Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant
were a British progressive rock band active between 1970 and 1980. The band was known for the extreme complexity and sophistication of its music and for the varied musical skills of its members. All of the band members, except Malcolm Mortimore, were multi-instrumentalists. Although not commercially successful, they did achieve a cult following. (Read more at Wikipedia )

Links to Peel

The band, much like Peel favourites Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, had a different approach from the typical 'mainstream progressive rock band' that John was known to dislike. In live performance, they had none of the showmanship and gimmickry which he found so annoying in some successful progressive bands, so he grew quite fond of them and they were booked for seven Peel sessions in the first half of the 1970s. Also, lead singer Derek Shulman's use of the voice is quite similar to Roger Chapman of Family, another band which John admired. In the booklet of the 2000 archivial release "Totally Out Of The Woods", which compiles every BBC session who survives from the original master tapes, guitar player Gary Green acknowledges Peel as one of the few DJs who would play their music:

At the time there weren't many ways for a band like Giant to get its music on the airwaves [...]. We didn't make hit-singles that could be played [...], so our options were limited. There was, however, a radio program called 'Sounds of the Seventies', which featured music from less well-known bands (sounds like us!). It was hosted by various DJ's, but eventually became the predominant domain of John Peel who seemed to take something of a 'shine' to us. We never met the DJ's in the course of recording, the go-between being the PRODUCER (capital letters please!) of the session [1]. We did invite John Peel down to Portsmouth once - he arrived late and fell asleep on [bassist] Ray [Shulman]'s couch! The rest of us spent the rest of the afternoon talking in hushed voices lest we woke him up!

Gentle Giant broke up in 1980 without ever reforming so, between this and the fact that Peel was much more interested in punk in the late 70s, they were not featured again in his programmes. They did, however, retain a cult following into the twenty-first century; their records were reissued and played on shows such as Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone on BBC 6 Music.


Seven sessions. - Session #3 available on "Unburied Treasure " (Madfish, 2019) - Sessions #5, #6 and #7 available on "Out Of The Woods - The BBC Sessions" (Band Of Joy, 1996) and its expanded edition "Totally Out of The Woods" (Hux Records, 2000) - Session #7 also available on John Peel Session (16th Sept 1975).

1. Recorded: 1971-12-12. First broadcast: 07 January 1972. Repeat: 04 February 1972.

  • Alucard / Plain Truth / Giant / Funny Ways[2]

2. Recorded: 1972-06-13. First broadcast: 14 July 1972. Repeat: 25 August 1972.

  • Mr Class And Quality / Prologue / Schooldays

3. Recorded: 1972-08-08. First broadcast: 05 September 1972. Repeat: 02 November 1972.

  • Plain Truth / The Advent Of Panurge / Funny Ways

4. Recorded: 1972-12-11. First broadcast: 14 December 1972.

  • Prologue / The Advent Of Panurge / Cry For Everyone

5. Recorded: 1973-12-04. First broadcast: 08 January 1974. Repeated: 26 February 1974.

  • Excerpts From Octopus / Way Of Life

6. Recorded: 1974-12-17. First broadcast: 17 December 1974. Repeat: 10 March 1975.

  • Proclamation / Experience / Aspirations / Cogs In Cogs

7. Recorded: 1975-09-16. First broadcast: 13 October 1975. Repeat: 09 December 1975.

  • Just The Same / Free Hand / On Reflection

Other Shows Played

  • 02 June 1972: Prologue (LP – Three Friends) Vertigo
  • 18 October 1973: An Inmates Lullaby (LP - In A Glass House) WWA (JP: 'That was the end of something else, always happens to me') (judging from this comment, this short excerpt was accidentally played because John dropped the needle too early when he meant to play the subsequent track)
  • 18 October 1973: Way Of Life (LP - In A Glass House) WWA
  • 01 September 1975: Time To Kill (album - Free Hand) Chrysalis CHR 1093
  • 16 February 1977: unknown [3]

External Links


  1. Bernie Andrews, John Muir and Tony Wilson are listed as session producers on the Totally Out Of The Woods compilation.
  2. "Funny Ways" from this session was scheduled to be broadcast on 04 February 1972 but, apparently, it was not so this particular track may have been left unaired
  3. David Cavanagh's Good Night & Good Riddance book, page 201
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