What are Peel Sessions?
The Peel Sessions were a feature of BBC Radio 1 shows hosted by the famous broadcaster John Peel. Around 4,000 sessions were recorded by over 2,000 artists in the period from 1967 until his passing in 2004. The sets usually consisted of four tracks pre-recorded at the BBC’s studios in Maida Vale, West London. The Peel Sessions originally came about due to restrictions imposed on the BBC by organizations like Musicians’ Union and Phonographic Performance Limited which represented the record companies dominated by the EMI cartel.
Peel Sessions History
Due to these restrictions, he was only allowed to play a certain amount of ‘needle time’. The choice was either to play by the rules or to get bands to play a live session. The BBC then employed its own house bands and orchestras and it also engaged outside bands to record exclusive tracks for its programmes. Sessions were usually recorded and mixed in a single day, stomping a fine line between a rough & ready live experience and a finished demo record.
Many classic Peel Sessions have been released as vinyl EPs by Peel’s own Strange Fruit Records label. Some bands were invited to play many times, with champions being The Fall (32 sessions), Ivor Cutler (20 sessions), The Wedding Present (16 sessions) and The Delgados (16 sessions).
Bands that played at Peel Sessions
Among these, who played the Peel Sessions, there standout the names of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Motörhead, Joy Division, The Smiths, The Cure, Nirvana, Bauhaus, The Kinks, Cocteau Twins, X-Ray Specs, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, New Order, The Vibrators, Stiff Little Fingers, Angelic Upstarts, UK Subs, Suburban Studs, Buzzcocks, The Specials, Billy Bragg, Einstürzende Neubauten, Sham 69, Killing Joke, Gang of Four, Slowdive, Butthole Surfers, The Rezillos, The Clash, Bad Religion, Shellac, Unsane, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Chumbawamba, Sonic Youth, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sunn O))), and many more.
The Riot Grrrl movement was also present on BBC’s radio shows with recordings by Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Huggy Bear, L7, Babes in Toyland, 7 Years Bitch, Lunachicks, Hole, and many more played throughout the early 1990s.
DIY Hardcore Punk & Crust Peel Sessions
Among the hardcore punk and crust bands who made sessions with John Peel were Crass (1979), The Cravats (four sessions, 1979–82), Métal Urbain (two sessions, 1978), Erazerhead (1982), The Expelled (1982), Vice Squad (two sessions, 1981–82), Die Toten Hosen (1984), Extreme Noise Terror (four sessions, 1987–2001), Doom (two sessions, 1988–89), D.O.A. (1984), Hagar The Womb (1984), Cockney Rejects (two sessions, 1979–80), D&V (1986), Toxic Reasons (1986), Electro Hippies (1987), Fugazi (1988), NoMeansNo (two sessions, 1988–89), Heresy (three sessions, 1987–89), Ripcord (1988), Napalm Death (three sessions, 1987–90), Deviated Instinct (1990), Prophecy of Doom (two sessions, 1990–91), S.O.B. (1990), Raw Noise (1991), New Bombs Turks (1993), Voorhees (1995), The Locust (2001), Melt Banana (two sessions, 1999–2001).