David Peel is a New York-based musician who first recorded in the late 1960s, with Harold Black and Billy Jo White performing as The Lower East Side Band.
Though his raw, acoustic "street rock" with lyrics about marijuana and "pigs" appealed mostly to hippies at first, the sound and DIY ethic make him an important, if little-credited, early performer of punk rock. He has performed with artists ranging from B. B. King to GG Allin.
After the 1972 departure of White and Black, the band included Moses, Eddie Anderson and Andi Anderson. The band was one of the first to regularly debate 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.
John Lennon mentioned Peel in the song New York City: +++++
John Lennon and Yoko Ono subsequently produced Peel's third album, The Pope Smokes Dope.
Concerned about major label censorship, he founded Orange Records to release his recordings and also those of other artists such as GG Allin and John Draper, known as "Cap'n Crunch" of phone-phreaking fame. 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.
Peel has appeared in various films as himself, including Rude Awakening (1989) and High Times Potluck (2004)
Here is some information and my opinion about some albums.
Have a Marijuana
At first, second and third listen the debut record by New York street musician and John Lennon protйgй David Peel seems pretty ridiculous. Recorded live on the streets of New York, the production is patchy, yielding more of a "recorded live in someone's bathroom" vibe than anything else. Then there's the lyrics, all of which are juvenile, dated and delivered in an erratic Tiny Tim-meets-Cheech & Chong style. But somewhere around the fourth or fifth listen Peel and his merry band of misfits begin to grow on you. By the six or seventh spin songs like "I Do My Bawling in the Bathroom" and "I Like Marijuana," with their dumber than dumb choruses and out of tune folk-rock progressions, actually become charming. Perhaps it's because Peel, a marginal figure born to be a cultural relic, is a much more interesting, exciting and entertaining '60s icon than all the overblown, bloated characters like David Crosby and Grace Slick. Unlike them, Peel never came in from off the streets. In fact, he can still be found singing these songs in New York's Tompkins Square Park to this day. And while that's mildly pathetic, it's also heartening. When he sings about smoking some grass and getting harassed by lame cops (the topic of just about every track) you tend to believe him.
David Peel & the Lower East Side And the Rest Is History
David Peel & the Lower East Side And the Rest Is History: The Elektra Recordings collects both of these albums, remastered -- of course -- from the original tapes, as well as two previously unissued tracks recorded for, but not used on, the second album. It also includes a nifty informative booklet with Mr. Peel's recollections of the recording of the albums and a track-by-track commentary on his composition of the songs.
Since their release three decades ago, legions of bipedal non-hoofed ungulates from all around the world have adopted several songs from these David Peel & the Lower East Side albums as the equivalent of National Anthems. And, since these two Elektra albums, Peel has continued to record and release albums that express his unique vision and musical viewpoints as well as remain active as an icon, advocate, and volunteer for social and political reform in which he strongly believes.
So return now to the time of pink prismed eyeglasses, hand-rolled patchouli incense, and colorfully patched denims. To the time of co-ed bodypainting, cross-country Volkswagen expeditions, and "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" played at full volume. To the time of peace, love, and understanding before warfare was conducted from Satellites, before generic names of antibiotics were household words, and before cynicism became a full-time national sport.
Both Have a Marijuana and The American Revolution have been out of print in the United States for about a quarter of a century and neither has ever before been released on compact disc anywhere on planet Earth. Listeners are blessed because the archivists at Rhino Handmade have painstakingly cultivated all of the original master tapes in order to again plant the creative seeds of And the Rest Is History: The Elektra Recordings into your personal audio stash.
The politically charged David Peel & the Lower East Side directly contrasted their 1968 acoustic live debut, Have a Marijuana (recorded in New York City's Washington Square Park), with 1970's American Revolution, an amplified studio outing. The real similarity between the two remains Peel's no-holds-barred, in-your-face attitude and staunchly liberal espousing. Once again joining in the festivities are Peel (guitar/vocals), Billy Joe White (guitar/vocals), and Harold C. Black (tambourine/vocals), as well as new instrumentally intensive recruits Tony Bartoli (drums), Herb Bushler (bass), David Horowitz (organ), and Richard Grando (soprano sax). Although Peel's earlier effort hinted at the band's proto-punk and garage rock leanings, the aggressive electric bashing that accompanies "Lower East Side," "Hey, Mr. Draft Board," and "Girls, Girls, Girls" allows them to bring that restless spirit to complete fruition. While Peel's work has been considered as little more than a hippie novelty, the sheer range of his topical lyrics is often a direct reflection of the then-current anti-establishment movement. His music deals candidly with their attitudes regarding Vietnam ("I Want to Kill You"), the repression of local law enforcement ("Oink, Oink, Oink"), hypocritical drug laws ("Legalize Marijuana"), sex ("Girls, Girls, Girls"), and even more contemplative esoteric concepts ("God"). Peel also takes on other sacred cows; "Pledge of Allegiance" is a parody that not only reaffirms his pro-pot perspective, but could likewise be interpreted as expressing anti-American sentiments. But that would be missing the point entirely, as Peel's anger and sarcasm are both well-founded and rooted in his love for the freedoms that the United States has stood for. When Rhino Handmade issued American Revolution on CD as part of And the Rest Is History: The Elektra Recordings in 2000, the first pressings included a previously unreleased version of this album derived from a mislabeled "master tape." The problem was quickly corrected, yielding a very collectible and highly sought-after CD anomaly.