"John Peel did not invent radio sessions. He did not produce or engineer the ones that bear his name. He made no money from their commercial exploitation. Barring honourable exceptions in latter years, he was not even present when they were made. They are called Peel Sessions simply because out of the many thousands of live BBC sessions broadcast on dozens of different shows by Radio 1 they happen to be the ones that Peel and his successive producers chose to commission and broadcast. It was Peel's longevity and range of enthusiasms that made them pre-eminent."
(Ken Garner, The Peel Sessions: A Story of Teenage Dreams and One Man's Love of New Music, BBC Books, 2007, p.17)

A feature of Peel's BBC Radio 1 shows were the famous John Peel Sessions, which usually consisted of four pieces of music pre-recorded at the BBC's studios in Maida Vale. The sessions originally came about due to restrictions imposed on the BBC by the Musicians' Union and Phonographic Performance Limited which represented the record companies dominated by the EMI cartel. Because of these restrictions the BBC had been forced to hire bands and orchestras to render cover versions of recorded music. The theory behind this device was that it would create employment and force people to buy records and not listen to them free of charge on the air. One of the reasons why all of the offshore broadcasting stations of the 1960s were called "pirates" was because they operated outside of British laws and were not bound by the needle time restriction on the number of records they could play on the air.

The BBC employed its own house bands and orchestras and it also engaged outside bands to record exclusive tracks for its programmes in BBC studios. This was the reason why Peel was able to use "session men" in his own programmes. Sessions were usually four tracks recorded and mixed in a single day; as such they often had a rough and ready, demo-like feel, somewhere between a live performance and a finished recording. During the 37 years Peel remained on BBC Radio 1, over 4000 sessions were recorded by over 2000 artists. Many classic Peel Sessions have been released on record, particularly by the Strange Fruit label.

Notable producers of Peel sessions include John Walters, former Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin and future BBC radio DJ Mark Radcliffe. Long-time sessions producer Bill Aitken also did one as a solo artist, while Bob Sargeant did six solo sessions after playing keyboards on two as a member of the Mick Abrahams' Band.

In a 2002 interview, Peel highlighted the first two Slits sessions as personal favourites, with the first by Culture named as the one he listened to most on record.[1]

Peel Sessions Facts


  • Maldwyn Pope (aged 13): The Welsh musician was the youngest artist at the age of 13 to do a session in 1973.


  • Ronnie Ronalde (aged 78): The English yodeller, whistler and singer was the oldest artist at the age of 78 to do a session in 2002.


  • Tomorrow were the first artist to broadcast a session for Peel's first show on Radio 1 in October 1967.


  • Trencher were the last group to broadcast a session while Peel was alive in October 2004.
  • Skimmer were the last group to record a session, while Peel was alive in October 2004.


  • The Fall have done more sessions for Peel's shows than anyone else with 24 sessions between 1978 and 2004.

Longest Gap

Sessions Artists A-Z

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Related Articles

(See Sessions category for all related pages, including lists of sessions by place of artist origin. Artist pages include session details if applicable.)