Peel Slowly and see

Ah the legendary Mr. Peel. Famous quotes (many more of which can be found here
Peel’s compering debut on TOTP: “In case you’re wondering who this funny old bloke is, I’m the one who comes on Radio 1 late at night and plays records made by sulky Belgian art students in basements dying of TB.”

And of course, his comment about Aretha Franklin’s duet with George Michael ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’:”You know, Aretha Franklin can make any old rubbish sound good, and I think she just has.”

First up, from one of the greatest travelling albums of all time, Big Science, Laurie Anderson’s deeply spooky ‘O superman’
Laurie Anderson -‘O Superman.’ mp3 (1981 Festive Fifty no.34)

The Wedding Present had 47 entries in the various Festive Fifties between 1986 and 2004, including two entries in the millennium Festive Fifty as well as doing nine sessions. David Gedge’s other band, Cinerama had 13 entries in the Festive Fifty, and did ten Peel sessions. (When I have more time on my hands I will work out who did best out of David Gedge, Morrissey and Mark E. Smith)

Cinerama -‘King’s Cross.’ mp3 (1999 Festive Fifty no.18)

Throughout 2004, it was clear that Bloc Party were very definitely gathering pace, and they had three entries in the final ever Festive Fifty, including this:

Bloc Party -‘Little Thoughts.’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty no.44)

The stranglers were accused of being bandwagon jumpers during punk, Johnny Rotten labelling them short-haired hippies, but they did have some fantastic songs. Best of all was this:
The Stranglers -No More Heroes (1978 Festive Fifty no.33, 1979 Festive Fifty no.45, 1980 Festive Fifty no.58)

My all-time favourite single by The Jam:

The Jam-‘Strange Town.’ mp3 (1979 Festive Fifty no.27)

And a handful you might be a little surprised to see made the Festive Fifty. After all, weren’t they a little, y’know, poppy? What the hell, I think they’re great tracks and so did many of his listeners, evidently:

It’s easy to heap scorn on Gary Numan/Tubeway army, due to his sheer …what?, but he is slowly becoming critically rehabilitated over the advancing years, and this is a stellar track.

Tubeway Army – ‘Are Friends Electric?’ mp3 (1979 Festive Fifty no.39)

According to the website, Depeche Mode never did any sessions for Peel, nor had any entries in the Festive Fifty (nor did Erasure,, for that matter), but Vince Clark did score with two of his other, less-long lasting projects. The first ended up being a one-off, featuring none other than Fergal Sharkey on vocals (the Undertones had split up a few months previously)

Assembly -‘Never Never.’ mp3 (1983 Festive Fifty no.23)

…then the two albums only project that was Vince and none other than Alison Moyet.

Yazoo -‘Don’t Go.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.60)

Is this a guilty pleasure? Oh, whatever. I’m not the only one.

Blancmange -‘Living On The Ceiling.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.34)

This was the only entry Tears For Fears had, in those hallowed days of ‘new pop.’ It is a fantastic tune, and seems to have actually dated quite well, IMHO.

Tears For Fears -‘Mad World.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.5)

This is my 35th post this month, or something BTW. Hope you are enjoying them. Please leave feedback, I don’t bite!


Another great, unsigned band for you.

Hailing from deepest, darkest Surrey, Stagecoach produce gorgeous indie-pop with an American west coast inflexion -think Calexico, the Shins and Wilco, but they sing in their own accents. They are unsigned at the moment, but gigging a fair bit in London and producing some gorgeous pop songs.

See what you think of these:

Stagecoach – ‘Neon Lights.’ mp3

Stagecoach -‘Giddy up.’ mp3 (according to their MySpace, in February 2007 ‘Giddy Up’ appeared on the soundtrack to the BBC2 drama ‘Party Animals’).

If you like these, there are more great tracks over at their mySpace. Pop over, make friends and say hello.

A Peel-related rummage

As you will have noted, I have been doing a lot of Peel-related posts of late. I have also noted other bloggers doing posts on singles that they have found during a rummage in cupboards or wherever, including Song, By Toad and The Vinyl Villain.

…so why not combine the two?

The Sugarcubes are legendary as the biggest band to have come out of Iceland, at least until Sigur Ros, and the fact that their lead singer, Bjork has had a substantial amount of solo success since the band split in 1992. Their debut single ‘Birthday’ was no.1 in the 1987 Festive Fifty, as well as a minor chart hit, (and no.23 in the Millennium Festive Fifty!) It paved the way for their 1988 debutalbumLife’s Too Good. But (as well as a later remix in 1992 at the time of the band’s split), there was another version of the song, re-recorded in 1988, which featured Jim and William Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain.

I first saw the Sugarcubes on The Chart Show, a fairly revolutionary TV programme given that it was all videos and absolutely no presenters. The Sugarcubes were featured on the once every three weeks indie chart on many occasions, and it was here that I saw the video for Birthday. Weird and wonderful. Interestingly, this version of the single was ‘Single Of The Fortnight’ in Smash Hits, too. It took me thirteen years to find the CD single, when I did it cost me £8 ($16 US) and as far as I’m concerned, it was worth every penny.

So for your listening pleasure, first up, the Peel-favoured original version of Birthday:

Sugarcubes -‘Birthday.’ mp3

and the entirety of the 1988 re-recording:

Sugarcubes -‘Birthday (Christmas Eve mix).’ mp3

Sugarcubes -‘Birthday (Christmas Day mix).’ mp3

Sugarcubes -‘Birthday (Christmas present mix).’ mp3

Sugarcubes -‘Petrol (live).’ mp3

And finally, as treat, the original version of Birthday in Icelandic.

Sugaracubes -‘Ammæli (Birthday -Icelandic).’ mp3

Oh, and if anyone has got an mp3 of The Sugarcubes doing a song called ‘Cat’ could they let me know? Ta.

Keeping it Peel

Looking thorugh the John Peel-related posts on the BBC’s website, particularly relating to the Festive Fifties, it’s kinda interesting to see what gets thrown up, in terms of the bands you rediscover, never heard, or are surprised to see in there. It’s good to see stuff that comes round again…or should. Today’s post is actually quite heavy on 1993, a time when I listened to John Peel’s show pretty regularly, taping it (no podcasts then!) and trying to stay awake until 2AM on Friday and Saturday nights, something that I didn’t manage very often. It’s also interesting to note just how much good stuff there was, and looking back, thanks to John Peel, the NME and Melody Maker, the local library and Radio 1 finally moving forward, just how much aware I was of quite a few of these at the time.

What was it about his show? Oh heck…his enthusiasm for music, the sheer diversity of the music, the fact that he knew so much about music, you felt he was teaching you just as much as your own teachers were. He was cool to me, not in a silly way, but just managing to have his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Or something. When John Peel died in 2004, my mother and another friend were very quick to ring up and see how I was. It’s fair to say no other DJ could make people act this way.

Anyway, on with the music…

Laura Cantrell was a favourite of John Peel and no fewer than three songs from her album Not The Tremblin’ Kind made the Festive Fifty in 2000. These definitely tend towards ‘Country’ rather than ‘Americana.’ This is my favourite of those three:

Laura Cantrell -Two Seconds.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.27)

Of course, there were some very angry Americans on there too, perhaps typified by the Dead Kennedys twenty years previous to Laura Cantrell;

Dead Kennedys -‘Holiday In Cambodia.’ mp3 (1980 Festive Fifty no.6, 1981 Festive Fifty no.9, 1982 all-time chart no.14, Millennium all-time chart no.14 )

And it wasn’t all singing either:

Pigbag -‘Pap’s got a Brand New Pigbag.’ mp3 (1981 Festive Fifty no.39,)

I wish I could claim that the first time I ever heard Billy Bragg was on John Peel’s show, as a very clued-up, cool ten year old. That would be a lie, however. I actually first heard this on Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 8 (also featuring the Pet Shop Boys, Run DMC, Cameo…and Nick Berry). Oh well.

Billy Bragg -‘Greetings To The New Brunette.’ mp3 (1986 Festive Fifty no.41)

The first time I ever heard PJ Harvey was thanks to a free cassette (this was 1992, free CDs started appearing a year or so later in the UK),on which was her Peel session version of Water, on a compilation free with a magazine called VOX (a nineties magazine largely written by NME writers), called Radio Daze. A year later Peel played the corrosive and scary 50FT Queenie (including when he hosted a lunchtime show for a couple of weeks), and then one night in early 1995 ‘Down By The Water.’

PJ Harvey -‘Sheela-Na-Gig.’ mp3 (1992 Festive Fifty no. 2)

PJ wasn’t quite a riot grrl (sic) per se but pre-Britpop, there was a lot of angry, politicised music, and no lack of things to get worked up about, and there were a lot of bands leading the way. I remember scrawling Cornershop on my school-bag, much to the complete disdain of my school mates. Bet they all brought ‘Brimful Of Asha’ especially for that line about bosoms. Hmm. Anyway, five great tracks from the 1993 Festive Fifty:

Chumbawumba and Credit To the Nation-‘Enough Is Enough.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.1)

Madder Rose – ‘Swim.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.2)

Voodoo Queens -‘Supermodel Superficial.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.6)

Senser – ‘Eject.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.21)

Credit To the Nation -‘Call It What You Want.’ mp3 (Festive Fifty no.24)

Another Festive Fifty themed post thingy

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few days, things have been rather busy. Anyway…how about some more Peel-related posts, eh?

The Delgados -‘American Trilogy.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.10)

Aphex Twin – Windowlicker.’ mp3 (1999 Festive Fifty no.42) (How the hell did this only get to no.42 and the Cuban Boys were no.1?! Go figure…)

Clinic -‘The Second Line.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.28)

Hole -‘Beautiful Son.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.47)

The Fall -‘Dr. Buck’s Letter.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.3)

Melys -‘Chinese Whispers.’ mp3 (2001 Festive Fifty no.1)

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead -‘Mistakes And Regrets.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.4)

Age Of Chance -‘Kiss.’ mp3 (1986 Festive Fifty no.2)

Calexico -‘Ballad Of Cable Hogue.’ mp3 (2000 Festive Fifty no.22)

Frankie Goes To Hollywood -‘Two Tribes.’ mp3 (1984 Festive Fifty no.25)

It’s funny, I felt in 2000 that I felt increasingly rmeoved from the music scene, as I failed to really love 2-step garage or nu-metal. Maybe there was much better stuff than I appreciated…



A Peel-approved Burns’ Night! (Part Two)

Mogwai -‘My Father, My King.’ mp3 (2001 Festive Fifty no.10)

Teenage Fanclub -‘Like A Virgin.’ mp3 (1991 festive Fifty no.36)

Fire Engines -‘Candy Skin.’ mp3 (1981 Festive Fifty no.58)

Sons and Daughters -‘Johnny Cash.’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty no.7)

The Delgados -Pull the wires From The Wall.’ mp3 (1998 Festive Fifty no.1)

Rezillos -‘I Can’t Stand My Baby.’ mp3 (1977 Festive Fifty no. 4 initially!)

Arab Strap -‘The First Big Weekend.’ mp3 (1996 Festive Fifty no.3)

Enjoy! and mine’s a veggie haggis…

A Peel-approved Burns’ Night! (Part One)

This post is jointly dedicated in respect of Robert Burns and John Peel, and features three scots bands, beloved by the late Mr. Peel covering Burns related songs.

Today is Burns’ Night in Scotland, in honour of Robert Burns (1759-1796), scotland’s National Bard. No other literary figure – not even Shakespeare- can really be eclebrated as he is. The man was a legend, and his inspiration runs through to this day, inspiring many. Maya Angelou (I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings) discovered Burns when she was eight and said ‘He was the first white man I read who seemed to understand that a human being was a human being and that we are more alike than unalike.’ At the Burns and a’ that Festival in 2003, Patti Smith performed a rendition of ‘Afton Water.’ Kofi Annan gave the inaugural Robert Burns Memorial lecture in New York, using Burns’ ‘A Man’s a man for a’that’ as the touchstone for his remarks. Written in 1795 and covered by Ballboy (see below), this ‘anthem of radicalism’ was described by his later biographer Auguste Angellier as a ‘Marseilliase of Equality’ and was chosen to open the new scottish parliament.

Ballboy -‘A Man’s a Man For a’That.’ mp3 (Available as a free mp3 from their website)

My all-time favourite scottish band The Delgados covered ‘Such a Pacel Of Rogues In A Nation’ for a Peel session a few years ago. The Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation refers to the English and England, and is Burns’ scathing attack on the Union Of Parliaments in 1707. Some see it as evidence of his nationalist tendendies, but others have suggested that he was just being provocative.

The Delgados -‘A Parcel Of Rogues.’ mp3 (available on their Peel sessions album)

Burns was a love machine par excellence, fathering nine children, not all of them with his wife Jean Armour. But she inspired ‘I Love My Jean’ set to music by Camera Obscura a few years ago, who also wrote music for ‘My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose.’

Camera Obscura -‘I Love My Jean.’ mp3

Camera Obscura -‘A Red, red rose.’ mp3 (from the I Love My Jean single)

Other than that, amongst many others are Eddi Reader, who has released a n entire album of Burns’ songs and also, Belle and Sebastian have covered one of his best-known songs ‘Auld lang Syne’ in swedish (if anyone knows how to get hold of this please let me know).

There will be more scots, John Peel related music later. Watch this space.

For more on Robbie Burns go here

Album Review: Tom Hickox

Tom Hickox -Fear In A Handful Of Dust (self-released)

I must learn not to jump to conclusions (copy out 500 times). Tom Hickox is a Scottish-born, London -living singer songwriter who takes the notion of singer songwriter further than just one introspective man and his guitar. There’s real strings but what sets him apart from so many others is the electronica. Added to the inspiration which Scott Walker, Nick Cave and Morrissey have clearly provided, and this is something special. Imagine Four Tet, Squarepusher, the Brodsky Quartet and Scott Walker collaborating on the same album…and you perhaps start to get close to this. This album will benefit from repeated listens, and reveal its charms and hidden delights the more you hear it. It was released last year, and I can only regret I didn’t hear it before. Make sure you do so now, especially ‘Grief Hijackers,’ one of the few times I can remember feeling genuinely sorry when a song ended.


Tom Hickox -‘Grief Hijackers.’ mp3

Tom’s website is here and his mySpace is here. Pop along and say hello. Follow the links on these sites if you wish to hear more tracks and buy the album.


1954 hail from San Diego, California. Which is perhaps funny, given that they sound far more British than a lot of British bands. I particularly hear Blur and Bloc Party, and also a hint of the Klaxons. The vocals are a tad weird, but this is not necessarily a bad thing (Celine Dion might be a technically a better singer than Shane MacGowan, but who would you rather listen to? Exactly). They sound like more youngsters having a fantastic time, creating a riot of noise, guaranteed to annoy boring grown-ups. This is, naturally, a very good thing.

They are currently unsigned, but – as is the case in this day and age- They have five songs up on their MySpace, of which I present two for you here:

1954 -‘The Soap Opera.’ mp3

1954 -‘Fairytales.’ mp3

If you like these, go along to their MySpace, where you can download more tracks and make friends with them. As ever, please let me know what you think, as well as downloading the music.


Upcoming new releases…

Five tracks from three upcoming albums I’m looking forward to…

Hot Chip’s Made In The Dark is already getting bloggers salivating across the blogosphere. ‘Ready For The Floor’ is getting airplay, and the album sounds like it should be as big or even bigger than The Warning. This is due out on February 4.

Hot Chip -‘Ready For The Floor.’ mp3 FILE REMOVED BY REQUEST

Hot Chip -‘Bendable Poseable.’ mp3 FILE REMOVED BY REQUEST

Adele’s gone straight to no.2 in the charts with ‘Chasing Pavements and her debut 19 is out next week. This year’s Kate Nash or Lily Allen? Why is that a bad thing? For my money, I prefer ‘Hometown Glory.’

Adele -‘Chasing Pavements.’ mp3 FILE REMOVED BY POLITE REQUEST

Adele -‘Hometown Glory.’ mp3 FILE REMOVED BY POLITE REQUEST

Finally, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are set to release their fourteenth studio album Dig, Lazarus Dig on March 3. A new Nick Cave album is always worth getting excited about, and as the greatest living Australian, worth hearing and seeing.

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds -‘Dig Lazarus Dig!’ mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, support the artists involved by buying the music, going to gigs etc..