Saturday, February 12, 2011

Beatle People: David Peel

David Peel is a New York-based musician who first recorded in the late 1960s, with Harold Black, Billy Joe White, Larry Adams and Dean White performing as The Lower East Side Band. Though his raw, acoustic "street rock" with lyrics about marijuana and "bad cops" appealed mostly to hippies at first, the sound and DIY ethic make him an important early performer of punk rock. He has performed with artists ranging from B. B. King to Stevie Wonder and the Plastic Ono Band.

The band was one of the first to regularly perform on cable TV in Manhattan on the public access channel of Manhattan Cable Television, as well as at the first Smoke-In Concerts sponsored by the Yippies in New York City in Central Park. John Lennon devoted the first stanza of his "New York City" to David Peel. Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono subsequently produced Peel's third album, The Pope Smokes Dope. Concerned about major label censorship, Peel founded Orange Records to release his own recordings and also those of other independent artists such as: GG Allin & The Jabbers and Mozarts People. As of 2006 Peel is still actively recording and performing his music, planning the release of a CD-ROM-based book of photographs and enjoying a new audience through online services such as iTunes. The Japanese label, Captain Trip Records, has released an extensive boxed set of his music.

Peel has appeared in various films as himself, including Please Stand By (1974), Rude Awakening (1989) and High Times Potluck (2004).

Lennon once compared Peel to artist, Pablo Picasso. The former Beatle also confided in Andy Warhol's interview magazine that producing David Peel for Apple Records -- was one of the highest points in his life.

David Peel recorded two successful albums on Elektra records: "Have a Marijuana" and "The American Revolution" , clearly establishing him as one of the founders of what was to become the punk and new wave movements in England and America. Danny Fields recalls in Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, "I signed David Peel and The Lower East Side, who embarrased them [Elektra] with his record, "Have a Marijuana", which sold close to a million copies and cost three thousand dollars to make."

John Lennon recalled first seeing David Peel perform in front of a large crowd in Washington Square Park in 1971. ``he was shouting: why do you have to pay to see stars? I was embarrassed. I thought surely he must know we are here. Yoko and I love his music, his spirit, and his philosophy of the street."

Ignoring the objections of certain members of the Beatles, John and Yoko, signed Peel to apple records. David's first effort for Apple -- an LP entitled: "The Pope Smokes Dope", immediately set off an international furor. The record was banned in nearly every country of the world, except the United States and Canada.

In a memorable appearance on the nationally televised David Frost Show in 1972, John and Yoko let David Peel and The Lower East Side have the spotlight, choosing instead to perform behind the group while an artist friend of Yoko's tossed paper airplanes from the stage. Peel was partly instrumental in getting John and Yoko and himself as part of the Plastic Ono Band choir to perform at the famous "one to one" concert at Madison Square Garden. He also shared the stage with them at the John Sinclair benefit "ten-for-two" at the University of Michigan's Crysler auditorium in Ann Arbor. John Sinclair was freed from prison a few days after the show.

Later, John Lennon and Yoko Ono produced and recorded David Peel's "America" -- the theme song for Jack Milton's film: "Please Stand By", in which David Peel portrays and stars as a media hippie revolutionary, who hijacks a network television van and jams the airwaves with unauthorized radical broadcasts to the nation.

At one point in their relationship, David Peel, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono, seemed practically inseparable -- so much so that john and yoko thought that they should have used David Peel's photograph as the middle picture on their Some Time in New York City record. John noted that Peel always wore round sunglasses that were a perfect duplicate of the glasses that had become John Lennon's trademark. Lennon also took to wearing Peel's black leather jacket -- a jacket similar to the kind that The Beatles used to wear in the cavern, a small music club in Liverpool, England - where the Beatles got started.This closeness in appearance caused Bob Dylan to refer to a photograph of David Peel as John Lennon, which also fooled the FBI. A photograph of Peel identified as Lennon turned up in the John Lennon FBI files.

David Peel's close association with John Lennon propelled him to celebrity status once again and paved the way for him to perform with such top acts as: Alice Cooper, Dr. John, Elephant's Memory, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Herbie Mann, Rod Stewart, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, B.B. King and other great acts at the "Mar y Sol" rock festival, on the island of Puerto Rico, in the spring of 1972. David Peel has also performed on the same billing with artists such as: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Tangerine Dream, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, MC5, Arthur Lee and Love, John Lee Hooker, Roger McGuinn, Richie Havens, Odetta, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Rick Derringer, Stevie Wonder, Archie Shepp, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Cypress Hill The Ramones, Vince Martell and many more.

When Apple records did not renew David Peel's record contract, he decided to form his own independent company: orange records, which has produced over seventy-five albums, cassette tapes, video tapes, and cds - including the whole rock catalog and the rock street journal magazine.

Several years ago, David Peel and his band took their act from Washington Square Park to Mill’s Tavern, a Greenwich Village pub. More recently, Peel headlined a recent John Lennon tribute concert at the Beacon Theater in New York City. David Peel continues to make public appearances on the concert, college, and nightclub circuit. He also sometimes performs at Strawberry Fields in Central Park, New York City, on John Lennon's birthday.

David Peel's song "I Like Marijuana" was sampled by Technohead in 1995. The single "I Wanna be a Hippie" earned David and Technohead a Gold Record.

Partial Discography

* Marijuana Christmas
* I Love New York
* World Peace
* Rotten To The Core
* Happy America
* Terror In Amerika
* Have a Marijuana
* The American Revolution
* The Pope Smokes Dope
* Santa Claus - Rooftop Junkie
* An Evening With David Peel
* Bring Back the Beatles
* King of Punk
* Death to Disco
* John Lennon for President
* 1984
* Search to Destroy
* John Lennon Forever
* Anarchy in New York City
* The Battle for New York
* War and Anarchy
* Legalize Marijuana
* Long Live the Grateful Dead
* Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw
* World War III
* Live from Japan
* David Peel's Greatest Hits


No comments: