Monday, 25 October 2010
Keeping It Peel, Number 1
Well here it is, my favourite session track ever from the John Peel show. Another one of those "what the fuck" moments and not just from me I think, as it was also the most requested session for repeat.
I did hear it first on the Peel show and I can honestly say it was like nothing else I had ever heard before, totally unique. For one thing there didn't seem to be any structure to the track, just snippets of dialogue, samples of everything from jets to cockerels, beats floating in and out and it seemed to go on forever. Before this session I had never heard of the Orb and I don't think it was until the second or third repeat that I actually caught the name.
This session didn't just baffle the listeners but also the staff at Maida Vale didn't have a clue what was happening during the recording of the track. Here are Alex Paterson's recollections of the session lifted from Ken Garner's excellent book the Peel Sessions, which if you don't have a copy you really should click here and rectify the situation.
"We turned up early and, finding nobody about, started setting up the turntables and desk in the control room. Suddenly the producer appeared and bawled out: "Get this equipment out of here!" He told us to set up in the studio and come back at 2pm. We said that we were going to generate a load of samples then mix it off the multi-track, which he didn't seem to get. We were so put off that we went round to a friend's house for an hour. But we were determined to defeat this producer so we went back, and pulled all the sofas and lamp stands into the middle of Studio 3 and set up a little living-room set in this huge studio, like something out of Alice In Wonderland and got the main lights switched off, to get a good atmosphere. I just started throwing all these samples at Jimmy: Waves, birdsong, jets, old Sci-Fi play excerpts, those "Aaaahs" of Grace Jones' Slave To The Rhythm, and Minnie Ripperton's Loving You, of course (we'd already started this thing of crediting all our samples, and virtually mixing the drums out of house music). And Jimmy did this great live mix really quick. I think that we were out of the building by 7pm! I think that it was the best mix we ever did of that. The head of Geffen records was over here, and listening to it on Peel while driving and had to pull over, he was so knocked out. He tried too sign us for America, but we already had a deal. The whole thing couldn't have been planned: it was just a very vivid day, because we were finding it so entertaining to defeat this producer bloke."
This session for me is one of the best illustrations of why John Peel is revered by so many people and was so essential to popular music during the thirty seven years that he was broadcasting on the BBC. Long before the Radio One bosses decided that they needed specialist dance dj's Peel had been championing house and hip-hop. No other DJ anywhere in 1989 would have had the courage or sheer bloodymindedness to play a 20 minute noodling like A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You) and for that reason alone he should be saluted.
And lets not forget all of the bands he gave the chance for more than their mates to hear by airing their demos or first singles. Or the obscure reggae, soul and other genres that got no other national airplay. He certainly contributed greatly to me opening my mind to music that probably if I hadn't heard it on his show I would have remained oblivious to.
Another reason I respect the man so much is that he refused the Irish Band a session, bit petty I know but that's me.
John Peel meant many things to many people, from the sympathetic voice that listened to peoples woes and idiosyncrasies on Radio 4's Home Truths, the devoted Liverpool supporter who cried on air after the Hillsborogh tragedy, the champion of so many different genres of music not least punk, to the hippy who was friends with Mark Bolan and presented The Perfumed Garden.
It may be an overused phrase but it makes it no less true that his like will never be seen or heard over the airwaves again.
Teenage dreams so hard to beat
Orb Session recorded 03rd December 1989 aired 19th December 1989
Tracklisting: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You)
The Orb - A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You)
Alternative zipped file