John Peel’s key role in the story of the UK’s underground music scene has been widely documented – and rightly so. However, while his patronage helped literally thousands of bands, there are a few seismic performers who remain especially synonymous with the influential BBC Radio 1 broadcaster. This elite shortlist includes David Bowie, Marc Bolan’s T. Rex, The Undertones, The Fall, PJ Harvey and, certainly, Joy Division, who recorded the first of an eventual two Peel Sessions on 31 January 1979.
Listen to the best of Joy Division here.
The backstory: “They were a band whose work I was enjoying at that time”
Peel’s invitation to the band came via his producer John Walters, and it arrived at a crucial time in Joy Division’s development. Due to solid gigging during the latter half of 1978, the group had made a name for themselves in Manchester and the North of England, while the superior 12” pressing of their debut EP, An Ideal For Living, had helped spread the word further afield.
Digital and Glass, the two Joy Division tracks included on Factory Records’ debut EP, A Factory Sample, had also come to Peel’s attention, when the record was officially released early in January 1979, though he wasn’t yet aware of just how seismic a proposition Joy Division were becoming.