Hear a 9‑Hour Tribute to John Peel: A Collection of His Best “Peel Sessions”

If you took a job as a radio DJ at the BBC pri­or to 1988, you had to labor under some­thing called “nee­dle time,” a law pro­mot­ed by the Musi­cians’ Union and Phono­graph­ic Per­for­mance Lim­it­ed (and ulti­mate­ly the major record labels) that put a cap on the amount of record­ed music trans­mis­si­ble over the air­waves. Before 1967, the BBC could legal­ly drop the nee­dles of their turnta­bles onto record albums for a mere five hours per day. This may sound pos­i­tive­ly dra­con­ian in our time when music flows freely from all direc­tions, but it did cre­ate jobs for in-house radio-sta­tion musi­cians who could cov­er the hits of the day — and, more impor­tant­ly, gave rise to DJ John Peel’s leg­endary Peel Ses­sions.

“A lot of the things that I lis­tened to and that had a big influ­ence on me I first heard on John Peel,” said artist and music pro­duc­er Bri­an Eno, who describes Peel’s first play­ing of a Vel­vet Under­ground record near­ly fifty years ago as “like a light­ning bolt for me.” In an inter­view we fea­tured a few years back, Eno named the “two things that real­ly make for good records: dead­lines and small bud­gets,” one of his many elo­quent state­ments on not just the impor­tance but the neces­si­ty of lim­i­ta­tions to art. The lim­i­ta­tion of nee­dle time made Peel get cre­ative as well, over­com­ing his inabil­i­ty to spin all the records he want­ed by invit­ing the musi­cians he’d dis­cov­ered into the radio sta­tion to lay down tracks right there in its stu­dios.

The fruits of these Peel Ses­sions often came out with an ener­gy alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent than that of the orig­i­nal album, and dur­ing Peel’s 37 years on BBC Radio 1, he over­saw the record­ing of over 4000 of them. They and oth­er efforts at the inno­v­a­tive edges of pop­u­lar music made Peel a cul­tur­al force, and indeed one of British music’s most influ­en­tial fig­ures, whose broad­casts gave thou­sands of lis­ten­ers their first taste of the likes of David Bowie, Joy Divi­sion, Bob Mar­ley, and Nir­vana. Peel died in 2004, but his lega­cy has lived on in sev­er­al forms, includ­ing the John Peel Cen­ter for Cre­ative Arts and the annu­al John Peel Lec­ture, deliv­ered last year by Eno him­self.

Lon­don-based online radio sta­tion NTS, in its own way very much a con­tin­u­a­tion of Peel’s project, has put togeth­er a trib­ute to Britain’s most astute DJ in the form of a nine-hour broad­cast of some of the best Peel Ses­sions. Bro­ken into four parts, it gath­ers per­for­mances cap­tured at the BBC from artists like Gang of Four, The Fall, My Bloody Valen­tine, The Pix­ies, Aphex Twin, Cabaret Voltaire, and many oth­ers. “Blimey, he was real­ly at the cen­ter of every­thing,” says Eno. “He was putting so many things togeth­er. He was the first per­son who real­ized pop music was seri­ous, and that it was a place peo­ple could real­ly meet and talk to each oth­er. It became the cen­ter of a con­ver­sa­tion.” A dozen years after Peel’s pass­ing, the con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ues.

via Elec­tron­ic Beats

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream 15 Hours of the John Peel Ses­sions: 255 Tracks by Syd Bar­rett, David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Ban­shees & Oth­er Artists

Revis­it the Radio Ses­sions and Record Col­lec­tion of Ground­break­ing BBC DJ John Peel

Bri­an Eno on Why Do We Make Art & What’s It Good For?: Down­load His 2015 John Peel Lec­ture

Prof. Iggy Pop Deliv­ers the BBC’s 2014 John Peel Lec­ture on “Free Music in a Cap­i­tal­ist Soci­ety”

The His­to­ry of Spir­i­tu­al Jazz: Hear a Tran­scen­dent 12-Hour Mix Fea­tur­ing John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Her­bie Han­cock & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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