Monday, September 25, 2006


Peel Sessions 23

Hands up who can remember listening to Peelie and the theme tune that he used at the beginning of his shows that he would talk over to inform us of the delights or horrors that he had in store for us that evening. The song was an old standard originally by Elmore James called 'Pickin' The Blues', and as with many blues standards had been revisited by a new generation of (white) musicians, Peel if my memory serves me correctly used a version by a little known band on Capricorn Records, that I once owned on some cheap label sampler. Interesting fact our hero detested talking over records and this was a practice that he avoided like the plague except for his theme tune. The reason I mention this is that last Monday Mercury records released a compilation of The Housemartin's BBC recordings inspiringly titled 'Live At The BBC' personally I would have called it 5 get excited at aunties or something along these lines. A very good compilation indeed that along with the Peel sessions includes songs recorded for Janice Long as well as various live broadcasts. The band became firm Peel favorites, maybe because of their honest approach, nothing to do with them being from up North, and were to record four sessions between July 1985 and November 1987. From the first one I have not chosen the most obvious of songs in 'Stand At Ease' what actually inspired my choice is the similarity between the beginning of the number and Billy Braggs early work as both artists were signed to the same label. The story is that Bragg, already with Go Discs was suitably impressed with the Housmartins after sharing the stage with them at numerous benefit gigs that he gave them a helping hand. From their early days they had incorporated acapella versions of old standards into their stage show, something that was rather out of line with trends at the time though it was this approach that was to give them their only number one single with their cover of 'Caravan Of Love' it was not every week that Peel had artists recording their no. 1 hit single for his famed session series as they had done in April 1986. The link between today's opening sentences and The Housmartins is that for their third visit to the BBC studio in June 1986 they reworked 'Pickin' The Blues' acapella style, what nicer way to pay homage to the great man.
By the summer of '88 they were no more, leaving us with just two albums, those Peel sessions and memories of four ordinary looking lads who did a damn good job of making pop music mean something more than just pop. Everyone knows that band vocalist Paul Heaton went on to form the Beautiful South and as for the bands little bassist Norman Cook he hasn't done too bad for himself either, Pizzaman, Freakpower, Beat International and Fatboy Slim being the names he has recorded under since 1988.

This isn't even out in America yet. Thanks for letting me hear a couple of tracks.
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