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Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London with 1,073,000 residents (2011 census), an increase of 96,000 over the previous decade. The city lies within the West Midlands conurbation, the third most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a population of 2,440,986 (2011 census). Its metropolitan area is also the United Kingdom's second most populous with 3,683,000 residents.

Links To Peel


In the late 1960s, John Peel was a regular compere at Mothers club in Erdington, Birmingham, which ran for three years to 1971 and hosted many of the top bands of the era. In 1968-9 he also lent his support to the struggling Birmingham Arts Lab. On a November 1968 Top Gear [ref], he had to apologise to Birmingham's students after accusing them of apathy and unwillingness to support the city's Arts Lab.

He was also an acquaintance of early Black Sabbath manager Jim Simpson, founder of the city's Henry's Blueshouse venue[1] and Big Bear label - home of the Quads and apparently named after Peel’s nickname for him.[2] Simpson was later a strong supporter of (so far unsuccessful) moves to rename Birmingham airport after Ozzy Osbourne.[3]

Although the industrial city is often associated with heavy metal, Peel tended to focus on other aspects of Birmingham's music culture, with Idle Race (six sessions) and Joan Armatrading (eight) among the favourites of the Top Gear era, before the arrival of British reggae pioneers Steel Pulse (five). From the late 1970s, Robert Lloyd emerged as a mainstay of the Peel wingding, with the Prefects, Nightingales, under his own name with the New Four Seasons, and also with Terminal Hoedown. Lloyd also launched the city's Vindaloo label, whose roster came to include Peel-played artists such as Fuzzbox, Terry And Gerry and Ted Chippington.

In the mid-80s, the city's Mermaid venue was central to the emergence of grindcore, which quickly became a major element of Peel's show, including local bands such as Napalm Death.[4] Birmingham is also known as the birthplace of modern Bhangra music,[5] which continued to interest the DJ from the 1980s. In later years, Peel session artists from the city came to include electronic dance music figures such as Regis and Surgeon, emerging alongside the local Downwards and Sandwell District labels.

Peel would often travel to the city for his DJ roadshows, including a celebrated gig at Aston University in October 1979 when he gave his fee to The Beat to persuade them to play their entire set again. In May 2000 and October 2001, he broadcast his programmes live from the city during two visits for the One Live festival.

During the late 90s, Peel narrated the Rock Family Trees series, which included one episode focusing on 1960s and 70s bands from Birmingham.[6]

Mentioned In Shows

  • 27 July 1969: Peel talks about a recent visit to Birmingham, taking in Handsworth market ("an amazing number of Indian and Pakistani children there, incredibly beautiful children"), and The Diskery ("I acquired a large number of things").
  • 24 September 1980: Peel mentions having travelled to Birmingham the day before to see a Nightingales gig in the city. This was filmed for the forthcoming BBC 'Arena' documentary.
  • 29 December 1990 (BFBS): JP: "you don't associate Birmingham with much. Except, kind of, you know, poor football teams."
  • 30 May 1994 (Ö3): JP: "It's really surprising actually, bearing in mind that Birmingham is the second biggest city in Britain how little good music has come from the place over the years."
  • 29 November 1998 (BFBS): JP: "There was a time when I would have argued most persuasively I think, that very little good music comes out of Birmingham... but now all of a sudden, Birmingham is probably for the first time in its entire history sort of faintly hip."
  • 15 August 2000: JP recalls a weekend with Country Joe & The Fish in London and Birmingham in 1969.


(EP - Mell Square Musick) No Rip Off

(LP - A Baker's Dozen From Vindaloo) Vindaloo

(LP – Brum Brum) City To City

(2xLP - Brum Beat Live At The Barrel Organ) Big Bear

See Also

  • Birmingham: Sessions
  • Mothers
  • Rock Family Trees: Birmingham Beat
  • Arena: Today Carshalton Beeches ... Tomorrow, Croydon: Peel attends a Nightingales gig at the Star Social Club in Brum (from approx 9.30 of first YouTube video).
  • Peel On Record Cover Sleevenotes: JP, writing on Forest's self-titled debut album (1969): "In the autumn of a year which historians have, with the aid of carbon dating, pin-pointed as 1968, I was in the gay carbon-monoxide cloud some authorities call Birmingham..."
  • John Peel's Record Box: Peel's box of 142 most precious 45s included 'There Must Be Thousands / You've Gotta Jive' (Big Bear Records, 1979) by The Quads, as well as 'Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree / My Father's Son' (Liberty, 1967) by the Idle Race and 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow / Wave The Flag And Stop The Train' (Deram, 1967) by the Move. All three Birmingham bands recorded Peel sessions. Short-lived punk outfit Anti-Social were also from the city and their only only single, 'Traffic Lights / Teacher, Teacher' (Dynamite, 1977), was found in Peel's box, but they didn't stick around long enough for a session.
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Carl Palmer, drummer with one of Peel's least favourite bands, comes from Handsworth, Birmingham.
  • Duran Duran: From Birmingham, played by Peel.
  • Fashion: From Birmingham, early indie singles played by Peel.
  • 021: Punk band's name was derived from the then dialing code for Birmingham.
  • Accused: Solihull punk band played by Peel.
  • Apache Indian: Dancehall reggae vocalist and DJ.
  • Felt: Leading indie band but no Peel session.
  • International Times: Perfumed Garden Column: (IT 43, 1968-11-01, p.2) "From his sickbed last Saturday John Peel sent regrets that he could not get any coherent words together for this issue. He had arrived home from Birmingham where he had apparently been smitten with a strange virus which caused unpleasant eruptions over the Peelian frame. In his own words: 'there were swellings all over as well as the usual ones around my head'."[7]

External Links