A long, long time ago (2008, to be exact), I published a series of podcasts called the Peel Sessions Poll, which had me droning witlessly on to the backdrop of some fabulous music chosen by the readers of this blog. I would have said ‘all of you,’ but my lack of posting has probably driven all those good souls that I could call ‘you’ all away. However, next week I celebrate the end of my fifth decade on the planet, and I thought I would at least try to make good on something I kind of promised back then.
While shuffling through the letters and yellowing pieces of ephemera that followed me five and a half thousand miles to South Korea and back again, I found, unbelievably, the entire list of the poll right down to number 125. Some noted that certain artists (for example, Half Man Half Biscuit) failed to appear in the main chart: this was due in part to my rigidly applied rule on time. Since I had a limited number of entries, I gave precedence to those who voted earliest, and so some acts fell foul of this. But they will have their day, and I will now count down from 100 to 51 and see how long it takes me to reach the end. Sound fair to you?
100. Robert Wyatt, #2 (1974-09-10)
Robert’s soft, affecting vocals, like a whisper from an embittered but gentler planet, had graced many a Peel session with his bands Soft Machine and Matching Mole before a drunken fall from a fourth floor balcony condemned the great man to a wheelchair. Undaunted, he continued his musical career, and one of the tracks here, a cover of the Monkees’ I’m A Believer, scraped the top 30 in the UK (despite the producer of Top Of The Pops feeling that the sight of a man in a wheelchair would upset viewers. The clip featuring that performance “went missing” for a number of years.)
Two of the tracks, Alifib and Sea Song, come from his then current release, Rock Bottom, which veers from the straightforward to the bizarre but rewards repeated plays. It’s encouraging to remember that this session was available on a Strange Fruit 12 inch, undoubtedly at Peel’s behest, since (although he repeatedly stated that he made no profit from what was basically an in name only exercise) he had some input in choosing the artists. As he reminded us, “any group of people where Robert Wyatt is held in high esteem is a group of people that I would wish to be part of.”