There are definitely times for standing by what you say, and other times when you just have to eat your words. I’ve been critical in the past of OMD and their habit of overplaying their legendary status, but when they recorded their first John Peel session in summer 1979, they really were doing something very different.
On the album, they open with Bunker Soldiers, one of the better songs on their exceptional 1980 eponymous debut, and to my ears there isn’t a huge amount different here, except for a slightly more raw sound and an unexpected ending. It does make you wonder just how this might have sounded on late night Radio 1 back in the 1970s though.
The lovely Julia’s Song follows, again sounding pretty polished. You have to wonder slightly how they picked the songs for Peel Sessions – did they intentionally hold back on Electricity because they knew how revolutionary it might be? Or maybe it’s so difficult to play that they couldn’t face it? Or maybe it simply wasn’t finished yet…
A surprisingly chilled version of Messages comes next, sounding just a touch slower than normal, but every bit as wonderful. This is 1980s synth pop, being played in the wrong decade, and by a radio DJ who was of course known for discovering every type of music, but perhaps not so well known for his taste in pop. Very strange.
Finally, the delightful early single Red Frame/White Light, sounding every bit as daft as you would expect, but with considerably less production. The single appeared in early 1980, about six months after the radio session, and as with all the other tracks from this session sounded a lot more polished by the time it was released properly.
We’ll cover the other four sessions in future article.s You can read more about OMD‘s relationship with John Peel‘s radio show here. This session is available on the CD Peel Sessions 1979-83, available here.