Friday, September 25, 2009

New Peel Compilation

Chris from La Digit has been in touch to let me know about a new Peel CD compilation that's being released on the 26th October. As they've chosen the excellent name Kats Karavan for this 4-CD set, it would be churlish of me not to let you know about it and pass on the details. So here's what the press release has to say:



Kats Karavan is a splendid 4-CD set charting the history of John Peel’s iconoclastic shows spanning 5 decades from the late 1960s until his sad and untimely death in 2004. Champion of the obscure and unheard, he introduced whole generations of teenagers to new music and gave hundreds of bands their first mainstream broadcasts.

Incredibly, 5 years have already passed since John’s death and a whole new generation is already growing up without knowing what it’s like to listen to a DJ who would play Bloc Party, followed by Ivor Cutler, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then Bong-Ra, Linton Kwesi Johnson followed by The Misunderstood. Universal Music, with the full approval of John’s family, has undertaken the unenviable task of trying to recreate one of John’s shows on this 4-CD box set.

It has been a mammoth and difficult challenge. How could anyone fit generations of listeners’ favourite sessions, singles or anecdotes onto 4 discs? There is no Undertones, no Joy Division, no Chameleons, to name but three Peel favourites who don’t appear here but all have already appeared extensively on previous Peel compilations. So wide-reaching and eclectic was John’s passion for music that this compilation could have been made ten times over without even touching the sides of his shows.

Drawing material right up until John’s last ever Festive Fifty, Kats Karavan includes big players, one-hit wonders, chart toppers and those who stayed at the lower reaches. It includes tracks from the likes of Small Faces, Thin Lizzy, Aswad, The Damned, Medicine Head, The Jam, The Slits, Funboy Five, The Cure, Linton Kwesi Johnson, That Petrol Emotion, Extreme Noise Terror, Ivor Cutler, Mercury Rev, Milo, Bloc Party and many, many more.

The set also includes some rarities and curiosities. The Free track, Walk In My Shadow, was considered ‘lost’ by the BBC until it was recently discovered on some old reel to reel tapes. This is the first time it has ever been available and the first time it’s been heard since the original broadcast.

There is also track from The Misunderstood, the only band that John ever managed and who performed one of John’s all-time favourite gigs:
“If I had to list the ten great performances I’ve seen in my life, one would be The Misunderstood at Pandora’s Box, Hollywood, 1966. My god, they were a great band!” (John Peel)

John supplies backing vocals on the Altered Images track, their cover of Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue, his only appearance on record. [This is slightly incorrect, as I've let them know. It's almost certainly Peelie's only singing performance on record, mind. -- DP]

To further recreate the spirit and mood of one of John’s shows, some clips of John’s own links appear from time to time. None of his ‘chat’ has been kept by the BBC so the record label used extracts of the best of what they were able to find on old cassette tapes, cleaning them up for the CD set, where they work to great effect.

Kats Karavan comes complete with artwork featuring rare and unseen photographs alongside personal recollections from many of the featured artists, who were only too delighted to contribute and be involved in this homage to the late, great John Peel.

4-CD SET 2714151

For further information please contact Chris at La Digit
T: 0208 563 3925 M:07931 648333 E:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Slightly belated stocking filler

Here's a snippet of Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone from BBC 6music last week: a version of Good King Wenceslas recorded by a choir of various Top Gear stalwarts in 1970, including Soft Machine, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) and Marc Bolan.

(112K MP3, 4.7Mb, 5:50)

Maconie's guest, "Professor Spear", goes on to explain that this rendition originally appeared in the Christmas Top Gear of 27-12-69. However that's clearly incorrect as I posted that particular show a couple of months back, and this song is not in it.

(BTW, does anyone think that Prof. Spear's words about the 27-12-69 show sound remarkably like he's reading from my earlier post?)

Thanks to Colin Ellis for letting me know about this show.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

John Peel's First-Ever Night Ride, 6th. March 1968

"This is the first of a new series of programmes in which you may hear just about anything", says JP at the start of this show, and he's not wrong.

So here we have the very first of John Peel's Night Ride shows, complete and in glorious mono. Tonight's sessions come from The Incredible String Band and Adrian Mitchell. There's also a bit of John Dunn's part of Night Ride at the end of this recording, which, to quote Peel from a later era, is in marked contrast to the one which preceded it. But despite presiding over a far more traditional selection of music himself, Dunn is fulsome with praise for Peel's show and expresses disappointment that he wasn't able to listen to it himself.

Peelie mentions that this is the first time he's been allowed to operate his own equipment for some time, I'm guessing since his Radio London days. And he does well; there's only one slight hiccup, when he forgets a song name and has to read it off the record as it spins down.

My thanks to Colin Ellis and Guy Brown for this one. Colin's recording of the show seemed to be in stereo, but it turned out to be a sort of bastardised mono, with the left channel being just a horrible, raspy echo of the right. So I've used the right channel to make a 'good' mono recording, which got rid of 95% of the noise in one fell swoop. Also, Colin's version was in two halves, and the tape flip happened right in the middle of the Incredible String Band's 9-minute epic Ducks On A Pond, which is a hell of a shame as that's quite a rarity.

This is where Guy Brown comes in, because Guy's session discs contained another recording of the session version of "Ducks". This version was also incomplete but this time it was only the end that was missing. A case of "be glad for the song has no ending (but does have a middle)", one might say. Thank you, I'm here all week.

So with a bit of slicing and dicing in Audacity I've merged in about 20 seconds from Guy's version which completes the track and the show. You'll notice the joins if you're really listening, but I'm quite pleased with how it's turned out.

I've decided to provide this one as a lossless FLAC encode. As it's mono, and only one hour long, it's not too large.

Download (167Mb, mono, FLAC, duration approx. 1 hour)

  • The Misunderstood - I Can Take You To The Sun
  • Incredible String Band - You Get Brighter (session)
  • North Vietnamese music - A Joyful Northern Air (from BBC archives)
  • Adrian Mitchell - Take Stalk Between Teeth, Pull Stalk From Blossom, Throw Blossom Over Arm Towards Enemy, Lie Flat and Await Explosion (session)
  • The Iron Butterfly - Possession
  • Chat with Adrian Mitchell
  • The End - Shades of Orange
  • Incredible String Band - All Too Much For Me (session)
  • Domenico Scarlatti - Sonata in E Minor (K 15, L 374) ("We'll try and get him in for the programme next week")
  • Incredible String Band - Ducks On A Pond (session)
  • Adrian Mitchell - To You (session)
  • Adrian Mitchell - Prince of Wailers (session)
  • Simon and Garfunkel - Sparrow
  • Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Cold Black Night
  • Tulana Jinjote Ragum (??) (played on veena, mridangam and tambura) (from BBC archives)
  • Incredible String Band - Goodnight (session)
  • Handover to John Dunn for the rest of Night Ride
  • News
  • The Laurie Johnson Orchestra - The Theme From Beauty Jungle
  • Hank Garland Quintet - Pop Goes The Weasel (part)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sorry for the download problems

D'oh! It appears that my divshare account has exceeded its download limit until the 1st. September. I wasn't even aware there was a limit, but never mind. For now, I've put up alternative links for the 27th. December 1969 show below.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

John Peel's Top Gear, Saturday 27th. December 1969, 15:00 - 17:00

There's Christmas crackers, celebrity guests (some of them even genuine), an appearance from Miss Top Gear and, by the sound of it, a jolly time being had by all as Top Gear celebrates the er, bit between Christmas and New Year in truly festive style. Also featured: the pick of the year's session tracks, interviews (most of them hilariously inept) with Dick Heckstall-Smith, Robert Wyatt and Sandy Denny (pictured with JP opposite) and a very, let's say "competitive" chat with Pete Drummond.

Many thanks to Mick Capewell at the ever-excellent Marmalade Skies for supplying the tape of this show. (There's definitely a "Mick's tape" pun to be made there, but for the moment I can't be arsed.) For all you musos, here's the steps I used to rip the tape:

Maxell UR120 tape --> Pioneer DC-X88Z tape deck/amplifier --> headphone socket --> Stereo jack leads --> ADSTech Instant Music --> USB --> Toshiba laptop --> PolderbitS Sound Recorder and Editor --> Audacity --> LAME --> Kat's Karavan --> you

Feel free to pipe up with any suggestions if you think I've gone about capturing and encoding this all wrong, as I'm still relatively new to this. Oh and I did try to use Audacity to get rid of the tape hiss, but the end result was horribly metallic-sounding so I've left it well alone (apart from normalising).

(You may notice that this program does not, as promised in Peelie's intro, feature anything by the Keef Hartley Band. I can only assume that whatever track of theirs Peel was planning to play got bumped, because they're not mentioned in the outro. Certainly the show appears complete, with perhaps a little bit missing from the middle of the news bulletins.)

Total running time: 1hr56m. Files are 192K MP3.

PART 1 (29:20) Listen/Download (divshare). Alternative link (megaupload)
  • Johnny Walker handover
  • Miss Top Gear ("Pat Campbell of Nottingham") turns on the studio lights(!)
  • Top Gear theme
  • The Rolling Stones - Live With Me
  • The Plastic Ono Band - Dizzy Miss Lizzie
  • Richie Havens - High Flying Bird (session)
  • Chat with Dick Heckstall-Smith
  • Colosseum - Lost Angeles (session)
  • The Incredible String Band - This Moment (session)
  • News

PART 2 (30:18) Listen/Download (divshare). Alternative link (megaupload)
  • News (continued)
  • Juicy Lucy - She's Mine/She's Yours (session)
  • Michael Chapman - Postcards Of Scarborough (session)
  • The Family - Cat And The Rat (session)
  • Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Orange Claw Hammer
  • Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Wild Life
  • Roy Harper - Tom Tiddler's Ground
  • Chat with Robert Wyatt

PART 3 (27:33) Listen/Download (divshare). Alternative link (megaupload)
  • The Soft Machine - The Moon In June (session)
  • Griffin - What A Day It's Been (session)
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex - A Day Laye (session)
  • Chat with Sandy Denny
  • Fairport Convention - Farewell, Farewell
  • News

PART 4 (28:49) Listen/Download (divshare). Alternative link (megaupload)
  • News (continued)
  • Joe Cocker and The Grease Band - Lawdy Miss Clawdy (session)
  • Banter with Pete Drummond
  • Led Zeppelin - What Is And What Should Never Be (session)
  • Blodwyn Pig - It's Only Love (session)
  • The Beatles - Mean Mr. Mustard
  • Viv Stanshall no-show
  • Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - Sofa Head (session)
  • Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band - Give Booze A Chance (session)
  • "Disinterred 33 1/3": The Firehouse 5 - Running Wild
  • The Fairport Convention - Jigs & Reels Medley (The Lark in The Morning/Rakish Paddy/Foxhunters' Jig/Toss The Feathers) (session)
  • Top Gear theme

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Top Gear Shows - Repost

Yay, I'm back! But before commencing with our scheduled programme, allow me to draw your attention to a new book from Ken Garner, author of legendary BBC Session tome In Session Tonight. You may be aware that In Session Tonight goes for silly money on eBay these days, so it's great to see Ken take time out from lecturing on journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University to produce a book that not only completes the Peel session picture but is affordable to us mere mortals. And on first glance it's a thoroughly good read, combining a fan's obsessive enthusiasm with an academic study of the subject. And if you can make Glasgow Waterstone's on Peel Day (this Thursday), Ken will be there signing copies.

Right! The rest of this post is a response to the many requests I've had to repost the eight Top Gear shows from 1969/70, as most of them have now expired on sendspace. For convenience it's a bittorrent download this time, so if you're unsure how that works, look it up. And please be sure to keep the torrent seeded once you've downloaded it.

Download (2.08Gb)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

John Peel - Nameless Show (Night Ride) - 28th. May 1969

(AKA "The one where John created a furore by admitting he'd had VD")

Many thanks to Sam for this one.

You'll have heard Peelie mention his Wednesday night 'nameless shows' if you've listened to very many of the Top Gears below. As explained in this previous post, these programmes were essentially JP's bit of the post-midnight multi-format Night Ride shows, extracted and moved to a bit earlier in the evening. And these Night Rides/nameless shows/whatever, featuring BBC archive tracks from all over the world, studio guests and discussions mixed in with contemporary Peel favourites, are probably the most free-form, eclectic radio Peel ever did. And if you have the slightest idea about the bloke you'll realise that's a hell of a statement. In my opinion, having enjoyed Peel shows from all eras, I'd say these are probably the best he ever made. I really wish there were more out there.

OK, on to this particular show. The session is from John Fahey (above and/or right, depending on your browser and screen res) and the studio guest is the poet Pete Roche. There are also interviews with Theresa Lever, about the Youth Drama Centre in Euston, and Tony Vandenberg about Radio 4's upcoming report on Venereal Disease. This latter interview has acquired some notoriety as it's the one where Peel reveals that he contracted the disease earlier that year. From Wikipedia (which seems slightly wrong, as it suggests Peel is still suffering from the disease at the time of broadcast):
During 1969, after hosting a trailer for a BBC programme on VD on his Night Ride programme, Peel received significant media attention because of admitting on air to be suffering from a sexually transmitted disease. This admission was later used in an attempt to discredit him when he appeared as a defence witness in the 1971 OZ obscenity trial. The judge in that case even instructed that a glass of water he had drunk from be thrown out.
[EDIT: Looks like that entry has been corrected now. One of the editors reading this blog, perchance?]

Whatever controversy the VD comment was to generate, John P, a notoriously inept interviewer, actually handles the chat with Vandenberg very well. But on to the details:

Download (83Mb, 192Kbps MP3)

(Quality's slightly dodgy for the first minute or two, but settles down after that.)

  • Jeff Beck Group - Plinth
  • John Fahey - Bucktown Stomp (session)
  • Pete Roche - A Thing Apart (live poem)
  • Indian classical music - Whistled and played on a bowed string instrument and accompanied on drum and drone (from BBC archives)
  • Choir of the Krakow Philharmonic - Apotheosis (from "Dies Irae: The Oratorio in Memoriam for the Victims of Auschwitz" by Krzysztof Penderecki)
  • John Fahey - The Death Of The Clayton Peacock (session)
  • Peel chats with Tony Vandenberg about Radio 4's upcoming report on Venereal Disease.
  • John Hiseman's Colosseum - Plenty Hard Luck (from "Those Who Are About To Die Salute You")
  • John Fahey - Sunflower River Blues (session)
  • Pete Roche - To See How Far It Is (live poem)
  • Radio Ceylon Orchestra - Wind, String Instruments and Percussion (from BBC Archives)
  • Peel chats to Theresa Lever about the Youth Drama Centre in Euston
  • Phil Ochs - I Kill, Therefore I Am (from "Rehearsals for Retirement")
  • John Fahey - In Christ There Is No East or West (session)
  • Romanian Radio and Television Folk Orchestra [pipes: Dumitru Zamfira] - The Hora (from BBC archives)
  • Peel chats to Jon Curle about his part of Night Ride
  • Pete Roche - The Skin Diver (live poem)
  • Shirley and Dolly Collins - Nellie The Milkmaid (from "Anthems in Eden")
  • John Fahey - Steel Guitar Rag (session)
  • Terry Riley - In C (part)
  • Intro to Jazz Workshop