Thursday, 7 May 2009

John Peel, Kid Jensen, And Peter Powell Says Fuck

I spent many pre-satellite TV and pre-internet hours listening most evenings to BBC's Radio One. This was some while before it was regularly broadcast on FM, so 8.00 till 10.00 pm was the muddy medium wave of “275 and 285” and David 'Kid' Jensen's show. Admittedly come 10 pm, Radio One transferred to the John Peel show on the somewhat more glamorous stereo FM frequency, and truth be told it was here, in the late 70's and early 80's where I picked up on much of the music that holds me in it's clutches to this day. I was one of those who heard John Peel play the Undertones “Teenage Kicks” EP for the very first time, was genuinely captivated, and the second time he played it, had tape recorder at the ready to record it for repeated, and I mean repeated, listening, until getting hold of the actual record itself.

Radio One First XI including Jensen, Peel & Powell

So these inevitably were the two shows to which I sent the various Stringent Measures and What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen fanzines I came up with. Whilst John Peel was generous enough to mention them on several occasions, the more enthusiastic response came from Kid Jensen, who from the first issue of Stringent Measures on would regularly read out the address for folks to send off for copies, as they did, in their I got to thinking I'd write in and ask him if I could come down to the BBC studios in London and sit in on a show. To my complete surprise, a few days later he called in person (Mum - “Chris, someone called David Jensen on the 'phone for you” was the shout. only bettered some years later by “Chris, someone 'phoning from America – Paul Westberg or something?” (yup, an early morning call from an inebriated Minneapolis based Paul Westerberg of The Replacements......yeah yeah yeah, some other time) and all of a sudden I'd got myself an invite to visit Broadcasting House on Tuesday 6th September 1983.

I drove down to London, arriving at Egton House around 7 pm, strolled hesitantly into Broadcasting House, approached reception, introduced myself, announced the purpose of my visit, and some 10 minutes later was greeted by “the Kid” himself. The relevant passes were produced and I followed him through the rabbit warren that is the BBC up to the studio itself. Peter Powell was coming towards the end of his show in the next studio, I'm full of nervous chatter and looking forward to watching how the BBC broadcast to the Nation. Shortly before the handover at 8.00 o'clock, having spoken to his producer, Jensen poses the question “Chris, would you be up for doing an interview on how you go about producing a fanzine?” This genuinely wasn't what I'd expected – yes, I'd hoped he might acknowledge on air that I was there so all the folks I'd told would hear proof of my presence, and I had taken an album with me from which I'd hoped he might play a track, but a live interview, no way Jose. But, when the British Broadcasting Corporation comes calling, you do your duty, so I agreed and thanked the Lord I'd asked family back home to record the show, just in case.......

Front Page of Production Details booklet for 6th Sept 1983 Show

So, as the show starts, if I wasn't a little anxious before, I am now. Kicking off with the ShangLas “I Can Never Go Home Anymore”

one of three tracks during the show from them, then a touch of A Flock Of Seagulls. Session-wise I guess I got a little unlucky – the night before it had been a classic Smiths quartet:

Accept Yourself (Kid Jensen 5/9/83) [Hatful of Hollow]
I Don't Owe You Anything (Kid Jensen 5/9/83) [Sign Here boot]
Pretty Girls Make Graves (Kid Jensen 5/9/83) [The Smiths at the BBC]
Reel Around the Fountain (Kid Jensen 5/9/83) [The Smiths at the BBC]

This night though, it was The Farmers Boys and The Farenji Warriors in session, neither especially memorable. And so it was that I was told we'd chat just after the 8.30 news, and as we got nearer that time, so nerves increased and my tongue stuck ever faster to the roof of my mouth. No doubt sensing my anxiety (ever the professional broadcaster) the Kid delayed the moment and I calmed down a little, until as a Farenji Warriors session track fades out and we're off.

After about 7 minutes of me expounding on the art of editing a fanzine, it's time to play the track I'd requested (which had been tested for suitability by the producer) and with my spontaneous dedication “Play it for Epic”, it's “You Get What You Deserve” by the mighty Big Star – remember, this was a long long time before the likes of Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, REM et al claimed Big Star as their own and the song and band meant nothing to either DJ or his producer. In the same way he later introduced them to the likes of Bobby Gillespie I'd got good old Epic Soundtracks to thank for a full introduction to the genius of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell – as the song finishes another 4.5 minutes of chat, thank-you's and goodbyes said on air, and it's “Good Technology” by the Red Guitars. I play along with the tradition of guests departing on air by going nowhere and sit there through the rest of the show. Andy Peebles (most famous as the last broadcaster to interview John Lennon) wanders into the studio to say hello to David Jensen, and as we near 10.00 pm, in comes the mighty John Peel himself to read out the football scores.

6 September 1983
Liverpool 1-1 Southampton
Coventry City 2-1 Notts County
Ipswich Town 3-0 Everton
Luton Town 2-2 Norwich City
West Ham United 3-1 Leicester City
Birmingham City 1-0 Stoke City
Arsenal 2-3 Manchester United
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Watford

Plonks himself down next to me, says hello as I'm introduced to him, acknowledges he's familiar with Stringent Measures and the (more recent) first issue of What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen, and much as I'd love to report of how I joshed with him about the respective results for my team Coventry City and for his beloved Liverpool, I didn't, as that's about all she wrote: having read out the scores he wanders off into the next studio to prepare for that evenings show.
Dropped from the playlist as a result of my inclusion were “This Is The Day” by The The, “Warriors” by Gary Numan, “High Noon” by Two Sisters (?), “Bruises” by Gene Loves Jezebel and “Chance” by Big Country – so nobody got short changed there......the show finishes with “Robot Man” by The Gymslips

and I'm out of there, beginning a two hour drive back up the M1, listening, of course, to John Peel.

Listening back to a tape of the show, whilst nothing too embarrassing pases my lips, I hear a very nervous and just a little too precious soul, though truth be told, it's a pretty reasonable introduction to producing a fanzine, not that I'm suggesting it's that technical a procedure. Ultimately I guess it was good practice for sitting one Saturday afternoon a couple of years later in a self operated studio at BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham for a live interview with a London based Andy Kershaw (......the tales just keep on coming).

Oh, did I mention hearing drive-time DJ and ex-Mr Anthea Turner, Peter Powell say (admittedly off air) “Fuck”? Hard to explain how shocked I was at the time - shocked enough to remember to this day and to recall, fast forwarding a few years to the U2 Zoo tour, backstage at the NEC with the rich and famous, and there's our foul mouthed friend again, effing and jeffing to Paul McGuinness while I chat with.........(and on and on and on he goes). Talking of which.....

Coming Soon –U2 - Postprandial At The General Wolfe


Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Found your blog by doing the obligatory ‘Nikki Sudden Blogspot’ search.

Top story about your visit to Radio 1. One of my abiding memories from listening to Peel during that period was JP getting towards the end of a programme and saying ‘Kid, if your still in the building, meet me down in reception and we’ll go down to Wardour St. to see the Slits’. To a sixteen year old listener that sounded immensely cool at the time. I would imagine JP meant the Vortex, as it would have been all over at the Marquee by the time they got there.

Always remember Peter Powell leering into the camera on TOTP after an early ‘77 era Jam performance and going ‘Whoo!’ before jumping in the air as if to Pogo. Hilarious.


Anonymous said...

Great story. If you still have that tape maybe you could share it here - would be particularly good to get a snippet of peel reading out the footy scores for peel.wikia - some of the show has turned up but with no links -

you may have other tapes still of peel - the late 70s early 80s would be particularly valued!