Peel's programmes for Radio Luxembourg, aired from late 1971 to the middle of the following year, were produced by Alan Bailey and recorded at the station's London offices and studios at Hertford Street, about three days prior to broadcast, then flown to Luxembourg by North East Airlines. There is a short extract clip, probably from the show of 1972-01-28, on Bailey's 208 It Was Great website (click on link and scroll down the DJ names on the playlist).
The English-language service of Radio Luxembourg began in 1933 and was one of the earliest commercial radio stations broadcasting popular music to Britain. In the 1950s, when John Peel was growing up, its evening broadcasts on the medium wave band were the only alternative to the BBC for most UK listeners, and remained so until the rise of the offshore pirate stations of the mid-1960s. It pursued a programme policy of chart-based music, many shows being sponsored by record companies who promoted their latest pop singles, was home to the first generation of personality DJs (including future BBC broadcasters such as Pete Murray, Alan Dell, David Jacobs and Alan Freeman) and attracted a large audience throughout the period.
Only in the late 1960s, with LP sales rising sharply, did Radio Luxembourg begin to focus on "progressive" or "underground" pop and rock, with some shows featuring album tracks rather than singles. The station's most notable DJ discovery in this field was a young David "Kid" Jensen. Then, on Friday nights from 1971-11-05 to 1972-07-28, its schedules featured a show presented by Peel.
Stenhousemuir 2 : Cowdenbeath 2
And here's some news from your friendly station of the stars. Radio Luxembourg is planning to pull John Peel into their new-look programmes which start this weekend. With such top Radio 1 names as Tony Blackburn, Alan Freeman, David Symonds and Pete Brady already signed up, 208 have invited Peel, the personality everybody seems to want, to host his own show six nights a week, between 12:40--1:10 am, with the tentative title "The Other Side Of The Track". In fact this is to be only a pseudonym for "The Perfumed Garden" show which won him fame with Radio London.
While nothing came of this offer, with Peel just starting his Night Ride show on top of his existing Top Gear duties at Radio One, the commercial station tried again with greater success just a few years later. Under the headline "John Peel Joins 208 On Friday Nights!", the 208 Times pullout of the NME's 1971-11-06 edition reported the arrival of the DJ's new show:
John Peel, widely recognised as being the leading authority on the progressive music scene, starts a series of Luxy shows this Friday night, November 5, and each Friday at 6.30 p.m. John has been given complete freedom in choosing his own records and hopes from time to time to interview many of his famous friends.
In his Disc & Music Echo column published the same day, Peel commented:
If it's good music you're after--well all I can do is suggest that you try Radio Luxembourg early on Friday evenings when I'll be playing a wholesome disc or two on a programme called "Stenhousemuir 2 : Cowdenbeath 2". There is no reason at all why the programme should be thus named but I didn't want it to be called something "meaningful" and pompous so "Stenhousemuir 2 : Cowdenbeath 2" it is. Ultimately it is to be hoped that the affair will contain contributions from friends old and new, inside leg measurements of the stars and other diversions but, for the time being, we'll have to stick with good music.
Peel's manager Clive Selwood later recalled the origins of the show and offered his own take on the name Peel gave it:
At one point in John's career, when relations with the Corporation were at very low ebb and showing every indication of an early termination, I arranged a series of shows on Radio Luxembourg just to demonstrate to the Beeb his continuing popularity. I shall long remember the look on the face of Radio Lux top man when John, instead of caling his show something snazzy along the lines of JP Rock 'n' Roll Extraveganza, insisted on calling it Stenhousemuir 2, Cowdenbeath 2. Ah, that ceaseless quest for fame and popularity.
In the event, the initial start time of the one-hour show didn't last long, and Peel was soon shunted to the 1.00 am spot, just before Kid Jensen's "Dimensions". With Peel also now presenting a new Friday Night Is Boogie Night show on Radio One, the era of him presenting programmes running on both R1 and Radio Luxembourg came to end when Stenhousemuir 2 : Cowdenbeath 2 went off the air after less than nine months.
Alan Bailey remembers this relatively short period of his working with Peel (in Bailey’s long and distinguished radio career) vividly, and with affection:
John had tremendous musical knowledge and was very caring and considerate towards us. This was the time we were letting DJs go self-operational as opposed to us spinning the records in. It was sort of a home-built turntable unit we came up with, and certainly unlike what the offshore DJs were used to. Without criticism, John ploughed into mastering this new fangled toy and enjoyed his show very much. We spent endless hours talking about rare 45s.
He also points out that “John had a free hand in his record choice and in what he said, I remember he was very pleased about this.” Listeners who heard the shows noticed this too. Decktician, who made the track listings featured below, says:
The show was only 1 hour & didn’t have that many ad breaks, and only news at the top of the hour. There was LOADS more story-telling; clearly this was a considerably more uncensored Peel enjoying the absence of restraints he was used to at the BBC. I remember being quite shocked at open references to his previous dabbling in drugs, for example. Sometimes he'd talk away for 5-10 mins at a time.”
Possibly due to the relatively poor reception of Radio Luxembourg in the UK, no recordings of Peel's shows for the station are known to survive, with the excepton of the short clip linked at the top of this page. If you have such a historic artifact, please contact the Peel Mailing List, where you will be greeted with open arms.
In December 2010, a cache of historic tracklistings from Peel's show on Radio Luxembourg became available as part of the Decktician Logs project of the Peel Mailing List, covering what appears to be a continuous six-month period from January 1972. Please see the following pages:
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 1
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 2
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 3
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 4
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 5
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 6
- ↑ Many thanks to Ken Garner for this information, from a message to him from Alan Bailey.
- ↑ On Desert Island Discs, Peel discusses his early career in the United States and mentions, "I'd wanted from a very early stage to get into radio - I'd listened to Radio Luxembourg and American Forces Network in Europe."
- ↑ Many thanks to Mick C of the Peel Mailing List and Marmalade Skies site for the great majority of the information on this page, including the music press quotes.
- ↑ Clive Selwood, All The Moves (But None Of The Licks) (2003, p. 104)
- ↑ after leaving Luxembourg in 1975, Bailey had a senior position at Radio Trent in Nottingham, won awards for his productions, and also independently produced three Monty Python albums, including Live At Drury Lane
- ↑ Alan Bailey, "208-It Was Great: Radio Luxembourg" (©2006, Alan Bailey, self-published, pp.80-81)
- ↑ e-mail communication with Ken Garner, December 2010. Bailey would appear on Home Truths with Peel as part of a feature about an old Nazi propaganda record.
- ↑ e-mail communication with Ken Garner, December 2010.