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Inevitably, much of my roving reporting took me to record shops and in one of the biggest of these there was an impressive display of Peel session releases on Strange Fruit. I was looking at this when a woman assistant asked me whether I was interested in the records and I had to explain that I sort of was and sort of wasn't. She looked understandably nonplussed, so I explained further, revealing that I was the Peel mentioned on the sleeves. 'You are John Peel?' she gasped. I dimpled modestly and admitted it, whereupon she burst into tears. Whether these were tears of joy or disappointment, I've never been able to make up my mind.
(Peel visits Tokyo, Margrave Of The Marshes, pg. 72)

We had a terrific time time; we created one of the world's great collectors' labels.
(Clive Selwood, All The Moves (But None Of The Licks), pg. 237)


The Strange Fruit label, established in 1986 by former Dandelion Records business chief Clive Selwood,[1] Peel's long-time friend and personal manager, was a primary distributor of BBC recordings, focusing on Peel sessions.[2] The DJ himself had nothing to do with the label's ownership or management, although he did lend support and suggested sessions that he felt deserved release.[3]

The name Strange Fruit came from the song written by Abel Meeropol and famously performed by Billie Holiday. Its title and lyrics reference racially motivated lynchings.[2] Selwood recalls that Peel (as a fan of WC Fields and football) put forward the possible label names "Bank Dick" and "Back o' the Net Records," although these received the thumbs down:

"The latter seemed like a bit of a mouthful and the former, when written down, can be mistaken for Black Dick, which I figured might limit its appeal somewhat."[4]

The label had the aim of generating sufficient revenue from recordings of 'big name' artists to allow the release of recordings by lesser-known ones.[2] Among the first batch of six 12" EP releases in September 1986 were New Order's 1982 Peel session and the Damned's second, from 1977. These were followed by sessions from some of the biggest names from the punk and post punk eras. Recordings from as far back as the 1960s by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Bonzo Dog Band were also released.

Tracking down artists or their representatives and obtaining the rights to release sessions didn't always prove easy; Frankie Goes To Hollywood were among the earliest to refuse permission.[5] Others, however, were happy to give the go-ahead on the basis of "anything for John." [6]

As well as individual sessions, the label also released albums compiling several sessions by the same artist.[2] Strange Fruit was sufficiently successful that it spawned subsidiary labels including Nighttracks (sessions from Radio One's Evening Show), Raw Fruit (concert recordings from the Reading Festival), and Band of Joy (BBC session recordings from the 1960s and 1970s).[2] In 1994, Peel's BBC colleague Andy Kershaw started another subsidiary label, Strange Roots, which released session recordings by world music and Roots music artists from his radio show.[2]

After Strange Fruit pioneered releases of Peel sessions, other companies followed in its footsteps by issuing archive BBC music recordings, including sessions from the Peel show. Clive Selwood sold Strange Fruit to Pinnacle in the mid-1990s and the label was eventually shut down in 2004, when the Zomba group of companies merged with BMG. The last release Strange Fruit put together was an album of complete Peel sessions by New Order.

Strange Fruit Records Catalogue (Peel Sessions, BBC)

Individual artists original 12-inch vinyl complete, single-session releases, SFPS prefix (unless indicated otherwise); and CD with SFPCD or SFPSCD prefix only those indicated; released quarterly in batches of 6, or later 4, September 1986- September 1994

Double Peel Sessions CD mini-albums


(For plays by Peel of various artists (v/a) compilations, see Strange Fruit Compilations.)

  • SFRLP100 The Sampler SFRCD100
  • SFMCD214 Hut Recordings: The Peel Sessions (Smashing Pumpkins, Revolver, Verve, Moose)
  • SFRLP101 Hardcore Holocaust
  • SFRCD119 Too Pure (Th' Faith Healers, Stereolab, PJ Harvey)
  • SFRCD129 Peel Your Head: The Planet Dog Peel Sessions (Banco De Gaia, Timeshard, Eat Static)
  • SFRCD201 The Soft Machine: The Peel Sessions
  • SFRCD203 Before The Fall - The Peel Sessions 67-77 (20 track compilation, released 1991)
  • SFRCD204 Winter of Discontent - The Peel Sessions 77-83 (compilation, 1991)
  • SFRCD205 New Season - The Peel Sessions 83-91 (21 track compilation, 1991)
  • SFRLP200 21 Years Of Alternative Radio 1
  • SFRCD? The John Peel Sub Pop Sessions (tracks by Mudhoney, Billy Childish, Seaweed, Jonathan Richman, Velocity Girl, Codeine) (released 1994)
  • SFRLP111 Joy Division

Strange Fruit albums (also as CD SFRCD)

  • SFRLP101 Hardcore Holocaust (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP102 The Only Ones (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP103 The Undertones (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP104 Buzzcok's (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP105 Microdisney (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP106 Stiff Little Fimgers (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP107 Gang Of Four (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP108 Wire (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP109 The Ruts (vinyl number), 3 sessions from 79, 80, 82 (released 1989)
  • SFRLP122 The Wedding Present (vinyl number), Sessions 1987-1990 (released 1993)

Other albums

See also below "External Links"

See also

External links


  1. Selwood's memoir, All Of The Moves (But None of the Licks) (London, Peter Owen, 2003), has a full chapter on Strange Fruit (pp 224-237).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Larkin, Colin (ed.) (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Indie & New Wave, Virgin Books, ISBN 0 7535 0231 3
  3. In fact, it was not unknown for him to mention on air after playing a track from one of the label's "Peel Session" releases that he didn't receive a penny from the records.
  4. Selwood p.225
  5. Selwood (p.104) notes that this was despite "Peel's extraordinary influence on their career" and the fact that two of the band's biggest hits were written on the train down to London to record sessions.
  6. Selwood (p. 225) cites New Order as an example.
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