Sunday, April 22, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 8: The Smiths - The John Peel Sessions

So, kiddies, before he was the older ringer in Modest Mouse, Johnny Marr was in this other band.

The Smiths will always hold a special place in my heart. One of my most indelible music-related memories is the first time I heard them in early 1985, midway through my junior year of college. A buddy had a cassette of Hatful of Hollow in his car, and from the moment I heard Marr's chiming guitar and Morrissey's distinctive croon on "William, It Was Really Nothing," I was captivated. Literally before that first song had ended, I knew that I was falling under a spell that would stay with me for life. (I only got to see them once, at the Avalon Ballroom in Chicago in '87, just weeks before they broke up.)

The Smiths were also among the favorite bands of legendary British disc jockey John Peel. Peel had them perform live in the studio for his BBC Radio 1 program four times in a little over three years, between May of 1983 and December of 1986. And the performances on these so-called "Peel Sessions" were consistently terrific -- in fact, most everyone (The Smiths included) agrees that the radio versions of early tracks like "This Charming Man" and "Still Ill" are superior to the versions on the band's self-titled debut album (which itself was plagued with problems and recorded from scratch twice).

This boot compiles The Smiths' Peel Sessions in comprehensive fashion and good sound quality, and for those reasons alone, it's essential. The one glaring defect in the collection is that it mixes the tracks from the first two Peel Sessions, in May and September of 1983, rather than presenting them in chronological order. I've left the tracks in this inexplicable order to match up with the artwork, but if you prefer, and with minimal ingenuity, you can reproduce the order of the original broadcasts.


Front cover
Back cover

01 Back To The Old House
02 Handsome Devil
03 Miserable Lie
04 Reel Around The Fountain
05 Still Ill
06 This Charming Man
07 This Night Has Opened My Eyes
08 What Difference Does It Make?
09 How Soon Is Now?
10 Nowhere Fast
11 Rusholme Ruffians
12 William, It Was Really Nothing
13 Half A Person
14 Is It Really So Strange?
15 London
16 Sweet and Tender Hooligan