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Ripped By: ChrisGoesRock
Tractor, according to some, are Manchester’s greatest forgotten band and given that the granddaddy of all things music, John Peel, was a big fan and they performed at the legendary Deeply Vale, you’d be inclined to buy into that myth.
Tractor – John Peel Bought Us Studio Gear And A PA
This album, a collection of both the tunes that interested Peel enough to sign them for his record label, Dandelion Records, back in the 70s and their singles, offers a chance to see whether the reality lives up to the fable.
In short, it does. The music is undoubtedly of its time, but if you’re a fan of epicly sprawling prog rock, then Tractor could well be the missing piece of your puzzle. Think the Pink Fairies with a touch of Led Zep and Soft Machine and you’re on the right roads.
But maybe the myth has become more than the reality. Given that Jack and Meg White count Tractor amongst their influences, they can’t be that forgotten, can they? Better to simply say they were mislaid.
Thanks to the legacy of Peelie and the only track that he specifically requested to feature part of his name, Ravenscroft’s 13 Bar Boogie (given a 2006 remix here), they’re back where they belong - at the end of one long arm of Mancunian musical family tree; loud, intricate and fantastically expansive.In 1972, Rochdale’s Tractor were asked by John Peel to record a track for his birthday. The resulting track, Ravenscroft’s 13 Bar Boogie, is the only track that Peel specifically requested to feature part of his name.Now, as part of John Peel Day, the band have remixed the track, renaming it John Peel's 13 Bar Boogie 2006, and included samples of both the original song and of John's voice. It will be followed by an album, John Peel Bought Us Studio Gear And A PA, a selection of rarities which brings together tracks that, well, couldn’t have happened without John’s input!
The story of how Tractor and Peel are linked goes back to 1959, when John started at Rochdale’s Townhead Mill at the request of his cotton broker father, who hoped his son would follow him into the family business. Despite the fact he went to America to supposedly continue his cotton training (but actually start his illustrious career in radio), Peel later said that he would have happily worked in Rochdale his whole life.
Fast forward to 1970 and Peel, now with Radio 1 and a partner in Dandelion Records, received a set of tapes from a Rochdale band called Way We Live (who would later become Tractor, after John suggested the name). John’s affinity with Rochdale meant he struck up a relationship with the band that lasted right up to his death in 2004.
In fact, Peel liked the songs so much that he offered to buy Tractor some extra recording equipment. More than that though, the money that John sent the band helped fund studios, a music shop and a PA system, an act that would lead directly to the Deeply Vale Festivals in the late 70s.
The impact of Tractor’s Peel-funded equipment can’t be underestimated. The PA was one of the largest in the North West, which was not only used by Tractor for their own concerts, but was also hired out to the venues like Stoneground and the Electric Circus, bands like Motorhead and was used at both Deeply Vale and in Manchester’s Alexandra Park.
But it’s the studios that offer the largest legacy and one that Peel would be proud of (albeit in his usual humble way). Throughout the 70s and 80s, the band’s Cargo studios in Kenion Street were used by many influential bands to record tunes, including The Durutti Column, Gang of Four, Joy Division, The Fall, OMD, Dead or Alive, The Teardrop Explodes, A Certain Ratio, New Order, Section 25, Not Sensibles, The Mekons, The Chameleons, Here and Now, Terry Hall and P J Proby.
It’s little wonder that Tractor feel the need to pay tribute to their old friend, but don’t think for a moment that the feeling wasn’t mutual. In 1971, the late great man himself wrote this about his discovery of Tractor:
"Anybody who is involved in the production of gramophone records has a carefully nurtured dream that one day out of the many hundreds of audition and demonstration tapes that land on his desk, there will be one shining jewel; polished, complete and original.
"If it happens once in a lifetime then all the hours spent in scruffy clubs listening to the latest impersonation and fending off their hysterical manager are made worthwhile. And it happened to me in my role as co-owner of Dandelion."
01. King Dick II
08. The Way Ahead
09. Stoney Glory
11. As You Say
12. Roll The Dice
13. Vicious Circle
14. No More Rock’n’Roll
15. Northern City
16. Average Man’s Hero
17. Big Big Boy
18. John Peel’s Boogie 2006