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Friday, September 28, 2007

For Discussin': John Peel's 1977 Festive Fifty

I originally had a prosaic blurb lined up for this, but managed to close the wrong tab in my browser and lose it - so much for my own Internet proficiency.

At any rate, the BBC's putting out a book about John Peel's legendary (not a term being used lightly here) sessions, and it turns out this news item kind of says it all...take a look:


DJ John Peel's long lost "Festive 50" of top tracks of 1977 has been reconstructed as part of the new definitive history of his show THE PEEL SESSIONS, to be published by BBC Books on 4 October 2007. The rundown presents a startling snapshot of Peel's personal view of a year when music changed for ever, with punk and reggae elbowing out the rock legends.

The first ever Festive 50 poll of his listeners' all-time favourite tracks was broadcast over Christmas 1976, but with everything changing in 1977, Peel and his producer John Walters decided not to run a poll that year. Instead, Peel chose his own favourites, but presented it as a 'Festive 50' chart rundown anyway. The Top 13 are well-documented, but the full chart is the "Forgotten Fifty", remembered only in fragments by even diehard listeners.

Prompted by queries and tip-offs from fellow members of the John Peel News Group on Yahoo, author Ken Garner reconstructed the chart from a combination of listener diaries & off-air tapes, and the programme scripts kept on microfilm at BBC Written Archives, Caversham. "Even though he referred to it on air as the Festive 50, Peel clearly chose 60 personal favourites from across the year to spin again, plus The Sex Pistols' 'God Save The Queen' cheekily thrown in as an extra at the start", he says: "The track was still banned at the BBC in Silver Jubilee Year – although Peel had of course played it twice before the ban was imposed – and you can imagine the furore if he had drawn attention to it by 'placing' it. This way he sneaked it in with no-one noticing." Although no chart placings are given on the scripts, it was possible to count backwards from the number one at the end of the final countdown show. "The Forgotten Fifty as a whole in its range and order is very much like the nightly Peel shows of the time in its mixture of old and new, the fashionable alongside the uncool" says Garner, "with some giveaway Peel running-order jokes, like following The Boys with The Yobs."

"The Forgotten Fifty" of 1977 itself follows:

1 ..Dancing The Night Away' The Motors
2 ..Uptown Top Ranking' Althia & Donna
3 ..You Beat The Hell Out of Me' The Motors
4 ..I Can't Stand My Baby' The Rezillos
5 ..Suspended Sentence' John Cooper Clarke
6 ..Smokescreen' Desperate Bicycles
7 ..Right Track' Merlyn Webber
8 ..Like a Hurricane' Neil Young
9 ..Complete Control' The Clash
10 ..Be Good To Yourself' Frankie Miller
11 ..Holidays In The Sun' The Sex Pistols
12 ..Shadow' The Lurkers
13 ..Truly' J. Ayes and Ranking Trevor
14 ..Pigs' Pink Floyd
15 ..Incendiary Device' Johnny Moped
16 ..New Religion' Some Chicken
17 ..See Them Come' Culture
18 ..Emergency' The Motors
19 ..The Worm Song' The Yobs
20 ..Box Number' The Boys
21 ..London Lady' The Stranglers
22 ..I Don't Wanna' Sham 69
23 ..Pinhead' The Ramones
24 ..Freedom Connection' Jah Woosh
25 ..Can't Give You More' Status Quo
26 ..Blue Wind' Jeff Beck with Jan Hammer
27 ..White Riot' The Clash
28 ..Success' Iggy Pop
29 ..Your Generation' Generation X
30 ..Nobody Go Run Me' King Short Shirt
31 ..Love Story' The Lurkers
32 ..Waiting in Vain' Bob Marley & The Wailers
33 ..Paradise' Dr Feelgood
34 ..Cruel Brother' Five Hand Reel
35 ..I'm Stranded' The Saints
36 ..Heroes' David Bowie
37 ..Sick On You' The Users
38 ..Oh Bondage Up Yours!' X Ray Spex
39 ..Lookin' After Number 1' The Boomtown Rats
40 ..No Man's Land' June Tabor
41 ..Neat Neat Neat' The Damned
42 ..The Dark End Of The Street' Ry Cooder
43 ..Questions' Suburban Studs
44 ..Feel Like Making Love' Elizabeth Archer & The Equators
45 ..I Knew The Bride' Dave Edmunds
46 ..Away From The Numbers' The Jam
47 ..Whole Wide World' Wreckless Eric
48 ..Green Onions' Roy Buchanan
49 ..Wild Dub' Generation X
50 ..I.R.T.' Snatch
51 ..Pretty Vacant' The Sex Pistols
52 ..John Willie's Ferret' The Oldham Tinkers
53 'Stepping Razor' Peter Tosh
54 ..Capital Radio' The Clash
55 ..Watching The Detectives' Elvis Costello and The Attractions
56 ..Bringing In The Morning Light' The Motors
57 ..Beginning of The End' Eddie & The Hot Rods
58 ..Jocko Homo' Devo
59 ..Whatever Happened To' The Buzzcocks
60 ..Rocket In My Pocket' Little Feat
...& 61..God Save The Queen' The Sex Pistols

Thus ends the release; the rest below is homegrown (and that's why favorite is now spelled without a 'u'.)

Basically, it's interesting that Peel recognized that the year was so incredibly pivotal and kind of took the list over, thus rescuing it from the vagaries of popular opinion (not that popular opinion ever had much effect on Peel.)

So...discuss. (And while doing so, feel free to listen to today's Eighties Friday mix, which invariably features something from the list above.)

By way of completely undercutting my own promotion, I'll take this opportunity to remind you that the BBC is doing a Peel retrospective, hosted by Peel fanboy Elijah Wood, this Sunday night on Radio 1 at 10pm UK time. (That's 5pm Eastern in the US via the Internet; if you listen to Radio 1 on Sirius Satellite Radio, it'll be 10pm Eastern because they delay their Radio 1 channel five hours so all the time checks match up. Confused? You will be...)


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