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Friday, December 03, 2010

The Real Peel

David Peel's website consists of one page, however much can be gleaned from a quick read -
Favorite Band or Musician: David Peel & The Lower East Side
Favorite TV show: The Simpsons
Favorite movie: West Side Story
Favorite book: 1984 by George Orwell
Favorite sports team: Bonghitters
Favorite food: Ice Cream

Take equal parts of self absorption, political activism (with a hint of conspiratorialism), punk rock, marijuana and maniacal energy and you have David Peel. Born David Michael Rosario, the New York City based musician and activist began recording with his group as David Peel and the Lower East Side in the late 1960s. He is credited with being one of the early performers of punk rock. A tireless advocate for the legalization of marijuana, Peel's first album in 1972 was entitled Have a Marijuana. His discography is over 20 albums. He has been closely associated with the Yippie movement, Smoke-In concerts and the annual Marijuana March.

David Peel’s close association with John Lennon propelled him to celebrity status and helped pave the way for him to perform with top acts, such as Alice Cooper, Doctor John, Stevie Wonder, Dave Brubeck, Herbie Mann, Rod Stewart, Emerson Lake and Palmer, BB King, the Chambers Brothers, Joan Baez Frank Zappa, Iggy Pop and countless others.

Lennon recalled first seeing David Peel, and his street assembled version of the "Lower East Side Band", performing in front of a large crowd in Washington Square Park, in 1971. "He was shouting, why do you have to pay to see stars?" says Lennon. "I was embarrassed. I thought surely he must know I’m here. Yoko and I loved his music, his spirit and his philosophy of the street."

Ignoring the objections by "certain" former members of The Beatles, John and Yoko still signed Peel to Apple Records. Peel’s first effort for Apple was an album entitled "The Pope Smokes Dope", which immediately set off an international furor. The record was banned in nearly every country of the world, except for the United States, Canada and Japan.

In a memorable appearance on the nationally televised "David Frost Show" in 1972, John and Yoko let David Peel and his Lower East Side Band take the spotlight, choosing instead, to perform behind the group. John noted that Peel always wore round sunglasses that were a perfect duplicate of the glasses that had become John Lennon’s trademark and Lennon took to wearing Peel’s black leather jacket.

I have known David for years and see him frequently - his is a habitue of Washington Square Park. Always on a rant or rave, Peel's energy is truly maniacal. His lyrics can be caustic, angry and often spew hatred. The song he was performing in the top photo had a constant refrain, I Hate You. But do not be fooled by the theater, lyrics or politics. Underneath you'll find a warm and fuzzy, benign human being. That's the real Peel :)


René said...

I'm getting Error 404 when clicking on the "Marijuana March" link.

A conspiracy?

Could Dave have been right all along?

Brian Dubé said...


It was a small conspiracy and fixed already. See how benign he is?