Maida Vale Studios - John Peel Sessions

John Peel Sessions

From 1967 to 2004, "John Peel Sessions" were recorded in studio 4. At first a number of other venues around London were also used, such as the Playhouse Theatre in Charing Cross, but as these were let go by the BBC the sessions increasingly centred on Maida Vale 4. Music sessions were once a mainstay of BBC Radio programming as there were strict limits on the amount of commercially recorded music that could be aired (known as needle-time restrictions), so the BBC regularly booked musicians to record music exclusively for broadcast. In the early 60s when the BBC began to give some limited coverage of pop groups such as The Beatles, it was found that the sessions allowed up-and-coming bands to gain exposure, and for musicians and groups to try out new material, play covers they would not include on their albums, and experiment with different sounds and guest musicians. With the birth of Radio 1 in 1967, programmes such as Top Gear embraced this concept, with sessions from such stars-in-waiting as David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. And when one of Top Gear's presenters, John Peel, got his own programme, he again continued to commission these specially recorded sessions. Most of the artists were relatively unknown even to Peel's listeners: he and his producer would often invite bands on the strength of a rough demo tape or gig to hear what they could do, and for many of the bands it was their first experience of a professional recording studio, not to mention a much-needed boost to their finances. The format became standardised as a single session in the studio with a staff producer and engineer (or more latterly a producer-engineer and assistant), during which the artists would record four songs, but there were also some sessions which were either live to air, or prerecorded as live with an audience. Other Radio 1 programmes and DJs adopted a similar system of Maida Vale sessions, such as Janice Long, Andy Kershaw, and The Evening Session, whose current host Zane Lowe has nicknamed the studio 'Maida Vegas'; as well as the more direct inheritors of the Peel Sessions tradition Huw Stevens, Rob da Bank and Mike Davies.

John Peel said "The Clash did half one, then amazingly said that the equipment in the studio wasn't up to the standards they'd expected so they couldn't complete the session. Which seemed to me to be unbearably pretentious of them." Some albums by The Fall were entirely recorded there. The last band to record a Peel session was Skimmer, at Maida Vale Studios on October 21, 2004.

Other BBC disc jockeys invited artists to perform at Maida Vale. Led Zeppelin recorded for Alexis Korner's "Rhythm and Blues" program in 1969. Walter Trout recorded for Paul Jones's R & B show. Marillion recorded for Radio 2 DJ Bob Harris. Jo Whiley invited Hard Fi to play here. The venue is also the home of the BBC Elstree concert Band. The Radio 3 "Jazz Line Up" sessions were recorded here.

In 1994 the Beatles album Live at the BBC was released. Most of the material was recorded here. Several other albums with the same title were recorded in studio 4. Van der Graaf Generator released an album called Maida Vale in 1994. In 2006 the group Hefner released an album called Maida Vale, which was recorded here. The White Stripes included their version of the Dusty Springfield classic "I Don't Know What To Do With Myself", recorded for The Evening Session in MV4 by Miti Adhikari on their album Elephant. In 2002 Andrea Bocelli's Sentomento was made here. The label Maida Vale Records, a subsidiary of Cooking Vinyl has a policy of releasing material from various radio stations.

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