Collecting John Peel Festive 50s 1978
So, 1978 - the crossover year on the Peel programmes where the old dinosaurs of prog rock started to fade away and the noisy malcontents of punk burst onto his playlists. During the late ‘70s the Peel show was hugely popular as it was the only place where fans of new music could hear it on a regular basis, and many major acts like Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Jam, The Buzzcocks and The Undertones only found any success due to Peel's devotion and constant plugging of their records. I still have a very clear memory of the night he played "Suspect Device" by Stiff Little Fingers for the first time - the radio under the blankets of my bed to muffle the sound (I wasn't supposed to be up that late on a school-night), and a torch and pen and paper in my hands as I made notes on what I ought to be buying the following Saturday morning. As the astonishing gale of sound came to a close and I lay there shaking with the adrenalin still coursing through me, Peel said something along the lines of - "Well that's just extraordinary, I'm going to have to play that again"! And he did.
Forty-one of the fifty are available on 7", and four of the remaining nine all on one LP - "The Scream", the debut album by Siouxsie & The Banshees. Indeed, 6 of the 10 tracks of the Siouxsie LP made the chart, but two are available on 7": "Overground" and "Metal Postcard". I think I'm right in saying this is the highest proportion of any LP to make a Peel chart, with the exception of The Smiths "Strangeways Here We Come" in 1987 which had 7 of its 10 titles included that year, but I'm happy to be corrected.
To be fair, it's not going to prove difficult to pick up cheap issues of almost all the tracks in the chart, although a lot of punk singles have got a little scarcer in recent years, and prices have started to rise. With these items, the challenge is certainly more about finding the first presses - some of these are very rare indeed and are some of the most iconic records in the whole collectors market. Starting at the top, "Anarchy In The UK" is most often seen as the 1977 French "Sex Pistols Records" issue with the black and white picture sleeve. This is regularly available at £8 - £10. But of course it is much nicer to have the original EMI issue, which comes in three typical stock variations plus a demo:
- The cheapest version has the correct "Dave Goodman" production credit on the B-side label and comes in an EMI company sleeve.
- Probably the most common way to find it is with the "Chris Thomas" miscredit on the B-side label, but again in the company sleeve.
- Certainly the rarest and most sought-after combination is the "Chris Thomas" credit in the plain black picture sleeve. There were probably only 5000 (or possibly less) of these sleeves made, and most are now spectacularly tatty. They show every crease and every tiny bit of ringwear, and getting a nice one is extremely difficult. Prices have been rising steadily over the last few years and you can now expect to pay £200+ for an average copy.
- Quite a few are found with "factory sample" stickers and are sometimes marketed as demos, but there is also a proper demo copy with an "A" label and "demo record not for sale" printed on the push-out centre. These are generally about 50% more than the black sleeve copies.
Another seriously rare punk single is the first press of the Undertones’ "Teenage Kicks". It is housed in a wrap-around sleeve which came in a variety of different colours. The most common is white, but there are also very rare blue, pink, yellow and green examples which sell for anything between £100 and £300.
Also worth a mention is the original gatefold sleeve issue of "Hong Kong Garden" - the only entry from The Banshees not to be found on the LP. Whilst the price for this still seems to be bizarrely low for some reason, it is seriously rare. We have seen one copy in the last ten years. I used to have one at the time, so I know they were distributed outside London, but given it's scarcity now it's hard to be believe there were more than a couple of thousand available in total.
The aforementioned "Suspect Device" also has a very sought-after first press which comes with a red "Rigid Digits" label in a homemade sleeve. With only 500 copies made a nice copy could fetch £300+. Other tracks with pricey first issues - but easy to find reissues - include the “Spiral Scratch” EP by the Buzzcocks (which includes "Boredom") and "New Rose" by The Damned.
Of course, no discussion of the punk singles listed in this chart would be complete without a mention of the real collectors’ item - the Sex Pistols "God Save The Queen" on A&M. As mentioned in the previous blog about investing in vinyl, it could now be five figures for a nice copy. Even a cracked copy sold for £3000 on eBay a year ago. But if pushed for funds, you could always settle for a Virgin copy for about 15 quid.
Amongst the more "traditional" entries in the chart, one of the oddest was the new entry by Bruce Springsteen with "Born To Run" at number 26. The track was initially released in 1975, but didn't make the 1976 chart. Then for some reason it appears this time. It's hard to believe Peel was championing it three years after its release. Anyway, whatever the reason for it’s appearance it's not a hard track to pick up. Other new entries from outside the punk genre included "Emerald" by Thin Lizzy - surely one of the best "B" sides of all time, and also done as an outstanding track on a Peel session - probably a big factor in it’s charting. If you haven't heard that version here it is...
Looking back, at first glance it seems that the most surprising entry of all in this chart is "Sultans Of Swing" by Dire Straits. It’s their first single of course, and I remember Peel playing it several times and describing the band as "a lovely bunch of lads". Little did we suspect at the time that horrors like "Ladywriter" and "Walk Of Life" would follow.
The hardest to get of the other older tracks is probably “Stairway To Heaven”. It is probably most often seen as the UK 1990 jukebox issue which will cost around the £40 mark, but some beautiful foreign issues and promos are available if you are prepared to pay big money.
So all-in-all one of the easiest Peel 50s to collect, a piece of piss in fact compared to some of the years after 1995, where some of the more obscure indie singles are very rare and/or expensive. And you'll certainly have an outstanding set of records.