If it weren’t for John Peel, the champion of musicians on airwaves through his Radio 1 BBC show, Echo and the Bunnymen would never have made it past gigging in the UK in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Like many of their contemporaries, getting airplay was difficult and meant making tapes, recording a single or two, and sending it into John Peel, and any other radio station that you hoped would play it. If he really liked what he heard, thousands of UK and European teens would hear your music. Then you would come in and play live on the show and get recorded. Many bands over the years have recorded for John Peel Sessions, some of the best quality live performances and recordings to be had. If he didn’t like it, it would get pushed aside. Better luck next time.
Echo (Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson, and Pete De Freitas) was lucky in that they were invited back on several occasions. This last September, the band released the collection of recordings from these sessions through Warner Bros/Rhino Records on a limited run (500) hot red 2 x LP, black vinyl, and CD. The records include all of the John Peel Sessions recordings from their early years with commentary by Will Sergeant.
I fought hard and after originally being denied access to buying a red copy, due to some online SNAFU at Rhino Records. I was given a second chance and secured a copy in pre-sale. After waiting 4 weeks and since it was my birthday, it showed up, I was thrilled. Sadly, every corner of the cover was mashed up, Rhino does not ship in really sturdy record boxes like other online vendors do. Luckily the records themselves were alright and I could play them. Unfortunately because there had been a limited run of 500, I could not exchange the records and hopefully have them ship a nice, clean copy with less cover damage. I will be writing to Rhino shortly.
For more John Peel sessions, which came out usually after they aired on the Radio 1 show and can often be found at second hand shops, you can search online for reissues by other bands like The Cure. If you’s like to hear a good sampling of them, check out my friend Scots Post-Punk radio show.