sure I was not in/But I was/Because I answered/Wasn't that a funny thing/Oh yeah." He then announces that he intends to go and buy an inflatable Kenny Dalglish doll. 'Miniatures' was an album of 50 tracks all less than a minute long, with the invited artists including Robert Fripp and Andy Partridge of XTC. It was compiled by Morgan Fisher (Mott The Hoople, British Lions). Released 1980. (Cherry Red)
"Efter jobbet klockan tio rusar jag hem precis i tid & satta på min radio & lyssna på John Peel's show" (After work at ten o'clock I rush home just in time & put on my radio and listen to John Peel's show)
  • UB40 Session #2 first broadcast 25 Jan 1982, repeated 11 Feb 1982 and again on 27 April.  Contains Prince Baldhead Meets Gymslip And The Schoolgirls At The Chemist. Toasted intro states
"Right about now this  is to all the bad djs down at radio 1 in a rub a dub style - this one is for the man called John Peel, wheeler dealer, mash it"
It would appear that Clare Grogan is attempting to get John to sing along with the chorus, on the grounds that 'anybody can sing this...this is your big moment.' Apparently, he voiced over 'Not on your nelly' on the first broadcast. However, as can be seen above, she managed it eventually.
Lyric goes " she goes to the disco every night and hopes she will meet some fantastic guy - a sort of mixture between Barry Manilow and John Peel". Peel mused when played on 24 August 1982: "Although I do think a cross of Barry Manilow and myself would not live!"
Rap lyric goes "John Peel, the man on the radio".
John's rather sour comment on this was "I’m not certain that having something that sounds like a bunch of old washing machine parts being dragged around in a sack named after you is entirely complimentary."
"Toil, toil, toil and trouble/This is John Peel, and it's time to rumble." [10]
Peel and Walters are named amongst many others.
A cover of the Merle Haggard number, includes an extra verse: 'well hello John Peel what we want to know / When you going to quit? Where will we go? / We'll never get played on the radio / But we'll see you down on skid row.'

1990s Edit

Ipswich band Bleach recorded a short jingle for their debut Peel session, first broadcast 02 December 1990. Based on their single 'Wipe It Away', the song includes the line, 'we tune our dials to Radio One / the week just ain't the same if we don't listen to John'. Afterwards Peel commented, 'that's the way to get yourselves rebooked, no question'.
"Where we going, straight to John Peel's listeners". Peel's reply: "Well I hope so."
  • Ragga Twins: 'Bring Up The Mic Some More / Ragga Trip' (Peel Session)
"Big shout to big John Orange Peel, you know we respect you to the maximum." Peel's reply: "I think I can overlook the orange peel business in view of the general excellence of the work." [17]
Recorded in April 1978 but not released until the Revola compilation was issued in 1992.
  • Diblo Dibala: 'Matchatcha Wetu' (LP - OK Madam) (Afric Music) (1993)
Andy Kershaw plays this on his tribute show 31st October 2004 and introduces it as a record that mentions 1 minute and 12 seconds in 'BBC John Peely' as part of the lyrics: "John loved Diblo's guitar playing, so admired him, that one afternoon we were down here at the BBC and we learned that Diblo was over in Stern's African Records. We raced over there just so John could get his autograph."[19]
"I got more rhymes than John's got Peel Sessions."
Session version of instrumental that later appeared on the 3 Fold album.
Brief (52 seconds) and to the point feedback drone. Played by Peel on his 10 September 1998 show.
An instrumental, after which Peel comments, 'Thanks 10 5 Neuton for the session.' [22]
  • Man...Or Astroman?: Inside The Head Of Mr John Peel[23]
  • Man...Or Astroman?: Welcome To The Wicky Wacky World Of John Peel[24]
  • Man...Or Astroman?: 'Oh Cha Cha Cha And Once Again Ladies & Gentlemen I'm John Peel And While Only A Minor Political Activist I'd Like To Say That Man Or Astroman Is Indeed My Favourite Band Even Moreso Than The Fall' (Peel Session) [25]

2000s and beyond Edit

A tribute from an unfortunately named album (2003).
  • Hamfatter: 'John Peel (On My Radio) (LP - Fireworks)' (Pink Hedgehog)
Another release from 2003. The singer regrets missing a call from Peel, but concludes he must like the record and will play it on the radio and they'll all be rich and famous!
This happy hardcore epic made the 2003 Festive Fifty at number 9. Apart from John, it mentions other Radio 1 DJs such as Dave Pearce, Judge Jules and Pete Tong in the process of bemoaning the fact that JP is the only one to play hardcore tracks above 120 bpm.
Jeffrey Lewis The Legend of The Fall 01:45

Jeffrey Lewis The Legend of The Fall

A history of the band in less than two minutes, which namechecks John: 'DJ John Peel says they're his favourite band because they're always different and always the same.'Lyric illustration.
  • Jon E Cash: 'Cami Carzee-John Peel VIP Dub (CDR)' (white label)
John is namechecked throughout. Played by him on 20 April 2004, 04 May 2004.
  • Negatives: 'John Peel (CD-No Truth No Justice)' (Bad Dog)
Oi-style and one minute long Swedish tribute: 'John Peel was a great man...rest in peace.'
Psychedelic folk rock duo who had previously recorded for Dandelion (see above).
"It's like a nuclear war happy hardcore wow John Peel play some more HappyHardcore."
"Piss off the British press when I’m like, “Who’s John Peel?”
Affectionate and effervescent tribute from a favoured JP band, written as if he were still alive (2009).
A tribute to Peel by the former Spearmint frontman, listing many of the artists that the DJ introduced to the song's author.
Footnotes
  1. He was fond of saying "you should hear me sing that" after playing a tune he was particularly fond of, but never carrying this threat out.
  2. He was given a guitar and practice amp for Christmas 1988 but surrendered the amp to his son William and had one of the strings broken by an unknown person, so never learned it.
  3. 13 January 1996 (BFBS).
  4. #1, recorded 1976-11-30.
  5. Recorded 1979-10-03.
  6. #3, recorded 1981-09-04.
  7. #1, recorded 1982-07-28.
  8. Their only recorded session from 1985-01-15.
  9. One and only, recorded 1982-09-23.
  10. Recorded 1986-11-18.
  11. Recorded 1987-04-16.
  12. #1, recorded 1988-05-08.
  13. #2, recorded 1988-08-02.
  14. From session #6, recorded 1987-02-10.
  15. Recorded 1990-11-20.
  16. Recorded 1991-10-24.
  17. Session #2, first TX 23 February 1992.
  18. #1, recorded 1992-07-21, first broadcast 07 August 1992.
  19. 31 October 2004 (Andy Kershaw).
  20. #2, recorded 1996-06-04.
  21. #1, broadcast 04 December 2001, recording date unknown
  22. One and only session, recorded 1999-03-09.
  23. From session #2, recorded 1995-03-19.
  24. From session #3, recorded 1996-06-01.
  25. From session #5, recorded 1999-06-27.

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