In 1973, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno released the electronic masterpiece ‘No Pussyfooting’. From its room-of-mirrors cover to the other-worldly sounds on the grooves, it was clearly a signifier not only of Eno’s new direction (it was his first post-Roxy Music release), but was the first release of what effectively became an entire genre in its own right.
However, in 1973, ‘No Pussyfooting’ wasn’t the revered classic it is now. But John Peel was interested enough to have Eno and Fripp record a session for his Top Gear radio show. The pair recorded their session at Eno’s studio (although it is also widely believed that the tape they sent was just a slightly different mix of the album) and sent the tape to the BBC. And the engineer put the tape on the machine upside down, which meant that the whole lot played backwards.
According to legend, Eno was listening at the time and tried to ring the BBC to alert them to the egregious error, but it was all in vain.
Eno and Fripp can’t have been too miffed about it, because when the album was re-released in 2008, the bonus disc featured the entire album reversed, and the track ‘The Heavenly Music Corporation’ played at half speed. Indeed, a couple of years earlier when Eno was interviewed for a tribute programme about Peel for Radio 1, he said, “When I first started making music… it was John Peel who played it first on the radio. So I have to thank him for my career. I also have to thank him for playing a whole album of mine backwards on the air once. It was pretty abstract music, but all the same, John, I can’t understand how anybody could make that kind of mistake ! Anyway it’s all forgiven now and we still love you and we still miss you.”
Have a listen to Peel’s opinion of the album, as broadcast on December 18th, 1973, back when John Peel still had his gentle post-hippy delivery, rather than his more strident post-punk voice we’re possibly more familiar with. Lovely.
Peel Plays Fripp & Eno (Backwards)