With four decades of recordings under his belt, John Peel left behind quite a legacy. Surprisingly, however, very few of the thousands of recordings he made with rock’s elite history are available for legal sale. The boom of file sharing web sites has created a whole new market of Peel sessions bootlegs, and carried his musical vision further than it had ever been before, but finding the hits in your favorite vinyl bin may prove harder than not. Here to help you is a list of some of his best legal (mostly) recordings out there.
Nirvana – Ok, so there is no legal Nirvana Peel sessions to speak of, but Insecticide is about as close as you’re going to get. It’s just too good to leave out.
The Smiths – Love ’em or hate ’em, the Smiths were one of the most important bands of their era. Live they are just unbelievable, and Morrissey is just so, well, sad and bitchy. I love it!
Siouxsie and The Banshees – Admittedly, I hate Siouxsie and the Banshees, but this spare parts recording is one of my favorites. The raw performance betrays these Goth-gods’ punk rock roots, and the version of “Suburban Relapse” was my anthem freshman year in high school.
The White Stripes – I’m honestly not sure if this is a legal release or not, but it’s a testament to Peel’s ability to capture a band’s energy. I never understood the appeal of The White Stripes until I heard this. Their energetic live show with Peel revealed that behind those tired blues riffs was a band with an original take on the Delta sound.
Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub – This collaboration, apparently barely rehearsed, is so awesome and creepy you forget what insipid pop the players, Frank included, went on to make.
The Birthday Party – Oh shit, Nick Cave was never as scary as he was with The Birthday Party. The strung out creepy energy on this album makes me wish he’d never cleaned up.
Jesus and Marychain – When people mention shoe-gazing history, the first band that comes to mind is My Bloody Valentine. This recording proves that Jesus and Marychain invented the genre.
Shellac – Only released as a 7-inch, this album takes Steve Albini from “that prick who was in Big Black and produced In Utero” to “rock god” in just under 12 minutes.
Autechre – This glitch-heavy band is one of those few electronic acts that sound so much better live. How someone turning knobs on stage could beat someone turning knobs in a studio beats me, but this recording proves it.
Syd Barrett – This quick EP recorded in 1970 shows the tripped out songster at his best. Floyd never sounded this good, and it’s got an extra track. Kick Ass.