Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Pixies: Pixies At The BBC

One of the disadvantages of living in a large country with a multitude of radio stations—aside from the fact that there are only about five different formats, all of them terrible—is that America has nothing like the BBC's tradition of radio sessions. Falling somewhere between a recording session (backing tracks are often recorded and then played over) and a live performance, BBC radio sessions provide a unique, semi-formal environment that often allows a band's hidden traits to come to the surface. The two-disc BBC Sessions collects all of the radio recordings that were instrumental in allowing Jimi Hendrix to achieve fame, first in Britain and then America. Almost entirely made up of 1967 sessions, it provides an alternate, frequently blistering history of Hendrix's early work. Many of the hits, from "Foxey Lady" to "Purple Haze" to "Fire," are included, and in fine form. But the collection, which is the first complete one of its kind, is nicely rounded out by a few short interviews, a throwaway jingle for Radio One, a raucous take on "Hound Dog," and a couple of off-the-cuff jam sessions with Stevie Wonder on drums. Also included is a tape of the Experience's notorious 1969 appearance on a nervous-sounding Lulu's TV variety show, which was unfortunately cut off less than a minute and a half into an impromptu tribute to a recently disbanded Cream. While there has been no shortage of posthumous Hendrix collections, many of them disposable, this one is truly enjoyable. One of the most influential British DJs, John Peel has played a key role in the discovery and promotion of promising new bands for several decades. Consisting largely of recordings made for his show, Pixies At The BBC collects 15 recordings the Pixies made between 1988, when the group was virtually unknown, through 1991, when its semi-legendary status and historical importance had already been established, even if neither had translated into commercial success. The recordings, particularly the early ones, are sharp and exciting, and the inclusion of covers of The Beatles' "Wild Honey Pie" and "(In Heaven) Lady In The Radiator Song," from David Lynch's Eraserhead, ought to be manna from heaven for those still lamenting the group's 1992 breakup. Though neither Hendrix's BBC Sessions nor Pixies At The BBC can be called essential, that's part of their appeal. Unconstrained by the perfection demanded by the studio, but cleaner and tighter than a concert recording—or, as an addled Jimi Hendrix puts it on BBC Sessions, "This is like a recording studio here, only we have a lot of fun here"—both the Hendrix and Pixies discs ought to be revealing to the artists' fans.

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