Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district of Kent, England. The city's cathedral became a major focus of pilgrimage following the 1170 martyrdom of Thomas Becket, although it had already been a well-trodden pilgrim destination since the murder of St Alphege by the men of King Canute in 1012. A journey of pilgrims to Becket's shrine served as the frame for Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th century classic The Canterbury Tales.
Canterbury is a popular tourist destination: consistently one of the most-visited cities in the United Kingdom, the city's economy is heavily reliant upon tourism.
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Links to Peel
Peel's main link to Canterbury was through the bands associated with what became known as the Canterbury Sound or Canterbury Scene, usually taken to refer to a group of progressive rock, avant-garde and jazz musicians hailing from Canterbury or living in the city during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among the Canterbury bands featured on Peel's shows were Soft Machine, Caravan, Matching Mole, Egg, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Gilgamesh and Camel.
Wikipedia claims that "the term has been used to describe a musical style or subgenre, rather than a regional group of musicians", and some of the musicians involved deny that the city itself had much influence on the music they played. Yet, judging by the number of Peel sessions by Canterbury Sound bands, the style was one which appealed to the DJ. Certainly, even though the Canterbury bands were capable of highly complex music which wasn't always to Peel's tastes, their style had none of the showmanship and crowd-pleasing displays of virtuosity which made JP critical of other 1970s progressive rock artists. Despite this, most of the names above were rarely found in Peel's post-1980 playlists.
The one Canterbury artist who became a lifelong Peel favourite was Robert Wyatt, who did sessions as a member of Soft Machine and Matching Mole before establishing himself as a solo artist. Wyatt, like fellow Softs Kevin Ayers (another Peel favourite) and Daevid Allen, wasn't born in Canterbury, but he went to school there before joining the Wilde Flowers, who are regarded as the seminal Canterbury band, out of which Soft Machine, Caravan et al developed (as shown in a Pete Frame family tree). Interestingly, the band with the most Peel sessions - ten - is the relatively unfashionable Caravan, rather than the more critically acclaimed Soft Machine.
Canterbury area and Canterbury scene artists who recorded Peel sessions:
- Kevin Ayers: (5 sessions, 1970-76)
- Camel: (1 session, 1973)
- Caravan: (10 sessions, 1968-77)
- Delivery: (1 session, 1971)
- Egg: (2 sessions, 1969-72)
- Gilgamesh: (2 sessions, 1974-75)
- Hatfield & The North: (4 sessions, 1973-74)
- Just Us: (1 session, 1972)
- Matching Mole: (3 sessions, 1972)
- National Health: (3 sessions, 1976-77)
- Soft Machine: (9 sessions, 1967-73)
- Robert Wyatt: (2 sessions, 1972-74)
- 18 November 1986: Peel plays a 17th century Thomas Ravenscroft-composed track called 'We Be Three Poor Mariners' from the Canterbury Clerkes.
- Larks(2): Ska/punk group formed at Christchurch College, Canterbury in 1981, played by Peel.