Tag Archives: indie

Diamond Geezer: John Peel’s 75th Birthday

30 Aug

 

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Today, 30th August 2014, would have been broadcaster extraordinaire and patron saint of music lovers John Peel’s 75th birthday.

Those wanting further information about the great man would be well advised to seek out other posts on this blog or to go to the outstanding Keeping It Peel website, the official John Peel Archive or the exhaustive John Peel Wiki.

But let’s remember the most influential DJ on British radio by recalling his 40th and 50th birthday celebrations on the radio, the latter of which consisted largely of a surprise concert laid on by friends and family featuring a number of his favourite bands. while remembering his dry sense of humour where he laid bare his comedic influences in a radio programme in 1981.

Happy 75th John, wherever you are.

* John Peel’s 40th Birthday programme

* John Peel’s 50th Birthday programme

* John Peel on “It Makes Me Laugh” (1981)

 

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Lou Reed: Sunday Morning After the Sunday Mourning Before

3 Nov

It was Kim Gordon who told me that Lou Reed had died, I swear.

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I turned on Twitter and there it was.

The words “So sorry to hear of Lou Reed s passing this is a huge shock!” from the blue-tick @kimletgordon account suggested this was not another of these tiresome internet death hoaxes but actually something very real. Why would the Sonic Youth (and now Body / Head) songsmith and latterday queen of NYC cool fall for such a dumb stunt if it were merely that? Indeed, Ms. Gordon went on to write a whole magazine article here in memory of the man she called “the first real anti-hero in rock”.

Lou Reed was one of these old gnarled, grumpy anti-heroes who you probably presumed would go on living forever, despite having smoked, sniffed, snorted and injected all manner of illicit substances for years (despite being “clean” for a fair few years) washed down, one would imagine, by plentiful quantities of liquor and strong coffee.

Not unlike Keef, Iggy, David or Julian, the craggy face of Lou Reed in his latter years seemed to be like one of those old trees standing strong in the middle of a storm, having absorbed years of battering from the “elements”. But in the end he died at the age of 71 – hardly a rock ‘n’ roll casualty – but still younger than my mum is now. And despite some pathetic tabloids trying to paint him as a poster boy victim of drug abuse he had been “on the wagon” for a fair while.

There is really no need for me to sum up Lou Reed or The Velvet Underground as most of you reading who are fans will know the backstory already while those who have a merely cursory interest in the fellow will have probably gleaned the relevant information in the many obituaries that were written after his demise.

You will already know that his parents sent him for electro-shock therapy at the age of 17 to “cure” him of his burgeoning, “worrying” homosexuality, that he was part of Andy Warhol’s “Factory” and got Andy to paint a cheeky banana on the cover of his band’s debut album, that he was a good mate of David Bowie and Iggy Pop (and later championed Antony Hegarty of “and-the-Johnsons” fame), probably took hard drugs and certainly wrote songs about it and hated giving interviews. We all know that John Peel championed The Velvet Underground in their early days because that’s what he did with most culturally important artists.

The fact that his most instantly recognised worldwide hit was about a series of transvestites and / or transexuals and contained a line about “giving head” is to the man’s eternal credit.

It took me YEARS to twig the innuendo in the album title of “Transformer”, which I’d always naívely presumed was some electrical power reference.

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To be frank, of the man’s relatively ample catalogue, I only own four physical albums of his, although others have resided on my hard-drive for some time, a few extrapolated “for personal use” from record library borrowings.

And yet it is probably in the influence of The Velvet Underground that many of the favourite bands of my teenage self in the 80’s that casts the longest shadow over my music collection.

Of my youthful “holy trinity” of The Smiths, New Order and The Cure, Morrissey has covered Satellite of Love, New Order covered Sister Ray (which they also did as Joy Division) and also performed Do The Ostrich pre-VU Lou band The Primitives (not Tracy Tracy’s band, more on THEM later), while there are photos of Robert Smith with Lou Reed and no doubt Cure performances of Velvet Underground material circulate beyond the realms of YouTube.

It was also through cover versions that I first came into contact with A LOT of Velvet Underground material that I probably didn’t know was actually by them in the first place at the time. Probably because I didn’t purchase “The Velvet Underground and Nico” until decades later, to my eternal shame. Like this wonderful Strawberry Switchblade version of Sunday Morning, probably the first of these aural delights (which you’ve already guessed I am going to catalogue):

Everyone from Ian McCulloch to Siouxsie to Japan to The Wedding Present to Ride to Nirvana to Bryan Ferry and back covered VU songs, and you could probably get a couple of complete compilations of “The Velvet Underground and Nico” with each track covered by a different artist, gleaned from a plethora of B-sides, album tracks, live recording and even the odd single.

Beck even covered the whole damn album.

The Cowboy Junkies‘ beautiful rendition of Sweet Jane is another case in point:

Could the glorious noise of The Jesus and Mary Chain have sounded quite the same without the sonic innovation of Reed, Cale, Tucker, Morrison and sometimes Yule? Although other bands have had a notable influence on UK indie and US “college rock”, I’d wager few would have had the impact on teenage ears if they themselves hadn’t been exposed to The Velvet Underground. Of course Gram and Neil and John and Paul and Alex and Jonathan and all the girl groups also left their mark, but Lou and his bandmates left a bloody great boot print.

Coventry’s recently-reformed Primitives not only nicked their monicker from Lou Reed’s pre- Velvets garage band incarnation (I may have mentioned them earlier) but also introduced my younger self to I’ll Be Your Mirror, another b-side.

As Brian Eno said, “The Velvet Underground and Nico” only sold 30,000 copies when it came out, but everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band“.

Even in his post-Velvets solo career, Lou Reed still attracted many a fine cover version.

The House of Love covered I Can’t Stand It to great effect:

Away from the world of indie, Reed’s oeuvre both with and without the Velvet Underground has also been keen sampling fodder.

A Tribe Called Quest‘s lift of a snatch of  Walk on the Wild Side for their breakthrough radio hit Can I Kick It? is probably the most well-known (the entire track is credited to “L.Reed” alone), but Massive Attack, RZA (him out of the Wu-Tang Clan), Del The Funkee Homosapien, LCD Soundsystem and even Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch have sampled Lou Reed’s compositions.

Further afield Japanese artists Pizzicato Five, Takako Minekawa and Kahimi Karie all sampled THE SAME Lou Reed song.

It wasn’t anything off “Metal Machine Music” either.

The most curious Lou Reed sampling though has to come from Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook, who managed to match Lou Reed with his future wife Laurie Anderson on a 1990 b-side, a full 18 years before they married in 2008.

For me personally, post-Velvet Underground Lou Reed had its highlights in “New York“: the man’s tribute to the city he loved with all its dirt and crime and seediness (and to his friend the wheelchair-bound songwriter Doc Pomus) and his reunion album with John Cale “Songs For Drella“: a two-man warts-and-all tribute to their late mentor Andy Warhol.

Here’s the whole concert-film-recording thing of “Songs For Drella”, a tremendous record.

I hear “Magic and Loss” is another highlight, but embarrassingly, I’ve yet to hear that in full.

One for the Christmas wishlist there.

So long Lou, and thanks for inventing indie along the way.

Oh, and as we started with Lou Reed subtitled in Spanish, here’s my favourite cover of Walk On The Wild Side, which just happens to be in Spanish as well,

 Courtesy of Albert Plà:

Give My Love to Kevin: the return of My Bloody Valentine

12 Feb

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Well, it actually happened… the follow-up to My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” – released in 1991 and given a questionable remastering last year – is finally available. Nearly twenty-two years later, with no further warning than an aside by Kevin Shields at a recent Brixton Academy gig in which he replied to a lairy fan’s heckle about the likelihood of a new MBV platter within the forseeable future with a shouting of  “two or three days!”, something jumped upon by the digital music press. After all, after such a long wait – the hysteria which greeted The Stone Roses’ tardy follow-up “The Second Coming” soon turned to disappointment when it failed to live up to the lofty heights of its eponymous predecessor.

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And maybe it if this reference point we need to re-visit, to compare to the second coming (or the third coming, as “mbv” is – of course – the band’s third album “proper” when compendiums and reissues are ignored) of “My Bloody” (I distinctively recall annoying fans yelling “MY BLOODY!!” at the quartet’s memorable Rollercoaster gigs alongside Dinosaur Jr., The Jesus and Mary Chain and a pre-mega-fame Blur) especially when Madchester’s most infamous quartet (note I did say Madchester, not Manchester’s… obviously too many contenders for THAT title) rolled back into town for a series of triumphant reunion gigs last year.

Because, whereas the five years idled away between debut and (WARNING: irritating US music journalist word ahead) sophomore album the Roses built up an anticipation that couldn’t possibly be quenched by any album, by letting over an ENTIRE GENERATION go by between one much-loved (can I say “groundbreaking” yet?) album and the next – supposedly bankrupting Creation in his quest for a perfect sonic palette along the way – Kevin Shields replaced any possible whinges of “is THIS it?” with gasps of amazement that the album was actually being delivered at all. And as The Stone Roses themselves saw when their surprisingly successful return (I mean critically, any Roses reunion was obviously bound to be a star-studded sell-out) a real long absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

MBV1

Like anyone who remembers the hazy crazy days of shoegaze in the early 1990s with half an eye on the internets, I watched the build-up to the “album drop” on Twitter. In real time. Will it, won’t it… some people were floating the idea that midnight Saturday/Sunday would be as good a time as any, a bit like when the megastores (RIP) used to open at midnight for the new Madonna album or whatever, and sure enough at the stroke of midnight mybloodyvalentine.org sprung into life.

Or rather, for most people, it didn’t. Tweets began to fill my timeline that “Kevin Shields has broken the internet” and a few die-hard fans began to whine in a way eerily reminiscent of those let down by the technology when trying to purchase Kraftwerk tickets a few weeks previously. I managed to get on to the site after refreshing lord-knows-how-many times, when it crashed as soon as I clicked a button. Then I saw the album had been uploaded to YouTube… and then I decided to call it a night.

But next morning Mary Anne Hobbes blasted a medley of the whole album over the BBC 6Music airwaves and I knew that I had to purchase it, and preferably on vinyl as mp3 probably wouldn’t do 22 years of sonic tweaking justice. Plus there was an LP + CD + download bundle option available on the now smooth-running MBV site, and the word LIMITED alongside the vinyl details. I punched my info in and am still awaiting my package. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 22-odd years to arrive… after all this is the band whose last recorded effort as a quartet was a cover of “We Have All The Time In The World“.

MBV_B&W

I was going to do a track-by-track rundown of the mbv album (lower-case letters please) that has been on the iPod for around a whole week now but seeing that both Ned Raggett from The Quietus and Alexis Petridis from The Guardian have penned far greater reviews of this exhilarating long-player than this humble servant could ever hope to, you can read theirs instead (he said lazily). Nonetheless, my enthusiasm for “mbv” hasn’t been dimmed by a week of exposure, and although it is hardly a quantum leap from the intoxicating fuzz we fell in love with last time, the general standard of daytime-radio-friendly pop music has fallen so far (can YOU think of an early 90s irritant comparable to Guetta, Pitbull or the current slew of identikit boybands / urban soundalikes? Even Take Take that were almost bearable by comparison, ffs…) that the enchanting, dreamy, noisy wooze-pop that debatably kick-started “the scene that celebrates itself” (certain Bella Union bosses may beg to differ) was not only greeted with nostalgic glee but also as as breath of fresh air. Yes, the last track has a bit of a vintage drum-n-bass-wig-out edge to it, and in a couple of tracks Bilinda’s vocals are almost transcribable without a second listen, but there’s no doubt this is a My Bloody Valentine record. and a jolly fine one at that.

And what do the class of ’91 think of Kev and the gang’s return to our turntables? Emma from Lush tweeted that she “had heard a couple of tracks off YouTube on her “crappy laptop speaker” before proclaiming she was “gonna get the CD. Old school, yes”. Rachel from Slowdive opined – shortly after the album “dropped” – that she was “drowning in mbv”, and subsequently concurred with a follower that the album was “rather good” and that she “wouldn’t expect anything less”. Charlatan and sometime coffee man Tim Burgess described the album as “epic… loudly epic”, while David Gedge, the Ralf Hütter of The Wedding Present (and author of this post’s title, as you had probably spotted), protested he had “not had the chance yet” to hear the aforesaid recording and Boo Radley Martin Carr claimed to have been almost knocked down by a bus as he cycled home, enraptured by “mbv” on the headphones.

Meanwhile, from the world of football, Basque-born Spanish internationals past and present Gaizka Mendieta and Xabi Alonso both tweeted My Bloody Valentine related-links, with “only tomorrow” being a favourite of the Madridista. One Spanish tweeter pondered that if Xabi were allowed first dibs on the Real Madrid changing room sound system their unfortunate league trajectory could probably be dramatically reversed thanks to the power of MBV riffs.

To conclude, I would add that you could do a lot worse than investing in a hard copy of “mvb”, preferably on vinyl, or failing that on CD.

And when the package finally arrives… PLAY IT LOUD.

(Black & White mbv album shot as manipulated by The Richardson Fosters on flickr)

BONUS CONTENT FOR NOSTALGISTS:

* My Bloody Valentine Peel Session from 1988

* Shonen Knife – When You Sleep (MBV cover from “Yellow Loveless” – Japan only tribute album)

* Uncut SNUB TV interview with Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher (and Bobby Gillespie)

Countdown to Keeping it Peel!

24 Oct

What better way to count down to Keeping it Peel 2012 (tomorrow – 25th October) than by these handy ten-to-twelve-minute Festive Fifty chart rundowns, starting in 1982.

As a nod to The mighty Fall (who unsurprisingñly, feature heavily), these are the FFs 80s – 90s.

Hats off to YouTuber “John Peel” (blimey, there’s a coincidence) for stitching it all together.

EDIT: Well in true John Peel style I suppose this is the virtual equivalent of playing the records at the wrong speed.

I will try and remedy this in due course :/

Spirit of Peel: Cocteau Twins mixtape

9 Oct

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Of the vast panoply of fresh, exiting, exotic and sometimes just plain odd stuff played by John Peel in the 80’s (when the We Love All That ghetto blaster was most frequently “locked” to Radio One between the hours of nine p.m and midnight), certain bands became staples. Often these bands were white boys with guitars from somewhere north of Watford: The Smiths, The Fall, The Wedding Present, New Order etc. While Peel himself loved and championed these bands he often lamented that he would have preferred to see a few more reggae, electro, rap or African records in his listener-voted Festive Fifty at the end of each year instead of the same old same old which clogged up the charts each Yuletide, rather like bland daytime pop dominating the regular Top 40.

Another such white guitar-wielding combo from north of Watford was Cocteau Twins, fronted as any fule kno by Elizabeth “Liz” Frazer… a vocalist for whom the word “ethereal” was invented. I would love to wax (and, indeed, wane) lyrical on her original inventive lyrical and vocal style which would alternately harangue and caress the ears of the listener, but knowing that this fellow on the official (?) Cocteau Twins website has done a far better job than I ever could, just click the link and read his in-depth analysis in your own sweet time.

In 1991 Peel even scrapped that year’s Festive Fifty due to the predictability of said hit parade, although he eventually caved in to his disappointed listeners and belatedly broadcast a “Phantom Fifty” in 1993, playing just two songs (or was it just one?) A WEEK. The whole chart has been lovingly collated and sewn together by venerable home taping curator Rico here, with bits of Peelie chatting before and after the tracks as befits the occasion.

But back to Cocteau Twins, who made an earth-shattering SEVENTEEN appearances over the lifespan of the Festive Fifty and were the fifth most popular act in the eyes and ears of those who sent their postcards to Peel and Walters for the chart (we can safely presume The Fall were sitting “pretty” in pole position), and a chance discovery made on the interweb this morning that I just HAD to share… a two hour (ish) Cocteau Twins mixtape, with talky bits and everything! Compiled and – nay – mixed by one Silinder, it’s a mix (an actual mix) of well-known and more obscure “cuts”… and you can even download it if you’re fast enough. Hats off, not to Harper, but to Silinder… and enjoy the (ahem) sonic cathedrals and celestial castles of Elizabeth Frazer, Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde:

Will you be Keeping it Peel? New music alert forthcoming!

5 Oct

Will YOU be Keeping it Peel this 25th of October?

As is common practice we at We Love All That Towers certainly will, with a special treat lined up for the day itself, looking back at something or other that appeared on the late, great man’s Radio One show.

But to get you in the mood this month, we’ll also be posting some new music by new bands / musicians who sadly will now never get the chance to record a Peel Session or get their stuff played on his show.

Because although we love to reminisce about the vast panoply of music and musicians Peel helped break through to mainstream success, “inky” music paper kudos or just a small cult following, a lot of his raison d’etre (as his beloved Belgians may well have said, well…  the Walloon variety anyway) was to give an airing to those new artists he felt didn’t have a place on daytime radio – from The Faces, The Pink Floyd and the Pistols to Half Man Half Biscuit, Misty In Roots and happy hardcore.

Peel didn’t live to see what M.E.S. may have called “dubstep’s dream debased“, but he was playing that now-oh-so-ubiquitous genre in its infancy before his untimely death in 2004. Artists that may now be 6Music staples or commercial radio classics who were once considered too “weird” or “different” for airplay. Even Public Enemy who just scored a top five UK hit with a five-year old song were given a first UK airing on Peel’s programme (and Peel got a back cover credit on their album as a thank you).

Madonna once sang that “music makes the people come together” while going on to emote (in a faux-patois) that “music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel“. Peel played music that made the spotty indie kid, the spliffed-out raggamuffin, the wide-eyed raver, the lank-haired deathcore aficionado and lovers of all genres sit up and open their ears, not just to reflections of their own musical preferences but to a wider sonic “church” (and a fair few sonic cathedrals, but let’s not go there now).

Obviously, We Love All That is no John Peel, but this October – allowing for the usual distractions – we will try and post some new music from people you probably haven’t heard before, partially as a hat-tip to the man upstairs.

So, as I said around this time last year… keep ’em Peeled!

Home taping didn’t kill music (Happy Birthday John)

30 Aug

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Today, 30th August 2012, would have been John Peel’s 73rd birthday.

73 isn’t a particular number of note (his wife had a collection of 78s as I recall, or was it her pick of his 78s.. not sure..) but it is always worth celebrating the life of the man who in his own way fomented the eclectic tastes of so many of us and who, for people of a certain age (my age and older, I suppose) who lived out their student years before the so-called interweb, was sometimes the sole or at least the initial conduit into a world of music outside the traditional realms of Top of the Pops, although of course many of the musicians he gave an initial airing to would go on to be staples of such programmes.. but that’s another story.

Just as many today would scour music blogs and cheeky content sites trying to find interesting new-to-me music for no money, their counterparts of the 1980s (and before) would sit listening to John Peel’s programme at 10.00 pm on the one-time-wunnerful Radio One (“275 – 285, and stereo V-H-F”) with sweaty fingers paused over rec and play. Downloading a podcast from 6Music or listening to Zane Lowe or whoever on the iPlayer doesn’t really match up in the “magic memory” stakes, however fantastic Stuart Maconie’s musical taste is (and it is, believe me). And just as we would tape the songs off Peel’s programme (or in some cases, just leave the thing running and tape the whole programme), young men and women up and down the country would be inspired to start their own bands, record a demo tape and send it to the BBC for him to hear. Some with the idea of becoming professional musicians, others just keen to meet the approval of their revered tastemaker. Peel usually listened to these tapes in his car while driving to Broadcasting House, or wherever, and once quipped that he imagined many listeners imagined he would be more than happy to meet his maker in a road accident while trying to decipher a cassette inlay. Something he made quite clear was not the case!

Tapes were central to John Peel’s BBC shows, whether they were specially-recorded ones he received in the post from bands, African cassettes sent from foreign parts (like.. er.. Africa) or the cratefuls of TDKs and BASFs that were used to record his shows by listeners like me (and quite possibly by you as well).

Which leads on to the tapes themselves.  Thanks to the web you’re reading this on now, collaborative projects like the fantastic John Peel Wiki compile months and months of Ravenscroft-selected broadcasts, from semi-muffled recordings of  The Perfumed Garden and Top Gear (the pre-Clarkson, even pre-Woollard Top Gear – the “gear” in question probably being a drug reference than anything motor-related) where the great man spoke in what seems a fairly posh-but-weedy voice to crystal-clear digital DAB recordings in the 21st century… recordings of the wise-but-sufficiently-with-it-but-not-embarrassingly-so dad we never had or the one we would have liked to evolve into ourselves one day.

The equally wonderful John Peel Archive, who are currently working their way though Peelie’s “hallowed shelves” a hundred records at a time (100 records per letter, A-Z), have also been keeping their own collaborative documentation of those cassettes on which we tapers recorded Peel’s shows. I myself thought I was being incredibly original in calling one of my “taped off the radio” cassettes “Mixed Peel” until I saw that someone on the Peel Archive Pinterest page had posted photos of his own collection including one with the same name (along with an “Orange Peel”, an “Emma Peel” and so on).

So here are some of my “original” custom-made Festive Fifty cassette inlays from the mid to late 80s, my “golden era” of listening to John Peel. These were the days of photocopied fanzines, of Rotring pens and Letraset, of Pritt Stick and typewriters that jammed. A colour photocopy was a thing of wonder, and nobody owned their own printer. In fact, mention the word “printer” to a sixteen-year-old schoolkid in the 1980s and they’d probably think of orange xerox-mecca Prontaprint or Mr Munnings out of Trumpton.

Looking back on these lovingly-prepared covers (who said “sad bastard” back there?) I really don’t think I could have imagined making such an effort for any of Peel’s contemporaries, even though I regularly listened to Janice Long, Kid Jensen and Annie Nightingale (as well as Mike Allen on Capital and other stuff) and enjoyed most of the music. I no longer own a working tape recorder as various Walkmen, ghettoblasters and tape-to-tape separates have long given up the ghost. Occasionally I dip into the very programmes that live in the cases you see here, recorded by someone else at the same time I was listening (these shows – at least to my knowledge – were never re-broadcast on Radio One) and digitised by that same person or those same persons with more technical flair than myself.

Home taping didn’t kill music, you see. It saved it. For posterity.

Here are some links to some site with shows originally preserved on tape:

Now to start digging around for something for Keeping It Peel day, October’s not that far away!

Keeping it Peel with Ted Chippington and The Popguns

25 Oct

Seven years ago today saw a vast number of popular, seminal or struggling musicians and an even vaster number of music lovers around the world shed a tear over the unexpected death of an avuncular balding gentleman from the Wirral with various children named after vestiges of Liverpool Football club and a wife he fondly referred to as “the Pig”.

John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, better known as John Peel, was responsible for bringing artists as disparate as The Smiths, Bob Marley, Orbital, Bolt Thrower,  The White Stripes, Public Enemy, PJ Harvey and The Bhundu Boys to a wider audience.

His late night BBC Radio One show, with its specially recorded sessions (which somewhat logically became known as Peel Sessions) had generations of spotty teenagers like myself waiting, fingers poised over the rec and play buttons of a radio cassette recorder, for the latest offering from The Fall or the latest import from far away, be it New York, Kinshasa, Nagoya or Brussels.

Although it was tempting to provide links to Peel Sessions by the holy trinity of my teenage years – namely The Cure, The Smiths and New Order, each of whom recorded at least a couple of Peel Sessions – or other much-loved Peel staples The Fall, Half Man Half Biscuit or The Wedding Present, you’re going to get another couple of personal favourites.

First up is another balding (now completely bald, but in the 1980s he was merely balding) fellow,  from Stoke-On-Trent.

Ted Chippington.  Ted by name and Ted by nature,  Chippington dressed like a 50s Rock-n-Roller, brothel creepers and all. I was fortunate enough to see this legend of “top entertainment” in his prime and even purchase one of his “A Good Mate of Ted” badges afterwards. Deadpan before Jack Dee had bought his first suit, poker face before Lady Gaga was out of nappies, Ted was, at the time, a unique proposition: old style comedy coupled with the kind of 70s karaoke singalong one might encounter at a Brit-filled bar in Benidorm. But with his own personal touch, as seen in the following visualisation of his oeuvre below:

Peel played Ted’s first single “Non-Stop Party Hits of the 50s 60s and 70s” featuring Ted’s own spins on chestnuts such as “Hound Dog”, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” and “Rock around the Clock”, along with a first airing of his own composition “Rocking With Rita” and a wheel was set in motion.

An album, Man in a Suitcase, was released with a trucking theme to its sleeve and Peel’s nemesis Steve Wright (not the murderer, but the Radio One DJ) soon picked up on Ted’s masterful rendition of the Beatles’ “She Loves You”. Fame and fortune beckoned, with Ted even getting a TV spot on Pebble Mill at One. It used to be up on YouTube, but after a glance at this, some sourpuss has taken it down.

So here you can enjoy one of Ted’s trucker’s tales, set to music instead:

Other joys on this quintessential slice of alternative Midlands variety were a version of Russ Abbott’s cheesy wedding-disco anthem of the time – “Atmosphere” (the original of which Peel once memorably  introduced on Top of the Pops as a Joy Division cover.)

Later, a version of “Rocking With Rita” was released with an all-star crew of labelmates from Vindaloo Records, meaning that Ted was accompanied by We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It (who had also released a Peel Session by then and who would later go on to bother the charts with radio hit “Pink Sunshine”) and The Nightingales. If I recall, Vindaloo Records rock was produced for the occasion, featuring the legend “Greetings from Ballsall Heath“.

A follow-up – “The Wanderer” was released in 1987 (where Ted revealed he was not the wandering type, but would rather spend a quiet night in “with the missus”). Shockingly, it did not set the UK Top 40 alight, and only made 28 on the indie charts.

By 1990, Ted had apparently had enough of the rock n roll lifestyle and retired from “the business” (allegedly) to become a trucker in the US, but abandoned  this romantic career option when his lorry shed its load on the highway somewhere.  After fleeing to Mexico to work as a cook (it says here) he returned to the UK, eschewing Stoke-on-Trent and Bank’s Bitter in favour of a house on the English Riviera.

Other soon-to-be-far-more-popular fledgeling comedians were later to take a leaf out of  Ted’s book. As well as Jack Dee (who I mentioned earlier) Stewart Lee has often spoken of his love for Ted’s unique brand of entertainment, and even subsequently tracked him down  at his Torquay abode to record this. His sometime sidekick Richard Herring was no less forthcoming in showing  respect to Stoke-on-Trent’s finest. Even Vic and Bob were apparently regulars at Ted’s early gigs.

In 2006 he returned to the stage, dog collared-up, and re-styled as The Rev. Ted Chippington (possibly inspired by Run out of RUN DMC or Kurtis Blow), and the following year Lee and Herring and other comedy luminaries hosted a “Tedstock” benefit gig to raise money for a very noble cause: a 4 CD Chippington box set.

The other week Ted performed to “a crowd of  aggravated Welshmen” , supporting The Fall and The Nightingales, with a mixture of old and new material.

Predictably, he was bottled off.

Peel was an avid supporter of Ted Chippington, and once played a legendary set that he had performed on a ferry in Liverpool in 1985 (supporting Scouse indie-dance chancers The Farm) in its entirety on his show. Hopefully some kind soul will post this today as I personally love to hear it again! However, let’s leave Ted with a clip of the b-side of his first single, introduced by John Peel himself, and then a few random moments of “True Greatness”

Ted Chippington – Non Stop Party Hits of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s (b-side)

Ted Chippington – She Loves You

Ted Chippington – Feel Like Buddy Holly

Ted Chippington – The Wanderer

Ted Chippington – I’m a Human Being

Ted Chippington – Ted Chippington

The Popguns were a jangly pop band from Brighton, fronted by one Wendy Morgan and featuring ex-Wedding Present sticksman Shaun Charman. They recorded two Peel Sessions, both – I think – first broadcast in 1990. Amazingly they never became the “next Sundays”, the “next Primitives”, or even the “next Darling Buds” (who were themselves the next Primitives), although their first two albums Snog and Eugenie should rightly be championed as indiepop classics.

I forked out for the 12” singles of their debut “Landslide” (which made the lower echelons of the Festive Fifty) and follow-up “Waiting For The Winter”… both had a special quality, maybe the combination of those jangly guitars and the singer’s voice, the wistful lyrics… but one of the rare moments that Peel played something and I thought I’ve got to have this record instead of just contenting myself with three or so minutes of a C90.

Charman left the band and the Popguns’ moment in the indie limelight seemed to be running out. A third LP – entitled Love Junky – was released in 1995 and the following year a final album – Á Plus de Cent – appeared, featuring covers of both Serge Gainsbourg (in French!) and A Tribe Called Quest. Their finest hours were compiled on a Best of the Midnight Years collection.

Amazingly all four LPs, along with the compilation, are available on iTunes, and the band even have a website with bits and bobs from their fleeting career here. 

Here is their first Peel Session from 1990.

The Popguns – Debut Peel Session.

Keeping it Peel

25 Oct

Six years.

Six years since John Peel shuffled off his mortal coil (not This Mortal Coil.. oh you know…) in Cuzco, Peru and left behind him a legacy of music from Bowie to Bogshed, from C86 “shamblers” to happy hardcore, old skool hip-hop to Brit Pop, prog to punk, M.E.S to D & B etc, etc, etc.

Six years in which the sales of CDs have fizzled out, vinyl has returned to the non-specialist record shops and ringtones and glorified karaoke singers have swamped the ears of our ever more homogenous youth.

There are, of course, those who bravely try to follow the great man’s example – Rob Da Bank, Jarvis Cocker, 6Music in general, but that combination of enthusiasm, championing the new from all fields of the musical spectrum and an overwhelming love of The Fall is a hard act to follow. It was thanks to Peelie that I first heard the indie heroes of my youth – New Order, The Cure, The Smiths – but also heard what was then known as electro, old blues records, dub reggae, and.. er.. more indie subgenres. His programmes also cemented friendships between myself and my oldest friends who often met up in one friend’s big-ish bedroom to listen to records bought on the back of hearing them on his Radio One programme… Psychocandy being a prime example.

So first up, to celebrate the great man’s anniversary, here is my commemorative Spotify playlist. Lots of session tracks in there, plus Festive Fifty favourites and my own Peel show memories. Sadly Ted Chippington, Bogshed, Eton Crop and Billy Bragg’s first album are not very well represented on Spotify so you’ll have to make do with the below:

Keep ‘Em Peeled

Oh, and I almost forgot… for Keeping It Peel I’m meant to include a favourite Peel Session, aren’t I?

Well, I’m sure no-one else will be posting this one… *coughs* …

Back in the midsts of the early 1980s Peel played a track by a German band whose name translated as The Dead Trousers – Die Toten Hosen, who had a 7″ called Bommerlunder which was basically a hymn/drunken paean to a rather potent schapps or something similar. Peel became quite enamoured with the track and subsequently acquired the band’s debut album Opel-Gang and played tracks fom it on the show despite it being all in German. The band – with names like Trini Trinpop, Campino, Breiti and Andi – then got in contact with Peel (or was it the other way round) and a partially English language session was recorded in Maida Vale. I recorded it on a C90 many years ago, but it found its way onto the web, and here it is below to enjoy again, with bits of Peelie himself talking between the tracks.

Die Toten Hosen later recorded a great hip-hop collaboration version of Bommerlunder called Hip-Hop Bommi Bop with Fab Five Freddy which I loved but never “did” anything chart-wise. The band did however become a stadium-filling cartoonish punk band (imagine Green Day if they hadn’t heard any ska records and sang in German) in their native land, complete with a new drummer called Vom (not his given name, I’d wager). In fact so massive did they become that in Germany you can even buy a Toten Hosen Sing Star karaoke thing for your PlayStation!

Die Toten Hosen – John Peel Session 1984

Die Toten Hosen – Hip Hop Bommi Bop

Die Toten Hosen – Bommerlunder

Oh, and on the band’s website you can find a video to the original Bommerlunder, re-recorded… in Polish.

Raise a glass to the late, great John Peel!

The Butler did it

27 May

Win Butler, that is. Him out of Arcade Fire.

What did he do?

Only release a couple of songs on a limited edition twelve inch that have leaked all over the interweb.

Oh look, here they are…