David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

 |   |  1 min read

David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

New York's David Peel was living proof of the adage, "It isn't what you know, it's who you know". And how you could milk that association -- however brief -- for all it's worth.

He was also one of those "only in New York" guys.

In the late Sixties when this insightful if reductive piece of political rhetoric was recorded, he was a street busker in the city who sang about marijuana, police brutality (easy) and more marijuana.

Inspired by the Fugs and the political climate of the time, and spotted by a local resident Danny Fields who worked for Elektra (and had signed the Stooges and MC5), his debut album Have a Marijuana (from which this is taken) was recorded live on the streets.

You might guess that Peel's story could have begun and ended there in the discount bins but he caught the eye and ears of John Lennon and Yoko Ono who had moved to the city and Lennon -- full of revolutionary spirit, palling around with the like of Jerry Rubin and other radicals -- saw in Peel the whole underground/anti-corporat/street poet/boho rock counterculture embodied.

He namechecked Peel on his Sometime in New York City album, signed Peel to Apple and produced his third album The Pope Smokes Dope (a modest seller we might say, and not included in the 2010 Apple reissues) and in appearance they became almost doppelgangers.

peel1Peel, through the association and appearances on television with Lennon and Ono, became a star of sorts and was included on concert bills alongside some of the biggest names of the period.

After his sole album for Apple, Peel started his own label (Orange, naturally) and to give him credit he has recorded constantly since then: recent albums include Legalise Marijuana, Rock and Roll Outlaw and Marijuana Christmas. He also repeatedly namechecks Lennon, as you would.

David Peel is still out there doing it and while his time in the mainframe was brief, he has been accorded more than a footnote in some history books of the counterculture.

He was a running mate of AJ Weberman (the "garbologist" who hounded Dylan during this period and was founder of the Rock Liberation Front and the Dylan Liberation Front)  although was a co-signatory (along with Lennon, Ono and Rubin) to a letter saying Weberman was slandering Dylan and should desist.

"Peel's an opportunist," said Weberman noting that Peel didn't want to upset his superstar sponsors.

Maybe he was. He certainly sang a song in praise of Dylan, although Dylan hated it and said not to use his name.

This track is found on the collection Dirty Water.

For more one-off or unusual songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Jody Miller: He's So Fine (1971)

Jody Miller: He's So Fine (1971)

In his recent insightful and unflinching Behind the Locked Door -- a biography of the life and conflicted emotions of George Harrison -- the British writer Graeme Thomson discusses Harrison's... > Read more

Paul McCartney: Ode to a Koala Bear (1983)

Paul McCartney: Ode to a Koala Bear (1983)

Okay, at a time when Paul McCartney's whole recording career has been given serious consideration at Elsewhere, this seems frivolous and cruel. But fun. This odd song appeared on B-side of... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GLOBAL RADIO: A round-up of recent world music releases

GLOBAL RADIO: A round-up of recent world music releases

Because Elsewhere is one of the few mainstream websites which has no problem writing about world music in the same space as pop, rock, jazz, reggae and whatever, we have been increasingly inundated... > Read more

EPs by Yasmin Brown

EPs by Yasmin Brown

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in... > Read more