The first Peel sessions were broadcasted on the first edition of Top Gear, on the 2nd day of the new network Radio 1, Sunday, 1 October 1967, introduced by Pete Drummond and John Peel. It featured acts by Tomorrow featuring Keith West; the Move; the Pink Floyd; Traffic; Tim Rose; and Big Maybelle and the Senate.
At the end of 1992, in 25 years, Radio 1 had recorded about 8000 sessions. In 1991, there were 312 of them. In Maida Vale, a Peel session is recorded every Sunday and Tuesday.
All Radio 1 sessions tapes are kept in room B08, in the basement of Egton House, at BBC Radio 1 in London. They are kept in white boxes, carefully labeled with their content. The tape archive contains about 7000 session tapes, each tape containing one single song.
In the old time, it was a common BBC policy to wipe tapes for re-use, and many tapes were destroyed after 6 months (through an agreement with the Musician's Union). However, some producers carefully preserved what they judged to be their most important tapes, wherever possible. For instance, Walters safeguarded all the key early punk tapes. A handful of bands who had a good relationship with those key producers in the early years would occasionally take home a copy of the master tape. Today, everything is stored on R-DAT masters, as well as the quarter-inch stereo mixes.
It's a common scene. A new band turn up for their first Peel session. They discover their producer-engineer is Mike Robinson - or Mike Engles, or Ted de Bono, or Dale Griffin. In hushed reverence, they ask, "Wasn't it you wo did the Damned/the Specials/the Pixies/the Smiths' first session?" To which the most common reply is something like "Er, I think so, but to be honest, I've done so many, they all just become blur."
"Strange Fruit Records" (the name comes from a song made famous by Billie Holliday) , the record company which releases Radio 1 sessions was launched by Clive Selwood in September 1986.
The first release of the label was New Order's second Peel session, of June 1982 (SPS001), along with other 12" EPs containing sessions by the Damned, the Screaming Blue Messiahs, Stiff Little Fingers, Sudden Sway, and the Wild Swans. Some other related labels exist, and Strange Fruit is exclusively for Peel sessions (by the end of 1992, more than 150 Peel sessions had been released).
By the time the book was completed (end of 1992), the biggest Radio 1 session seller through had been the "Queen At The Beeb" album on Band of Joy, which sold 100 000 copies. I guess the recent Beatles releases largely break this record!
No Pixies sessions have been officially released so far. They may have been blocked by the Pixies themselves or by 4AD, unless the BBC never thought of releasing them... Most of Strange Fruit's time and effort is spent persuading record companies to waive their blocking right. Back in 1985, Peel compiled a list of 300 of his first-choice sessions for release, and Strange Fruit is still trying to get clearance on many of these. A usual practice of record companies, when alerted by Strange Fruit that a given session exists, is to block the SF's release, then license just one track from the BBC (which they are quite within their rights to do), and add it as a `bonus track' to a pre-planned compilation. As for bands and artists, Pink Floyd, Genesis, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton are the most famous blockers.
However, some Pixies Transcription Service's TOP OF THE POP DISCS may certainly be found (I saw an ad in a collector magazine once). Such records include Radio 1 takes, and are sold off by radio stations all over the world. Bootleg companies often make copies of such records. Some of these TS may have been the source for Rough Diamonds, the bootleg which includes all the Pixies sessions recorded in BBC studios (it does not include the Fort Apache demos from Session 1).
At least a Frank Black John Peel session (with Teenage Fanclub) was released on Strange Fruit in 1994.
The French counterpart to Radio 1 sessions are France Inter sessions. They are always broadcasted in L'Inrockuptible, the show by Bernard Lenoir, formerly from Monday to Friday, 9pm to 10pm. The most famous France Inter sessions are the `Black Sessions' (`Black' because of `Lenoir' - litterally `The-black' in English). Black sessions are 45min. to 1 hour live shows in front of an audience, usually performed in a France Inter studio, and broadcasted at the same time on the radio (except songs performed after the end of the programme, and which are broadcasted the day afters). Some sessions may also be performed more in a Peel session way, which are broadcasted in l'Inrockuptible too, and some concerts in Paris venues or somewhere else in France (usually during Les Inrockuptibles festival, La Route Du Rock, or Les Transmusicales) are also broadcasted.
France Inter recordings, and more especially Black Sessions, are often released as promo CDs, given free with new albums (e.g. Sonic Youth, the House Of Love, Teenage Fanclub, the Auteurs), or provided free to new subscribers of the magazine Les Inrockuptibles (e.g. Frank Black, the Divine Comedy, Tarnation).
There has been only one proper release of France Inter sessions as an album so far, and this was.... a Frank Black Session.
Last Updated 10-30-96