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19 February 1977
FROM ONE SMART ALEC TO ANOTHER
['Mailman' section: letter by John Walters, John Peel's producer 1969-1991]
During the last week some guy called Anderson has taken the attitude that the work of his group, Jethro Tull, may not be well received in Britain because everyone is out of step but him.
In Record Mirror [5 February issue] he hit on a couple of specific points which I am fortunately able to correct. He says, after being an early supporter of the group, John Peel turned his back on them after a row in the studio with "some guy called Walters" and had done the same to Marc Bolan when Marc didn't buy Peel a drink.
He claims they had travelled down from Edinburgh at some inconvenience and a row developed after some 'Smart Alec' remarks of mine. To put the record straight, I had just started as Peel's producer and while I was getting into what was a fairly new area for me, I started by offering sessions to some of the groups who had appeared on Top Gear in the past including Jethro Tull.
No favour was involved as far as we were concerned. Plenty of groups wanted to be on the show and Jethro Tull's agent very willingly accepted the date. I can't remember what I said when the group arrived but it was my policy to try and establish a fairly jolly, relaxed atmosphere on a sessions and if Ian Anderson interpreted this as 'Smart Alec' cracks and found them distressing then I clearly failed.
What I do remember though is that Anderson arrived in a rather belligerent mood and started by saying the group didn't want to do a session as their talent was only adequately captured by either a concert performance or after many days in a recording studio. There was no row.
Peel was obviously not overjoyed to hear that a group that had been happy to appear as unknowns were now, a week after appearing on Top Of The Pops with their first hit, deciding that his programme was not an adequate vehicle for them. Whether Peel had wanted to use them or not, I could see no point in approaching a group again who didn't want a radio session.
I think it is also important to clarify the Marc Bolan story. Marc and John have been mates for a long time and John had supported the group on radio and helped them to get gigs. When they finally broke through with 'Ride A White Swan' Marc and June came up to the office to thank us.
Marc sent John a first pressing of 'Get It On' and John felt it was aimed at the teeny audience rather than Top Gear. We agreed that we shouldn't play a record just because it was by a friend and consequently Marc stopped speaking and went on to chart fame.
We don't plan programmes on personal grounds. Marc Bolan subsequently appeared on numerous radio shows for me and as producer of Rockspeak I gave Jethro Tull's 'Minstrel' album its first play.
If Anderson feels that people don't appreciate him and feels the need to rage against the dying of the light, then he must get the facts straight. If it will make him feel better then I can assure him that pursuing our policy of playing new, promising groups or established groups who seem to have something worth saying, his absence from the Peel shows has been purely on musical grounds.
Some Guy called Walters
BBC Radio One