Cover Versions, entire show, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Tres Bon Ivers

That story from the other day (here) about the boy who swapped his iPod for a Walkman for a week had me thinking back to all my old compilation tapes I’ve still got in a box. I used to listen to the John Peel show religiously and sit with my finger poised over the pause button of the cassette deck on my music centre (as they were called, in my house at least, between 1983 and 1990, until CD first came into my life) waiting for something good to pop up inbetween the anarcho-punk, dub reggae, Ivor Cutler and Fall tracks. Nowadays I can appreciate that for the most part, John Peel’s show was all good, but to a 13 year old mad about Adam and The Ants, Crass, Culture and Captain Beefheart were a step too far.

By the end of the 80s I was a dab hand at recording entire Peel Sessions. If I was lucky I’d pause it just before Peel started talking. In hindsight, that was a stupid thing to do. I’d love to know what he said about some of the sessions I taped, but his comments have floated off into the ethers of time. I still have those tapes though…


The House of Love (“Hey man, the bongos are too loud” – I managed to capture Peel that night!), numerous Wedding Presents, a great Inspiral Carpets session with their original singer that sounded like The Doors and The Teardrop Explodes slugging it out after 17 microdots. And some fantastic Pixies stuff, including their first Peel Session.

pixies bw

You can find out all you need to know about any John Peel session at this indispensable site here. This Pixies one was recorded at Maida Vale 4 on 3rd May 1988 (21 years ago!!!) and broadcast about a week later, the session was notable for a couple of things. Firstly, it sounded fantastic. Pristine recording. Short, short songs. Frank Black screaming his big fat head off. Listening to it now, I can vouch that it still sounds fantastic today. Secondly, the choice of songs the band played was interesting. Two tracks from their recently released ‘Come On Pilgrim’ ep, two cover versions and a track that wouldn’t see the light of day until the ‘Doolittle‘ album.

pixies bar

About 10 years ago, long before file sharing had reached the West of Scotland I bought a Pixies bootleg called ‘Rough Diamonds’. This album has 5 tracks credited to the May 88 session, but my old tape has 4 songs from the session. I either missed their pre-Doolittle version of ‘Hey‘, or that song wasn’t broadcast in the first place. The 5 tracks are:


Levitate Me

Wild Honey Pie


In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song) 

In contrast to the rather daft and throwaway Beatles original, Wild Honey Pie is a full-on Frank Black scream-fest that wouldn’t sound out of place in any Pixies set of original material. In Heaven.. is a cover of a song from David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’. But you knew that already. Have you ever heard Peter Ivers original? Creeeeeeepy. High pitched voice, churchy keyboard and a wind effect at the end. The Pixies do a pretty good job of replicating it, but I think the Flaming Lips would really make this one soar. I’m now off to illegally seek out some Peter Ivers recordings.  Enjoy the session!

peter ivers

I heart Peter Ivers


entire show, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Peel Slowly And See

On constant rotation chez moi this week has been the new long player from the Super Furry Animals. It’s called Dark Days/Light Years and it’s a belter. But you probably knew that. So far ahead of everyone else in terms of originality and imagination, I would say that the Super Furry Animals are currently the Best Band on the Planet.


Except they’re clearly not on this planet. To the uninitiated, on the face of it the Super Furries are just another generic indie guitar band. But look closer. Are there any other groups who can go seamlessly from pastoral folk to fuzzed guitar psychedelia to nose bleeding Belgian hardcore-apeing techno to native language singalongs? Effortlessly? Often in the one song? Nope. Of course not. So that’s settled. The Super Furry Animals are the Best Band (almost) on the Planet.

The band clearly stockpile songs and only release them when the stars are aligned and the vibe is right. ‘Inconvenience‘ from the new album sounds like Golden Retriever from their Phantom Power album, only with better lyrics. Gruff Rhys has said it was an old song looking for the right album. Looks like it found it. Even the slow songs on this album are fast, he’s said. And they are. But enough of that. If you’re a fan of SFA you’vre probably got the album by now. If you’re sitting on the fence, get off it now and hop over to any good music retailer, physical or online and take a punt. You won’t regret it. If you’re one of those folk who say you don’t like them (and there can’t be that many people), click on the link below and for free you can download the band’s Peel Session broadcast from John Peel’s house on 12th July 2001. Then get yourself over to any decent music retailer etc etc…


The session in question that was broadcast from Peel Acres is a cracker. In front of a small audience they go through 3 tracks from the Rings Around The World album that they were promoting at the time. They also play a Welsh language track that featured on that year’s Welsh language album Mwyng. But the highlight for me is the first track. Written on the way down to the session, reveals Gruff, ‘Zoom!‘ would not make it’s official appearance until 2005’s criminally under-rated ‘Love Kraft’ album. Another old song looking for the right album.


This session is as good an introduction to the Super Furries as anyone needs. Opening track ‘Zoom!‘ is a slow-burning builder of a song; a nice combination of acoustic guitars and Pink Floyd synths. By the time it had made it onto ‘Love Kraft’ it was twice as long and had swimming pool splashes, trumpets and all sorts of sonic embellishments on top, but the version here is pretty much complete from the off. Second track, ‘Fragile Happiness’ is worth hearing purely for the way mumbling Gruff sings “We’ll go to Miami“. It also sounds uncanilly like fellow pastoral folkies Gorkys Zygotic Mynci (seek them out if you’ve never heard them). With my ignorance of the Welsh language I have absolutely no idea what is being sung on ‘Nythod Cacwm’, but it’s that melodic you can sing along without needing to know the words anyway. Sevem minute long lighters-in-the-air power ballad ‘Run! Christian, Run!‘ follows and the whole session finishes with the excellent ‘A Touch Sensitive’. Sadly, not a cover of the Fall track (and given the setting, you could be forgiven for thinking that), it’s a hypnotic instrumental that sounds like the theme to some long lost sci-fi spy film. Big bass line, bubbling analogue synths, an echoey, dubby piano riff and Krautrock drums. Yep. Super Furry Animals. Hands down Best Band (almost) on the Planet.


Beardy, weirdy and bloody magic


Cover Versions, demo, elliott smith, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Most downloaded tracks, Peel Sessions, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

Aye! Tunes! iCompiled for you

‘Don’t Look Back’ sang Bob Dylan. And indeed Teenage Fanclub. But sometimes you’ve got to look back before you can move forwards again. 2009 starts with a bang! Plain Or Pan? is almost 2 years old and to celebrate I’ve compiled a selection of the most-loved and downloaded tracks from the blog. This is your very last chance to grab some of those nuggets of pop goodness that you may have missed first time around.



Disc 1

1. Sgt Peppers’ vocal track The Beatles

2. Coca Cola Jerry Lee Lewis

3. Son Of Sam acousticElliott Smith

4. There She Goes promoThe La’s

5. All The Way Down  beat version The Primitives

6. Boots Lee Hazelwood

7. Just Dropped In The Dap Kings

8. Baby I Love You vocal track Ronettes

9. Hey Hey What Can I Do Led Zeppelin

10. You Really Got A Hold On Me Small Faces

11. Your Time Is Gonna Come Sandie Shaw

12. Mama You Been On My Mind Rod Stewart

13. In The Heat Of The Morning Last Shadow Puppets

14. The Loner Supergrass

15. Down By The River Joey Gregorash

16. Southern Man Sylvester and the Hot Band

17. Freaky Dancin’ Happy Mondays

18. Filthy St Etienne

19. Gimme Shelter  vocal track Rolling Stones

20. Flume live MOKB/WEEM Bon Iver

21. Grace King Creosote

22. Just Like a Woman live in the studioJeff Buckley


Disc 2

1. Monkey Gone To Heaven vocal track The Pixies

2. Handy Man Peel Session Frank Black & Teenage Fanclub

3. About A Girl BBC session Teenage Fanclub

4. Dead Leaves And Tne Dirty Ground Nina Persson

5. Hanging On The Telephone – The Nerves

6. Down On The Street take 2 The Stooges

7. TradewindsSuper Furry Animals

8. Riders On The Storm outtakeThe Doors

9. I Heard It Through The Grapevine vocal track Marvin Gaye

10. Coca Cola Ray Charles & Aretha Franklin

11. HomeworkJohn Lee Hooker

12. Stickman version 1 Elliott Smith

13. SnowTrashcan Sinatras

14. Moon River full-length version Morrissey

15. Autumn Almanac BBC session The Kinks

16. Everybody Drop It Like It’s Hot DJ Prince

17. 99 Problems Jay Z/The Beatles

18. Over  live in a stableThe La’s

19. Music When The Lights Go Out Legs 11 demo The Libertines

You’ll find CD1 here, CD2 here and you’ll find the artwork here. Easy-peasy!




Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

O Come All Ye Faith-Fall

Or the Fall-y and the Ivy. Or Mark The Herald Angels Sing. Or…you get the picture. Many bands have bent, buckled and bastardised yer favourite Christmas singalongs into their own unique shape, but none more so than The Fall. Unlike wet farts like Belle and Sebastian who go for that twee primary school choir effect (with bells on) (pass the sick bucket), The Fall know how to do it properly.

Peel Session #18 (broadcast 17 December 1994) saw Mark E Smith and co. tackle 2 festive favourites. Jingle Bell Rock is a cracker (pardon the pun). A clattering, twang-filled garage band run-through that clocks in at a breakneck 1 minute and 10 seconds long, it is especially joyful and triumphant as the lyrics have been changed to reflect the true Christmas spirit -“Post office hell….Friday night on Oxford Street…walking with green M&S bags…(and something incoherent about) sprouts“. Oh yes!


The Fall. Smokin’!

Hark The Herald Angels Sing sounds nothing like the version you sang at school. Complete with a jangling Brix Smith Rickenbacker riff and a skewiff choirboy vocal on the chorus, it sounds, well, like The Fall. It actually sounds like it could be something Mark E Smith wrote last week. “Christ, the everlasting Lord” he drawls, sounding like Jim Royle swearing at the X Factor on the telly. And if you pardon the pun again, it’s a cracker too.

Just a note to explain the lack of activity over the past week or so – a combination of work/home/Christmas stuff combined with the paranoia of being regularly watched over by the internet police has somewhat slowed me down. Hopefully, everything will be back in full working order in the new year. I certainly intend it to be. Keep visiting!

entire show, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Hey! Hey! Come Out Tonight! Popscene! Alright!

Mention Blur and most folks think of Brit Pop, very big houses in the country and all that terrible stuff, or gurning smart arse Damon Albarn, who with his side projects involving World Musicians, hip-hop and opera (hip-hopera?) is becoming the indie Sting. Me? I still like them a lot. I have all the Blur singles. From 1990’s ‘She’s So High’ on 12″ right up to 2003’s ‘Good Song’ and everything inbetween. And not everything inbetween was good. ‘Sunday Sunday’ is one cockernee oompah-pah knees up too many, and lots of their b-sides were decidedly average. But I still bought them. On 7″, 12″, CD1 and CD2. The 10th Anniversary Box Set (£10 in the Our Price sale!!!) Box Sets aside, EMI must’ve made a fortune out of me. I even bought the Japanese import stuff, which is where this post is leading.

‘Bustin & Dronin’ is a Japanese compilation that collects all the remixes, b-sides and stuff from the singles that were released off of the ‘Blur’ album from 1997. This was the album that lost the band many of their fans but it’s my favourite. It’s loud, wonky, experimental and has Graham Coxon all over it. Not that the other albums don’t have Graham Coxon all over them either, but this album is the sound of a pissed-off guitarist fed up with where the band were being pigeonholed. It spawned the catchy ‘Song 2’  (which I am led to believe is more popular these days than Sweet Child O’ Mine as the riff of choice for spotty wee boys in guitar shops) and made them massive in America. It’s said that ‘Song 2’ was influenced by the stage antics of Pavement‘s Bob Nastanovich. Anyway……

Spread over the various formats of the ‘On Your Own’ single you can find assorted Blur tracks recorded live for John Peel at Peel Acres (his house). Bustin & Dronin’ has the whole 6 song set in order and it sounds fantastic. Recorded on 8th May 1997 it’s a right royal racket of a set. It starts with a hundred mile an hour trumpet-free blast through ‘Popscene‘ and continues in wonderful fashion from there on in. It sounds nothing like the Blur that the tabloids focussed on. It sounds like nothing or no-one else to be honest. Imagine the sound of a shitty amp wired to fuzzbox being dropped down a flight of stairs along with a box of drums and a cheap keyboard. Yes, it’s that good. It’s the ideal snapshot of where Blur were at in 1997. If you saw them live around this tme you’ll know what I mean. And it’s all here below….


Song 2

On Your Own

Chinese Bombs

Movin’ On


Tonight Matthew I’m going to be Michael Caine

Incidently, a wee Blur fact. David Bowie and Brian Eno were given a co-writing credit for ‘M.O.R.’ Acknowledging the song’s similar melody to ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, Blur gave them credit before getting the phone call and lawyer’s letter.  

Special bonus track. The frankly weird Earl Zinger reggae version of ‘Song 2Wo’. It’s hardly essential, but have a listen.

Blur do Blondie

Nowadays, the guy on the left really does live in a very big house in the country. Bit of a fanny, wears tweed jackets, makes cheese. His book‘s really good. You should read it. I once saw Blur and Radiohead play the Barrowlands around the time of ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’. Possibly 1993. Radiohead were just back from America where Creep was massive. Thom had that Birdland haircut he was fond of before he went bald. Radiohead were shite. No-one belives me when I say that, but they were. Rank rotten shite. Blur were fantastic. 40 minutes of in-your-face, no-nonsense punk pop. There were only about 150 people there. True story that.

Cover Versions, Peel Sessions

Brand new, you’re retro

I’m quite enjoying The Last Shadow Puppets single just now. ‘The Age of the Understatement’ isn’t quite the lost track from ‘Scott 4’ that the band would like it to be, but it twangs in all the right places and rushes past like Morricone beating The Coral to the finish line in the 100m sprint. There’s even a nice whiff of the Electric Prunes in the string arrangements.

Even better to these ears is their cover of David Bowie‘s ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’. Originally recorded for Deram back in the 60s, this is one of the lesser-well known gems in the Bowie catalogue. All strings and weird chords, in the scheme of things it falls somewhere between ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud’. You could be forgiven for thinking that The Last Shadow Puppets based their entire sound around this record, cos it sure sounds like it. But in a good way. Bowie likes it too. “That’s wonderful,” he said. “A daymaker.” Go on…make your day….

*The Last Shadow Puppets‘In The Heat Of The Morning’

*David Bowie‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ (Deram Records original release)

David Bowie‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ (John Peel’s Top Gear BBC Session, broadcast Christmas Eve, 1967, features Tony Visconti and T.Rex’s Steve Peregrine-Took on backing vocals)

Today’s blog has been half-arsed and lazy. Better quality blogging will resume as normal next week.

Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Peel Session Special Delivery

Another post that shows my age. If The Best of Blondie was one of the first albums I bought, amongst the first 7″ singles I bought were Gangsters, Rat Race and Stereotype by The Specials. I used to get £1 every Saturday and I’d be straight down to John Menzies for whatever had caught my eye on Top Of The Pops on the Thursday night. I even had enough change left over for a penny chew. I came to regret this in later life when I started getting fillings in my teeth, but not as much as the twang of regret I get everytime I think about the time I gave my singles collection to the BB jumble sale. Baggy Trousers gone. Stand & Deliver gone. Swords Of A Thousand Men gone. D’oh.


The Specials recorded 4 sessions for John Peel. The first (23.5.79) was available for a while. Try eBay if you really need it. Or ask me nicely…


The other sessions remain unreleased but you can find the three tracks recorded for the 3rd session below. Recorded almost exactly 27 years ago on the 29th October 1980, the jewel in the crown here is undoubtedly the version of ‘Stereotype’. The single version is sung in 3rd person – “He’s just a stereotype, he drinks his age in pints etc etc,” but in this run through, Terry Hall sings a different introduction and sings in first person – “I’m just a stereotype, etc etc”. Now. Bob Dylan fans get themselves all in a lather over this kind of thing. Specials fans probably don’t, but the Peel version is also faster than the one you’ll know and is less exotica/bossa nova/lounge sounding than the single version. So you need it. Of the other 2 tracks, Racquel dates back to the days when The Specials were still the Coventry Automatics. It’s just about the punkiest thing the Specials recorded and a bit of googling makes me think this version is the only one the band did. ‘Sea Cruise’ is a trombone-led instrumental romp through a version of Frankie Ford’s 1958 RnB hit. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Jools Holland’s Hootenany, which is interesting as the trombone player on Sea Cruise is Rico, who nowadays earns his corn playing with Jools’ Big Band.

For the record, The Specials line-up for this Peel session was:

  • Jerry Dammers (Keyboards, Backing Vocals)
  • Roddy Radiation (Lead Guitar)
  • Terry Hall (Lead Vocals)
  • Sir Horace Gentleman Panter (Bass)
  • Lynval Golding (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals)
  • John Bradbury (Drums, Percussion)
  • Neville Staples (Vocals, Percussion)
  • Rico Rodriquez (Trombone)
  • Dick Cuthell (Cornet)
  • the-specials-2.jpg

    You can find out everything you need to know about any Peel Session ever at the BBC’s excellent website here.

    Edit, Sunday 11th November

    Oops! Thanks to the people at the 2Tone forums who have found this site and have pointed me in the direction of this, the complete Specials BBC sessions.

    Cover Versions, Football, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

    It’s great being Scottish

    We’re top of our group, we’ve dumped the French twice and today we beat the Ukrainians 3-1. We are Scotland. We are magic. We are going to Euro 2008.


    Get your flat caps and clumpy shoes on and celebrate by dancing along to The Ukrainians folk-punk-polka versions of 4 Smiths tunes. The Ukrainians (the group not the football team) were formed as a side project to the Wedding Present. Guitarist Pete Solowka was of Ukrainian descent and when John Peel asked the Wedding Present if they’d like to do a session, the band recorded some traditional Eastern European folk music at the expense of their usual 100 mile an hour D-G-A strumalong. Truth be told, were it not for the Wedding Present connection, few people would have been all that interested. But thanks to this interest, Peel played the session over and over and the Ukranians went on tour. I saw them in Edinburgh (April 16th 1991) where the real Wedding Present played support and did an hours worth of brand new material. Then the Ukrainians came on and did their shouty punk-polka stuff.


    In 1993 the band released the Pizni ep, which featured 4 Smiths covers. They’re probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like unusual cover versions or are one of those mental Smiths completists, these are for you. I like how the melodies still come through, even though I have no idea what they’re singing. Except I do really, cos I know every Smiths song back to front. And now I know how to say “when her Walkman started to melt” in Polish. Useful that.

    Batyar (Bigmouth Strikes Again)

    Koroleva Ne Polerma (The Queen Is Dead)

    M’yaso-Ubivstvo (Meat Is Murder)

    Spivaye Solovey (What Difference Does It Make)

    Roll on Wednesday night and another 3 points. Surely every Scottish football fan has Georgia On My Mind. The Band‘s version is fucking sublime. A bit like oor fitba’ team.



    Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

    Dry run-through

    For whatever reason, most of the casual hits on this site come from people Googling for PJ Harvey. So this post is for all of you. I could have posted the new album. But that’s not what this blog was intended for. I could post the complete Peel Sessions, not just the ones you can buy. But they’re fairly easy to find elsewhere. Instead I’m putting up a few tracks from the first PJ Harvey album, ‘Dry‘, in demo form.


    ‘Dry’ is by far my favourite PJ album. It sounds garagey, bluesy and down right dirty. Plus it’s got great cello all over it. And ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ is kinda saucy and has a John Cale-esque violin (or is it viola?) scraping away over the top of it. I wore the 12″ out playing it to death. Polly was only 22. She sounded great and looked even better. I always had a feeling that one day she’d go out with me, till she met that bastard Nick Cave. Oh well, her loss.

    Anyway. The music. When Dry was released way back in 1991, initial copies came with a free CD, ‘Dry Demonstration’, which had the album in demo form. Here are 3 demos from that disc.

     ‘O Stella’ sounds a wee bit less intense than the album version. More acousticy but no less frantic. She hits all the high notes, plays all the bent string blues notes and the whole thing sounds majestic. And the way she says, “Stella Marie you’re my star” in her West Country accent at the start is quite amusing. ‘Dress’ was one of the singles from the album. On ‘Dry’ it was a cello led rant against leering boys who stare at girls in tight dresses. This version’s got some cello on it too, but not that high in the mix. An electric guitar is double tracked with an acoustic. By the end, the cello’s all over it, the backing vocals have kicked in, the blues riffs have taken over and it sounds like something Kurt Cobain might have demoed for Nevermind. Seriously. The demo version of ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ is a straight run through of the single version that I wore out. Acoustic guitar (again), the high notes (again), the mangled blues riff (again), the “you exhibitionist!” vocal, the whole shebang. In lo-fi.

    Extra! Extra! Recorded 29th September 1991, ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ Peel Session version here. By the way, if you don’t know what a Sheela-Na-Gig is, try here.


    Tonight Matthew I’m going to be Joan Baez.

    Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

    Whole Lotta Love

    Gerry Love that is. Eight tracks to be exact. As promised to all you good people on the Teenage Fanclub forums, here are the two Teenage Fanclub Peel Sessions. The first was recorded almost exactly 17 (!!!) years ago, on the 28th August and was first broadcast on the 30th September. The 4 tracks feature the classic TFC line-up of Norman, Raymond, Gerry and Brendan.


    As with many Peel Sessions, the band used it to try out some new stuff. As well as a run through of their second single ‘God Knows It’s True’ and a couple of b-sides, they play an early version of ‘Alcoholiday’. This song eventually appeared on Bandwagonesque, with added swearing and turned up to 10 Dinosaur Jr guitars, but the Peel version has a work-in-progress quality that I quite like. And the drums sound great.

    God Knows It’s True

    So Far Gone


    Long Hair

    The second Peel session was recorded with Frank Black. It doesn’t sound so much like TFC, more like the Pixies. But that’s no bad thing. First track ‘Handyman’ is a cover of an Otis Blackwell track. Every time I hear it I want to sing ‘Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon!’ (spot the themed picture above.) Listen first and you will too. The last track, ‘Sister Isabel’ is a Del Shannon song. The other two tracks are Frank Black originals. This session was recorded on the 14th May 1994 and broadcast soon after. As Frank Black says, “In the spring of 1994 I was in England and once again John Peel was kind enough to offer me a session. I was alone with the acoustic guitar, and so I called my old friend Chas Banks, who manages Teenage Fanclub, to see if they would record a session with me. The Fanclubs and I had previously only socialized backstage at some lovely gin mill or sitting around in an exhaust-filled tour bus, so to actually “cram jam” (rehearse very quickly) for a Peel Session seemed a step up.” And what a step up….


    The Man Who Was Too Loud

    The Jacques Tati

    Sister Isabel


    2 Bonus tracks added……..copy and compare!

    Del Shannon’s versions of ‘Handyman‘ and ‘Sister Isabel’. I can’t find Otis Blackwell’s ‘Handyman’ anywhere, but Del Shannon’s is pretty good for now.


    If you only know Del Shannon for ‘Runaway’, you should really  investigate more. An alcoholic with serious mental health problems, he worked on many well known tracks in the 60s – ‘Baby It’s You’ (The Shirelles) for example. He was being lined up as a replacement for Roy Orbison in the Travelling Wilburys when he committed suicide in 1990. There’s probably a great book on him somewhere. Let me know if you’ve read it.