This is a transcript of the third show in the six-part documentary series Peeling Back The Years, in which Peel was interviewed by his long-time producer John Walters about the development of JP's musical tastes down the years. The third programme discusses Peel's years on Top Gear before the arrival of punk in 1976.
- Ray Martin & His Concert Orchestra: Blue Tango
John Walters: Ray Martin’s ‘Blue Tango’, and that was the first record in John Peel’s collection. We’re tracing his musical development from then, which was 1952, to now. After two programmes, his taste for the raw meat of rock has been established. We’ve taken him from being a consumer to a purveyor of rock music. But before we take a closer look at the music he was playing during the early years, as a broadcaster Peel said that Captain Beefheart summed up an attitude to music probably that might not have been well exposed if at all without him. Younger listeners unfamiliar with his work might have listened last week and thought, “Well, energetic wild bluesy stuff, but not very challenging. Why is Beefheart still quoted as a seminal influence, you know, of the avant guard?” Well, perhaps they should listen to this.
- Captain Beefheart: Pachucho Cadaver (LP – Trout Mask Replica)
JW: Well, what better way to start looking at the music that you played in the early years than a bit of Captain Beefheart From his more extreme period, that was ‘Pachucho Cadaver’ from the famous Trout Mask Replica album. You played Beefheart a lot then, you know. Looking back at the old scripts, I see March 1972, one programme had 18 Captain Beefheart tracks!  Now clearly Beefheart has been an influential but sort of extreme artist and he still sounds extreme. But let’s start with somebody else who didn’t have any commercial success and yet sounded extreme at the time but rapidly got pretty damn commercial, and that’s Marc Bolan. He was also a hobby horse of yours at the start. I remember before I knew you your first Top Of The Pops when you announced to the audience that you were disgusted that there was no Captain Beefheart and Tyrannosaurus Rex in the studio and were promptly banned from Top Of The Pops for 10 years.
John Peel: Fourteen.
JW: Was it?
JP: Fourteen, yes.
JW: But about Marc, I’ve never really known this myself. Did you first encounter the person or the music?
JW: Because he was around.
JP: Yes. Neither in a way. I mean, what I encountered initially was a letter he wrote to me on Radio London and in the language of the time. Obviously I wish I’d still got the letter really, but one of those things that said something like, “I understand you’re into our sort of scenes,” something like this. And he sent me a couple of acetates of songs. I’ve lost those as well, collectors, too – so don’t bother to write and offer me money for them.
JW: But once you did meet him, was it him or the music that you suddenly thought, “There’s something happening here.”
JP: I think initially it was the music to be honest, but then I got to know him really rather better than I’ve got to know people in bands subsequently. And I think in a way, as you’ll probably ask me later in the programme, it is not a good thing to have mates who are in bands, because there does come a time, as there did with Marc, when they make a record and you have to say to yourself, “Well if this record wasn’t by Marc Bolan, I’d not actually play it.” And so therefore you have to not play it – you have to be true to whatever it is you are busy being true to in a rather obsessive way.
JW: Can you pick a track from the earliest days, when he was doing all that supposed poetry…
JP: No trouble at all. Our big favourite – I say ours, my wife and I’s big favourite – was always Salamanda Palagnda.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex: Salamanda Palagnda (LP – Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels Of The Ages) Regal Zonophone
JW: But I mean, I saw that and thought, “Oh god, this is gibberish and nonsense,” but Marc…
JP: You were not alone in thinking this. I mean, we used to go down and do gigs in places like Exeter, and this is before there were any motorways or anything – people would phone me up and say, “Look, we’d like you to come down and do a disco,” and I’d say, “I will only do it if I can bring Tyrannosaurus Rex with me.” And they’d say sort of, “What’s that?” And I’d explain as much as one could. We’d hire a car and set off, and all of their equipment in those days used to fit into the boot of a Mini, which was rather impressive. And we’d turn up and do the gig in Exeter, and they would by and large not go down terribly well, and then we’d have to drive back, because we couldn’t afford to stay anywhere. It was real rock and roll gypsy stuff.
JW: But once you got going, I remember meeting Marc in the street and he said, “Great news, I’m something like Britain’s best selling poet.” And I thought, I wasn’t too sure I would like to say he was a poet. Did you think it was gibberish or poetry?
JP: At the time I probably thought it was poetry, but I had reservations about it. I mean, I suppose what Marc liked doing, as we all do to a greater or lesser extent, I think – you find words the sound of which is quite attractive on the tongue or looks quite nice on the page, and you just incorporate them into what you do. I mean, I used to write paragraphs for the Radio Times at one time, for which I would very deliberately go and find three words from the dictionary that I had never seen in my life before, but words that appealed to me, and work them into whatever it was that I was writing. So I mean I think it was he just liked the sounds of words. Because quite often words would be misapplied, if you were to try and find some logic in what he was writing.
JW: But I wonder how you sort of quite briefly here – did you try and make a connection with what you knew of as rock and roll when you listened to stuff like Marc? Because clearly the music had totally changed. Marc was an extreme example, but it wasn’t Little Richard, was it?
JP: No, it wasn’t. But I think it comes back to what we wee saying in an earlier programme – it’s the extreme voices that attract me more than anything else, and I think by any established standard known to man, Marc, certainly in those early days, had a very extreme voice.
JW: Yeah. But that brings us on to clearly he had enough commercial sense to hone it down and develop different sides of him to make himself more commercial until he did become a star, there’s no question of that. At what point did the break come? Was there a specific record were you suddenly thought this has got to stop?
JP: Well, you and I have discussed this previously, and I can never remember which particular record it was. I think it was whatever followed – ‘Hot Love’ got to be number one, and then it was the follow up to ‘Hot Love,’ which was…
JW: It was actually – I’ve got to come down from being too detached here because I remember picking up Marc’s acetate. It was ‘Get It On’.
- T-Rex: Get It On (single) Fly
JW: We listened to it in the studio…
JP: That’s right.
JW: …and then you said, “What do you think? Would we have played it if we didn’t know it was Marc?”
JP: Yes. And the answer to that was probably no. Oddly enough, now I probably would. But at the same time, you know, I quite like the idea that as it were you were educating yourself to the present and the future, you are also reeducating yourself as to your past. You know, so a lot of the stuff that I used to think was quite wonderful in the early ‘70s, now I find crushingly embarrassing. I mean, to the point where I can’t bear to have it played in my presence. I certainly don’t want to hear my own voice or any of my own programmes, which people occasionally dredge up, and I think that is quite good. I quite like that process of being fairly regularly and consistently wrong. I think it is quite healthy.
JW: I tell you what, I think we are going to use this programme as a sort of dipstick, having taken you, as I say, from a consumer to somebody who actually was in the business as a purveyor of the stuff, and look at a lot of the music in the first ten years - I suppose, the pre-punk period. Fine, Beefheart was a big influence, somebody special to you, and so was Marc. But some areas that you probably wouldn’t play as much now. And I wonder can you think back now to what you thought then? For example, folk music. Where you first attracted by what we’ll call the real thing of folk music, or what was starting to happen then, the revival, the Fairport Convention style of folk music?
JP: The Fairport Convention style, definitely. Richard Thompson’s guitar-playing in fact. As a man who, as I say, has always liked the extreme voices, I’ve also liked, also very much cared for, not extreme guitar styles – because a lot of the people whose stuff I like best, like Duane Eddy, are actually very simple and obvious kind of guitar playing. But just, again, people who had a strong identity and people whose work can be easily recognized were the kind of guitar players that I liked. And obviously guitar playing played a large part in that hippie period with people like Barry Melton with Country Joe & The Fish – the guitar was that sort of very clear liquid sound.
JW: Can you pick a record from that early period with Richard playing that you might think, “Here’s a good example.”
JP: There’s that ‘Sailor’s Life’ thing that I like very much.
- Fairport Convention: A Sailor’s Life (LP – Unhalfbricking)
JW: Part of ‘Sailor’s Life’ there from Fairport Convention. A lot of the young people then were, as we were saying, doing folk revival stuff, having a go at the blues, trying jazz rock. We encouraged people like Nucleus, who were real jazz musicians, or Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum, early Roxy Music, all sorts of things. The Soft machine seemed to appear on a lot of programmes. Looking back now, what did you make of the Soft Machine, because they can be a bit daunting.
JP: Well, when they first started, you see, their first session for the programme would have been recorded in about 1968. They were one of the earlier bands to record for the programme, and in those days they were more of a pop band, and they had Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt alternating on vocals. And they were seen at the time as sort of kindred spirits with the Pink Floyd rather.
JP: And then they rather sort of vaguely disappeared and came back reorganized in a much more jazzy form. And I used to find, again to be perfectly frank with you, I used to find a lot of their stuff just went on too long, you know. But I always very much liked Robert Wyatt’s sort of free form vocals. There was one excellent track, the name of which I can never remember – it was something to do with June – in which he describes…
JW: Moon in June.
JP: Moon in June – in which he describes how pleasant it is to be recording yet another Top Gear session and saying how excellent the BBC canteen is.
JW: That is issued as a record, but it was originally recorded for us at the BBC. In fact, I produced it, so I think we’ll hear a little bit of that.
- Soft Machine: Moon In June (session)
JW: The vocal section there from the Soft Machine’s ‘Moon In June’ with Robert Wyatt singing the praises of Top Gear the programme and Maida Vale 4 and the coffee machine round the corner that used to be there then. But I wondered if you were using that, apart from Robert’s quirky there, because you felt it was a good deed. Do you know? Were you getting away from just saying my ears tell me “this is something’s really happening here and my feet are tapping” and starting to think, “It’s right to use this band. It’s a moral decision.”
JP: I think that may be true, yes. And it is difficult at the time and harder still looking back at it to be able to say at what point you do feel like that, at what point moral decisions are being made instead of musical ones.
JW: Because you must have thought, I’ve become a disc jockey, but this isn’t as you started as a disc jockey saying, “I’m having fun as a listener and let’s share this and spend my life doing this, playing records.” Now it was getting to almost like a political gesture, because certain things had to be helped because nobody else would help them but you. Is that right?
JP: I think that probably is true, yes. As I say, the Soft Machine, seeing as we are talking about them, I mean, their longer jazzier things I found by and large intolerable, I must say.
JW: Well, frankly, if we are talking about intolerable music, what about the other sorts of new music that I remember having to record and we had to listen to at that time? The Third Ear band, for instance.
JP: Well, yes. I mean…
JW: It wasn’t really intolerable; it was hypnotic.
JP: Yes, difficult to defend really in a way, except that I played jew’s harp on one track on their debut LP, but that isn’t the reason why they got on the programme. It was just that they again, I suppose, were the sort of band that turned up interminably at benefits and so forth, and when I went down to the various clubs, whether Pink Floyd or Arthur Brown or Hendrix and people were playing, the Third Ear Band would always be on the bill in some capacity, along with another band that we never did actually record, Exploding Galaxies or something…
JW: Let’s hear a bit of the Third Ear Band, because I think a lot of people today might find it … interesting.
- Third Ear Band: Mosiac (LP - Alchemy)
JW: Third Ear Band there expanding our consciousness. I find them quite likeable to listen to – I recorded them a couple of times for the programme, and you just sort of mentally in a sense almost sort of dozed off. But it was quite – you know, it just went on like that. And I suppose that was part of what we talked about – folk rock, jazz rock – that was part of the Asian coming into it, because they thought they were connected with Indian music.
JP: A lot of this went on, and I was as guilty of it as any I suppose, in that people would go into bookshops and read the back of a paperback on Buddhism or something like that and come out confirmed Buddhists, you know.
JP: People used to pick up on abandoned religions and so forth.
JW: Well, something else then. Because we are looking at these different styles and what you thought of it at the time. Something that really was more genuine, you know, that also you started to bring into British listening, and that was reggae. Not right at the start if I remember rightly.
JW: Because if you can think back to reggae and how it came in.
JP: Yes, I can remember that with some clarity in fact, because reggae, the most obvious listeners to reggae were skinheads who were lying in wait in the tube station to beat the fire(?) out of us old hippies as we wandered through there snapping our fingers.
JW: When you say the most obvious audience – outside the West Indian audience (???) at all.
JP: Yes, exactly. So the people would be lying in wait in Notting Hill Gate tube station and so forth were skinheads and reggae was their music. Also, most of the records – I got very, very few of the records at the time, didn’t know where to get them, and the only records that we DJs were sent were ones that had strings and so forth added in order to make them more acceptable to a white European audience, and they really didn’t interest me at all. And then I heard a record, and I can’t remember – I think it was actually sent to someone else to be perfectly honest with you, probably sent to somebody like the Emperor Rosko, and it slipped by mistake into my record collection. And it was a record called Pop A Top by Andy Capp. And I remember taking it home and playing it to my wife, and we both thought really, “This is just such a wonderful record.” And I played it on the radio – and the response was not very positive. I mean, people wrote in letters of the, “Why have you turned your back on us” after all these years, or after all this year, or however long it was. Because people saw this as being the enemy’s music being played within their little sacrosanct area.
- Andy Capp: Pop A Top (single) Treasure Isle
JP: So there was some hostility to that. And I think that we went, didn’t we, to try and… Now, whether we decided to book a reggae band on their merits or because we were trying again to make a moral point…
JW: I think it was a sort of moral gesture. Because we had not heard anything much who the band was – the Rudies.
JP: Who became Greyhound, I think.
JW: Yes, they then had commercial – rather like Marc Bolan. It’s the same story all over again. They became the Rudies for us and they got on Top Of The Pops as Greyhound with ‘The Ink Is Black’ [note: the song title was actually ‘Black & White’]. But then you did start to look out for reggae a little bit, didn’t you? But I think the Rudies was probably the first Radio One session. They failed their audition.
JP: They would do. Couldn’t play reggae.
JW: That’s right. They were no good. But eventually you got onto about as big as you could do, and probably can do today when you look at reggae, in that we booked Bob Marley on his first visit.
JP: That’s right. And they did a couple of sessions for the programme.
JW: In 1973 they did one in January, and they did another one at the end of the year. Their only visits.
- Bob Marley & The Wailers: Concrete Jungle (session)
JP: It’s odd really, because people forget that. I mean, in a sense as though they should bother thinking back about radio programmes long ago. But I mean, when you are talking about histories of the programme, or people who are my age or slightly younger talk to me about the programme, they forget that we had sessions by people like Bob Marley ‘ The Wailers. We also used to have…
JW: People didn’t like it, if you don’t mind me pointing out that as well. I’m just interested, because people thought, “It is tokenism. You’re just trying to say ‘we use a lot of different musics. Let’s give something for these West Indians and this jerky reggae music, this Bob Marley chap who is over here.’ Aren’t you leaping on a bandwagon?” I’m curious, at the time – now you can afford to be honest – did you wonder if you were leaping onto a bandwagon or did you actually say, “I do like this music”?
JP: No, actually…
JW: I like it.
JP: No, actually I did after ‘Pop A Top’, I did start listening to more of it and started to find out where to buy the records and found that I liked them, because again I suppose because at a time when the kind of European music and American music we were playing in the programme was becoming more and more complex and people were becoming more and more concerned about musicianship – which has always seemed to me to be a diversion as far as popular music goes – it was just elemental really, just stripped down to the bones. I often used to prefer just the versions, you know, and just play the instrumental side rather than the vocal side, just because I liked that elemental quality to it. And another thing too is at the time, which people forget, we used to play quite a lot of black music. I mean, black American imports.
JW: You mean soul style music.
JP: Yes, yes.
JP: But I mean, mainly Southern stuff. And oddly enough, because of the interest in rare groove – and to be perfectly honest with you I’m not sure what rare groove is. I mean, I’ve never seen it adequately defined anywhere and I don’t go to any of the places where they theoretically play it. But I’ve been looking through some of my older records from that period, sort of ’72, ’73, ’74, and realized – I’d say that about half of the records that I have got in that part of my collection are by soul artists.
JW: Can you think of one that we probably played at that time?
JP: Well, one of the most extraordinary ones that I found was the first LP by the Gap Band – recently in the charts – which was on Shelter Records, which was Leon Russell’s record label. And I took it in to show Robbie Vincent to ask him what he thought of it and you know whether he regarded it now as being a good record, and he’d never seen it before and didn’t even know it existed.
- Gap Band: Fontessa Fame (LP – Magician’s Holiday) Shelter
JW: The Gap Band there, as played many years ago by John Peel – as always, ahead of his time! But on a wider front, obviously it was a time when as we have been saying of experiment, of people trying new things. There were also one or two danger signs looming, though, weren’t there? I mean, I looked through the script and I found, hello, what’s this? December 1968, I could see that one item that was played – the Sabre Dance was played by Love Sculpture, but that one went on to be a hit.
JW: You know, sort of jazzing the classics kind of thing. But in the same programme, ‘Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite’ by Sibelius was played by the Nice.
JP: Yes, yes.
JW: Now personally I’m always allergic to, you know, rock operas and that sort of thing. Now, how did you feel? Did you feel we’re trying to mix jazz, we’re trying to mix folk…
JP: No. Oh no. Actually, I can remember how I reacted to that one very positively, because the Nice, their first LP showed as far as I recall no sign of this classics stuff, an LP called The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack. And it was an LP for which I actually recorded a single with extracts from that record with me doing little punchy commentaries in between, which is probably a bit of a collector’s item these days – I think I’ve got the only copy! But and when they came along and they recorded that session and they did that, and I remember somebody at the time, and I said, “Really this isn’t such a good idea” – somebody did say that they were improving - they actually used the word improving – on the work of Sibelius. It is Sibelius, isn’t it?
JW: Well, that particular one was, yes.
JP: And I remember thinking, “Well, actually no, you’re not at all.” And obviously a lot of people went chasing up this alley and it ultimately resulted in a band I still regard as probably being the most awful ever, of all time – which is Emerson, Lake & Palmer, whose stuff was just transcendental in its awfulness.
- Nice: Intermezzo from “Karelia Suite” (LP – Ars Longa Vita Brevis)
JW: Bit of a watershed was the Melody Maker poll of ‘68 when although people were wondering whether you would ever be kept on at Radio One, you won it. And since then the popularity of what you were doing with that audience has obviously kept you buoyant ever since. But I was looking through those and found the poll from ’72. And I notice that although you won as disc jockey, most of the other winners were exactly this sort of thing – Ian Anderson on the flute, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the Yes boys.
JP: It was always a complete mystery to me that, I mean, how that happened, because you’d have thought that the people who voted for all of that stuff would have voted for anybody rather than me. Or you felt that perhaps they were doing in a sense what I might have done myself at one time, which was to – like they were voting for me as kind of a good thing, they kind of liked the idea of it, but didn’t listen to the programmes at all. Because you felt they couldn’t have done, to have voted for all those people like Yes and ELP and so forth.
JW: But at the same time there was music that you were behind and were playing which also sprang from a kind of classical educated root – art root rather than a folky-bluesy root – and that was a lot of the European music that was starting to come in. Nobody was playing European stuff. Everybody thought, “European, it’s usually poor man’s British and American.” But a lot of those German bands - we started to feature Can, Neu…
JP: Yes, yes.
JW: …Amon Duul.
JP: I think with Neu certainly, what I liked about them was funnily enough I mean a couple of weekends ago I was listening to the first couple of Pink Floyd LPs. And I know purists prefer the songs that Syd Barrett wrote, but I find some of those a bit too twee to be endured any longer. But things like ‘Set Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ I still quite like to hear from time to time. And bands like Neu in particular and then a few years later Tangerine Dream seemed to be taking that kind of spirit just perhaps a little further, and stripping it down rather than adding anything to it. I think perhaps the tendency with other people was to add more stuff to it and make the thing more cumbersome and top-heavy and ultimately rather embarrassing. So it was perhaps looking for a distillation rather than an elaboration.
JW: Let’s hear something from Neu now, because I suppose in some ways they were forerunners of thinking that brought us people like Kraftwerk subsequently.
JP: Very much so, yes.
- Neu: Negativland (LP – Neu!)
JW: Neu there from Germany, one of the early German bands that you used to feature when it wasn’t very fashionable. But moving away from Europe, I suppose I’ve been questioning you mainly about the groups that we saw live and the British groups that came into the studio and so on. There was a whole mainstream of course going ahead merrily in America of course. I mean, what thoughts do you have now about that sort of Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash mainstream that led on. Some people you liked, you know – the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, that sort of thing. We played a lot of different things from that era.
JP: I think a lot of those records are the records which I now find it very difficult to listen to. The Byrds I quite liked musically around that time. I’d met them in San Bernadino in the mid-1960s and disliked them so intensely as people I always used to find it difficult to play their records. But the various spin-offs I quite liked and the kind of country stuff as it started to come in I quite enjoyed, because when I lived in Texas country music was what I used to hear most of the time. And the fact that this was kind of an impure country music really didn’t bother me at all.
- New Riders Of The Purple Sage: Dim Lights And Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) (LP – Powerglide)
JW: New Riders Of The Purple Sage there, ‘Dim Lights And Thick Smoke’. I suppose, though, in the early ‘70s you were concentrating mainly on the developing British scene, which if you remember was developing away from Pop. Because the kids were buying the Osmonds and the Bay City Rollers, whereas a lot of the stuff we were encouraging was let’s say Mike Oldfield, Roxy and then Brian Eno of course – quite esoteric sort of stuff, rather clever stuff. But I must say there was one band that we have not mentioned in this pre-punk programme that were great favourites of yours and certainly brought you back quite sensibly to good old rock and roller’s enjoyment. And that was the Faces.
JP: Yes. Well, I always say, again, when being sort of interviewed by fanzines or whatever, that all the sort of stars came into conjunctions as it were around the same time. I mean, I started – I met the Faces and started…
JW: You say you met them, what do you mean?
JW: They were a band of lads. They’d been the Small Faces, Rod the Mod, all people that were seen – and I remember this very clearly because time changes – in the early ‘70s they were all seen as played out, frankly.
JP: Yes, yes.
JW: “No, not that lot again.”
JP: Well, that was very much my attitude. But as I say, I met them and you and my wife at around the same time – all people with very different attitudes to mine, much more realistic attitudes I think than I had. And I met the Faces backstage at a gig in Newcastle City Hall. And I can’t remember who else was on the bill – I think the Nice were, oddly enough. But anyway, they had a dressing room and I was sitting in – I didn’t have a dressing room – and there was a phone booth backstage and I was sitting in that thinking beautiful thoughts. I mean, genuinely thinking beautiful thoughts, in as far as I was capable of doing that. And they came and flung the door open and said, “Hello, John, mate, how’s it going, squire?” You know, “Come on, let’s have a drink.” And I didn’t drink at the time at all. And as they went away, my first reaction was, “Dear, oh dear, what dreadful rowdy people.” And then I saw them disappear into their dressing room that was full of scantily clad women and so forth and the sound of breaking glass and curries being flung against walls and so on, and I thought to myself, “Actually, these people are having a much better time than I am,” you know.
JW: So that rather implies that you were attracted socially as a bit of relief. What about the musical side?
JP: Well, because it was – I mean, the music exactly defined the band, you know. There was no sort of pretence in there at all. And I suppose I just got fed up – and as I say, it came about at the same time as I started to work regularly with you and meeting the pig, whose background was vastly different to mine, and as I say, much more rooted in reality. And I just, the Faces for me recaptured the kind of feelings I’d had when I first Little Richard and people like that and Jerry Lee Lewis, in the same way as the Undertones were to a few years later.
JW: Right, well, pick a track to illustrate that now, because people forget that.
JP: Goodness me. Well, you could pick almost any of the Faces – ‘Have Me A Real Good Time’. Is that the right title?
- Faces: Had Me A Real Good Time (LP – Long Player)
JW: Well, by the middle ‘70s I suppose the Faces, Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan – so many of the things that had started quite well for you for one reason or another had drifted away. Some people had matured musically, some people their foolishness had been exposed – so a lot of loose ends had been tied up by that middle period. And I was just again looking at scripts. April ’76, just pre-punk, pre that first summer of punk, and I saw the groups that were performing, it was people like – nice guys, but people like Widowmaker.
JP: Good lord.
JW: Shanghai. Stackridge. A lot of these bands that weren’t terrible, but not great.
JP: Not great at all.
JW: And it does seem as if the scene was treading water.
JP: Yeah. Vamping until ready.
JW; Yes, just waiting or dying. Something had got to happen. Well, we know that punk came along and something did happen. But before we finish this programme, can you pick one record from that first ten years that you might say, “No, that’s still all right for me. It’s old-fashioned pre-punk music, but I can still hear that”?
JP: Well, almost anything by Little Feat would do very nicely, because they are one of the few bands from that era whose music I can still listen to and enjoy. And I would say after the Faces at Sunderland, the second-best gig that I ever went to in my life was Little Feat playing at the Rainbow, when they were very much the opening band but it was one of those things were you have a kind of foreknowledge of it, and I knew as soon as I walked into the place – and I was the only person that had ever played Little Feat records on the radio at that time. Nicky Horne had just started to, but he’d come in at about the third LP, I think.
JW: Because it was released here.
JP: Because it was released here. The first one hadn’t been at that time. And I adored Little Feat, and as soon as I got into the Rainbow I was aware that everybody else in the audience, regardless of what it said on the posters about the Doobie Brothers and things, that everybody there was there to see Little Feat. And indeed they were, and the place – they all went mad, and Little Feat were genuinely taken aback and didn’t know what to do, and it was a wonderful night. So almost anything would do. Years ago, as you know, we had a ban in the programme, and have pretty much maintained it, that any record that has the words rock and roll in it doesn’t get played. But Little Feat’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor’ is an exception to that rule.
- Little Feat: Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor (LP – Feats Don’t Fail Me Now)
JW: Little Feat with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor’ – the record that John Peel picked out as one of those that he is not at all embarrassed about liking in the pre-punk period, and I think it still stands up today.