Sheffield Peel: Part I – Pulp at Peel Acres

24 Oct

Well today is Keeping It Peel day, the anniversary of what some refer to as “the day the music died” – the day John Peel shuffled off his mortal coil (and no, I won’t make that 4AD-related quip again) – the day a lot of us abandoned Radio One for good. Well, at least after the tribute programmes that is.

We at We Love All That Towers  are not averse to a bit of calculated punnery, and so while our title cocks a sly wink (or what ever it is) at Joe Cocker’s 1982 album – and that the gravel-voiced Sheffielder recorded a Peel Session in 1969 – it is another Cocker that we wish to feature in today’s homage to Mr. Ravenscroft Sr.

Possibly the most determined band in the history of “alternative” music – Pulp, fronted by the inimitable Jarvis Cocker – took approximately SIXTEEN YEARS from their formation as “Arabicus Pulp” in 1978 to their first Top 40 hit with Do You Remember The First Time and the MTV Europe favourite Babies, the forerunners of Common People, Mis-shapes, Sorted For Es and Wizz, Disco 2000 and the rest – coinciding with the love-it-or-hate-it Britpop explosion the following year, the year from which our first audio takeaway is extracted.

Clipping filched from the more-than-thorough Pulp Wiki

Jarvis was always a huge fan of John Peel, and John was an ardent supporter of his band’s music, despite their persistent abject failure to develop anything more than a small cult following during Pulp’s first fifteen years or so. FIFTEEN YEARS. That’s the recording career of The Beatles PLUS the recording career of The Smiths. But without the hits or the fans or even the favourable reviews. Yet, ever a champion of the underdog (see Dandelion Records!) Peel kept playing the records and in turn Pulp kept putting them out.

So, at the height of their fame, instead of chumming up to the likes of Steve Wright or his cohorts on daytime Radio One, Jarvis and drummer Nick Banks (nephew of legendary England keeper Gordon Banks, footy fans) visited Peel Acres (one of the first musicians to do so… after David Gedge of The Wedding Present and “a Dutch band“, allegedly) and got a guided tour of the great man’s gaff before airing both highlights of the then-forthcoming “Different Class” (UK listeners’ exclusive first chance to hear the album… remember this was in the years before music blogs and online album leaks) and an unearthing of Pulp’s first recorded Peel Session – from 1981! , much to the embarrassment of Peelie who admits he’d presumed the band had recorded umpteen sessions for his programme since then, but evidently not (none at all in fact, between that ’81 session and 1993). Jarvis also admits to recording Peel’s shows off the radio and tries to find some Half Japanese on the hallowed record shelves. Björk’s house, breasts (in general, not Björk’s), Glastonbury, Scunthorpe baths and Jarvis’ estranged dad’s beard (and Peel’s) are also discussed, while early on it is revealed that Peel Acres is home to a dog called Bernard (after Mr. Sumner, perhaps?).

The genuine mutual appreciation – far removed the usual smug fakery often heard in popstar-meets-established-music-broadcaster that was par for the course in Britpop-blunted Britain – is evident, and shortly following Peel’s untimely death on this day eight years ago Jarvis went on to record a moving tribute to our hero which you can find on this old post I wrote when the Pulp frontman went round the countryside recording sounds for the National Trust. The clicky-clicky bit is at the end, and the last time I checked it, it still worked.

Anyway here is the Peel “Pulpathon” (his words, not mine), in an edited (but not very much) version fleetingly uploaded by the elusive das Boy to the general internet consciousness last month… and salvaged for posterity by yours truly:

Pulp on John Peel, September 30th 1995

Plus, here’s a YouTube-d up session that the band recorded when they returned to Peel Acres six years later, around the time of swansong album We Love Life:

Jury is still out on whether Jarvis’ beard is a sly tip of the “respect” hat to Peelie’s though.

But as an extra extra bonus here’s a clip of Jarvis reminiscing in a kitchen about handing the early Pulp demo tape over to John in person that won the band that first Peel session back in 1981, when Jarvis was just 17.

Looks like he was sprouting the beard already.

(Press clipping cheekily filched from the more-than-thorough Pulp Wiki)

Oh, and WATCH THIS SPACE today for “Sheffield Peel Part II”… with a few tasty take-aways!

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