It’s always nice when you can get somebody else to wite your blog posts for you, and never more so than if it is my buddy Dale Farrington (ex of American TV Cops, whose only session you can still find not too far from where you’re reading now). He has already contributed a fantastic memoir concerning the session (read it here), and has now come up with a piece relating an experience I would have been overjoyed to be able to have had. Take it away, Dale, with all my thanks.
The Peel Seat
The summer of 1986 was a memorable one for me. I topped the batting averages for my cricket team. I, along with a group of friends, started promoting gigs at a local working men’s club. I fell in love. And I sat in the back seat as my mate gave John Peel a lift to Notting Hill Gate. Heady days indeed. I won’t bore you with my cricketing prowess, the concerts we staged or details of my relationship but I will regale you with the tale of how the World’s greatest DJ
came to be sitting in the passenger seat of Mark Aaron Smith’s purple Morris Marina. Four of us had travelled down to London from the English Midlands to see Primal Scream at BAY 63 in Ladbroke Grove. The pre show experience is a story in itself, as we blagged our way into the soundcheck, hung out with Bobby and the boys and sought refuge from hard core drug peddlers in KFC on the Portobello Road. But those are tales for another day.
The gig was a classic. The band were on top form and were ably supported by The Razorcuts, who we managed to book for one of our own concerts a few weeks later. I was also approached by a young man called Torquil, who asked me to join his band, Reserve. Unfortunately, I had to decline, as the commute from Burton upon Trent to London for rehearsals would have been difficult. I still have the demo tape he gave me and I’m still waiting for him to become famous so I can sell it for a ridiculous amount on e-bay.
We also befriended a couple of young ladies. They were mad keen Primal Scream fans and we spent most of the evening chatting and buying them drinks. When it was time to go home, we graciously offered to give them a lift to their digs on Seven Sister’s Road and the six of us squeezed into the car. I won’t pretend that I’m particularly au fait with the geography of my home country’s capital city but I did know that we weren’t a million miles from Broadcasting House and that, at a few minutes to midnight, John Peel would soon be clocking off. So, I suggested we paid him a visit.
At the drop off point we bid the girls a speedy goodnight, with the promise to meet up again in the not too distant future (we kept our word and met a few times in the following year or so) and headed off to the home of “Wonderful Radio One”. Parking was easy at that time of night so within a couple of seconds of arriving, just after midnight, we were accosting a rather startled doorman with the question, “Is John Peel still here?” He was composed enough to answer in the affirmative and, to our surprise, we were invited to take a seat in the lobby. During the fifteen minute wait we had decided that we would invite Peelie out for an Indian meal, as this was something he seemed to mention regularly on his show. How could he refuse?
Eventually, the lift the descended and the great man himself emerged. We must have scared the life out of him as we all impulsively bounded forward to greet him. If he was ruffled he certainly didn’t show it, as four highly excitable young men babbled like maniacs about Indian food and beer. Once he was able to decipher what was being offered he politely declined. “Normally I’d love to, lads but I’m actually feeling quite tired,” he said. “But you can give me a lift to my mother’s if you like. I’d appreciate that.”
I can’t recall how long the journey lasted but I can remember being absolutely enthralled by John. He was talking to us as if we’d all been mates for years. As he directed us through the dark streets of London he asked us about where we lived, bands we liked, told us what he did and didn’t like about the capital and we chatted about football. It was just like being in the company of a close friend. The drive was over all too quickly but, in return for the favour, he promised to put us on the guest list for his forthcoming appearance at the Rockhouse in Derby – a promise that he kept and another memorable night.
Needless to say none of us were allowed to sit in the passenger seat on the way home. In fact, no-one was allowed to sit in the “Peel Seat” for months afterwards. Mark would even make his girlfriend sit in the back when it was just the two of them in the car! There was even talk of removing the seat altogether and giving it pride of place in his bedroom. Eventually, mainly due to necessity, people were once again allowed to sit in the sacred chair but not until they had been made aware of its history.