Keeping It Peel

I’m delighted to be contributing to Keeping It Peel today.

Being of a generation which was able to listen to Peel’s shows at a reasonable hour, the show had a significant influence on my musical tastes. But it’s the sessions which really stand out as bands would often debut new material in sessions for the great man.

Notable sessions I can remember include the Bunnymen debuting potential 3rd LP material including a slow take on ‘The Back of Love’ (called ‘Taking Advantage’ at that point), the Triffids’ first UK session (subsequently released as the ‘Field of Glass’ EP) and the Smiths early sessions.

However as JP was shunted to ever later slots, somewhere around 1990 I lost track of the show only really picking up again near the end through the benefits of online archived shows and broadband. Nevertheless his death in 2004 was shocking – I genuinely imagined him going on forever.

Peel’s immense legacy was celebrated for the first time the following year with the first John Peel Day. And it’s that event which led to TV21 reforming to play a short set at the Citrus Club in Edinburgh.

Here’s what I said about that show at the time:

“You can’t help feeling that this is one tribute that Peel himself would have appreciated. Whilst you have to agree with Andy Kershaw that the great man wouldn’t have welcomed Peel Day, this tribute by a host of Scottish acts from the late 70s and early 80s who owed a leg up in the business to Peel seemed a perfect example of  what the day should have been about. I feel that the sincerity of the tributes would have meant a lot to Peel.

I suppose when you get to a certain age, bands do start to reform for a variety of reasons. At 23 years though TV21 certainly take the prize for the longest time to make their minds up about getting back together! I confess I’ve always been slightly wary of reformations but history suggests that such wariness has been misplaced. Other than the recent Pixies gig at Meadowbank, it has all really worked out fine.

Which meant that TV21 had a fair bit to live up to. That I couldn’t have hoped for them to be any better than they were says it all – particularly on the strength of 2 rehearsals!

Playing with an energy some bands half their ages can’t manage and stripped back down to the original 4 piece set-up, this was a triumph in front of a packed home crowd. From the opening bars of  ‘Less Than Zero’ through a less than 100% obvious choice of 7 songs this didn’t sound like almost 25 year old music. It was genuinely thrilling to hear them back in harness with the only disappointment being the short nature of the set.

That said the 7 songs were packed with highlights like a ringing ‘Ambition’, a slow burning ‘On The Run’ and a simply wonderful ‘Snakes & Ladders’. Surprise inclusions were ‘End of A Dream’ and for the encore, the unrecorded ‘It’s Me’. Self deprecating, funny and clearly enjoying every minute this was a really terrific show.

And to finish the evening off the four TV21s were joined on stage by Jo Callis for a couple of raucous covers and eventually a couple of Twinsets for a heartfelt ‘Teenage Kicks’ a song that was doubtless played dozens of times last night up and down the country but which felt perfect here.”

The band happily acknowledge the debt that they owe to Peel from a time when there was no proliferation of digital opportunities to hear bands. So their set that night featured much (all? I can’t remember if they played ‘Waiting for the Drop’) of the band’s original Peel session.

That session was recorded at the Maida Vale Studio 4, London on 22nd October 1980 by Bob Sargeant and broadcast 8 days later. The tracks from the session are:

01 It’s Me Peel (Peel Session)

02 This Is Zero (Peel Session)

03 Waiting For The Drop (Peel Session)

04 On The Run (Peel Session)

There are a few interesting notes about these recordings. Firstly, the band always rated this version as the best version of ‘On The Run’ (at least first time around) whilst ‘It’s Me’ (the encore at that Citrus Club show) was never recorded again until after the band had reformed. Last but not least, the session features the band’s original drummer Colin MacLean.

Thanks to Norman and Ally from TV21 for supplying the tracks from the session.


  1. I missed out on TV21 first time round, glad they reformed. Also obviously glad that they did a session for Peelie.

  2. Norman says:

    Doing John Peel sessions was a dream true for me, as I’d grown up listening to them, so doing that gig was the least we could do. Peel put us on the map first time round and without him knowing it, he did it again. I never dreamed that I’d still be playing with TV21 in my 50s and the fact that it’s more fun than ever defies belief. “That’s terrifc!”

  3. davidyiken says:

    Does anyone have the other John Peel material? I’d love to hear it again.

  4. David I think I’ve got oterh stuff somewhere. Drop me an email.

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