Hey mister deejay, won't you spin that record one more time?
May 15, 2020 7:51 AM   Subscribe

John Peel (Wikipedia) was an English DJ and selector on BBC Radio 1, recording more than 2,000 artists and bands in more than 4,000 sessions, known as Peel Sessions. Over the years, many were released (Discogs), and are now available on streaming services, but there are still plenty of recordings not yet officially available online. With that, Dave Strickson created an alphabetized roundup of around 1,000 Peel Sessions that he found on YouTube. (John Peel, previously)
posted by filthy light thief (17 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
The Perfumed Garden has nearly 1,000 downloadable John Peel shows (or fragments of shows) here. They start in 1961 and run all the way through to his death 43 years later.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:04 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

This is an appeeling post...
posted by Pendragon at 8:04 AM on May 15

Finally, I can ken John Peel.
posted by zamboni at 8:21 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Ctrl-F 1991
Ctrl-F 1992
Ctrl-F 1993
Ctrl-F 1994

ahhhhh...that's the stuff
posted by AgentRocket at 8:37 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]

Who is this “John Peel” and when did he steal my entire record collection?
posted by sjswitzer at 10:25 AM on May 15

“National Treasure” is overused but John Peel qualifiés if anyone does. Excellent and useful list!
posted by sjswitzer at 10:30 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

What I love about this list is how crazy diverse it is. For example:

A Flock of Seagulls - Peel Session 1981 (including "I Ran"!)
A Guy Called Gerald - Peel Session 1988 (oldschool hardcore)
A Guy Called Gerald - Peel Session 1995 (peak "golden age" jungle/ drum'n'bass)
A Witness - Peel Session 1988 (post-punk/ indie rock)

And if you seriously want to geek out over Peel Sessions and more John Peely goodness, the Peel Fandom wiki is crazy-detailed.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:22 PM on May 15

I went down the Peel rabbit hole a few years ago and all I got was an unabashed love for Half Man Half Biscuit.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:55 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

WTF?! No Night Ranger?!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:00 PM on May 15

One of things I'm most proud of in my music "career" is participating in a Peel session. Albeit as just a lowly engineer not having much to do at that occasion.

We arrived at Maida Vale studios and dropped off our gear. Due to some sort of miscommunication we were under the impression we were far too early so buggered off to the nearby park to enjoy a bit of sunshine. When we returned an hour or two later it turned out we should have been there all along and now we were regarded as a bunch of fucking amateurs (in that wonderfully understated English way, mind)

Anyway, being used to sometimes having to set up in a hurry we were ready to record in about 30 minutes. This gave the two BBC engineers enough confidence in us to just go read their newspaper and let us do our thing. Controlling the mixing desk was part of the band's sound so we were happy to get permission to use the studio without much oversight.

Sadly, the big man himself wasn't present. Otherwise we would have tried to get him to say something to sample and use in the set.
posted by Kosmob0t at 10:34 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Peel used to make a point of staying away from session recordings, partly because he didn't want to hear the new music till it went out live. That way, he knew he'd be able to react honestly on-air to anything in the session that surprised or delighted him. His other reason was that he'd have no useful job to do at the session recordings anyway, and he didn't want to end up just hanging around getting in the way. Better to spend that time trying to keep up with the ever-growing pile of new releases awaiting his attention at home.

Live sessions on the show itself were a different matter. I was one of about 30 listeners who won a ticket to watch a Maida Vale show go out live in one of Peel's little on-air competitions. The session guest that night was Jeffrey Lewis, who set up on the studio's ground floor with a couple of bandmates while we punters were guided to a spot where we could watch proceedings from an upstairs balcony. About half an hour before the show started, one of Peel's young producers brought up a few carrier bags full of canned beer so we could all help ourselves.

All I saw of Peel himself that night was his big round belly, clad in an obscure indie band's T-shirt, glimpsed through the window of his little DJ booth at the back of the room. My angle of view from the balcony meant his head was cut off by the top of the window. I don't think anyone would have stopped me if I'd poked my head into the booth to exchange a few words with the great man, but he had work to do and I didn't want to make a nuisance of myself.

My abiding memory of the session itself is that the band's keyboard player had failed to show up, so Lewis recruited someone from the balcony audience at the last minute to fill in. Two-minutes' tuition in the (admittedly fairly simple) keyboard part, and this volunteer was left to sink or swim as the crucial song went out live. He did a good job*.

* As a non-musician, it amazes me that it's possible for a complete stranger to successfully sit in with a band like this when they've had zero rehearsal and don't even know the song they're about to play. It's one of the many aspects of music-making that still seems like sorcery to me.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:15 AM on May 16 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it's really weird how things can happen (or not) in music. Sometimes you plan a session with, say, three seasoned professionals with good intentions and nothing of any value happens. Another time you show someone without any musical background some gear in the studio just because there's nothing better to do. (S)he touches three keys and there's a superb tune in the making.

Inspiration is a wonderful thing though sometimes it's quite maddening how it works.
posted by Kosmob0t at 1:11 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

The classic example would be Al Kooper's cheekily improvised contribution to Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. He's been telling the story ever since.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:49 AM on May 16

I had the standard classic "growing up in the middle of nowhere, listening to John Peel felt like my connection to civilization" experience through my teens, which subsequently turned into a music festival habit in my 20s such that I can smell the mud just reading through that band list .

Sometimes I'll find an old Peel set and play it and hear the familiar sardonic yet kindly voice introducing the band and it's like nothing happened, like maybe I'd just not tuned in for a while but he'd kept going. I really miss him.
posted by doop at 3:17 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

"Sardonic yet kindly" is a perfect description of Peel's presence in the show. That's why I always prefer to listen to his full shows rather than just the sessions - without the opportunity to enjoy his company as well as all the great music, it's just not the same.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:59 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

How many of them are The Fall?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:16 PM on May 16

8. The Jesus and Mary Chain showed up 5 times between 1984 and 1989, including twice in 1985. 5 times seems to be the upper limit on this truncated list, outside The Fall. Half Man Half Biscuit were on 5 times, for example, as were Echo & The Bunnymen, Killing Joke, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Gang of Four were on, suitably, 4 times.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

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