EW remembers Greg Shaw and John Peel
Two rock & roll true believers dedicated their lives to spreading the boss sound.
GREG SHAW 1949-2004
Pioneering rock critic; magazine publisher; manager; label head; historian and archivist; concert booker. Garage-rock enthusiast Greg Shaw, who died of heart failure, Oct. 19, in L.A., at age 55, wore many hats. But for the founder of indie label Bomp! Records, everything he did revolved around his self-described mission: ”to try to get the cool music to the people.”
Although Shaw’s name may be as obscure as some of the music he championed, his contributions to rock history are indisputable. ”My show was literally built on the work Greg did,” says Steven Van Zandt, host of the syndicated radio program Little Steven’s Underground Garage. ”He was a visionary.”
In 1966, Shaw began publishing the San Francisco-based Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News, a precursor to Rolling Stone and Creem. That was followed in 1970 by another mag, Who Put the Bomp, which covered punk and power pop. He founded the Bomp! label in 1974 to put out a single by cult group the Flamin’ Groovies. He subsequently became their manager, accompanying them to England for the recording of 1976’s Shake Some Action.
The early ’80s saw Shaw paving the way for today’s garage-rock revival by assembling the influential Pebbles series (modeled after Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets) of primitive oldies. More recently, Bomp! had released CDs by bands both new (the Brian Jonestown Massacre) and old (Iggy and the Stooges). ”Greg created the blueprint on which Rhino Records was started,” says Gary Stewart, a former senior VP of the label, which repackages vintage rock and pop. ”If there’s any justice, he’ll find himself in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
JOHN PEEL 1939-2004
Influential British radio personality John Peel, who died of a heart attack, Oct. 25, In Peru, at age 65, was arguably the last of a dying breed — a disc jockey who spun only the music he liked, playlists be damned. A fixture on the BBC’s Radio 1 since 1967, Peel was a man whose imprimatur could boost a band’s prestige overnight, if not always its bank balance (ask Irish punks the Undertones, whose ”Teenage Kicks” Peel named his all-time top single). He was also a tastemaker who introduced at least four generations of listeners to sounds outside the mainstream. ”He turned me on to all sorts of music that I never would have heard otherwise,” says Tim Burgess of the Charlatans UK. Says Mudhoney singer-guitarist Mark Arm: ”He was a real rarity in popular media in that he actively searched out new things and got behind what he dug. I mean, the Fall — a really strange band! — were one of his favorites.”
Perhaps Peel’s greatest legacy is the so-called ”Peel Sessions” — music recorded in the BBC studios to be played on his show. Through the years, a variety of artists, from T. Rex to Nirvana, took part in the sessions, many of which are now available on CD. Ex-Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, who compiled the recent Faces boxed set Five Guys Walk into a Bar… (which includes several ”Peel Sessions” recordings) credits Peel with breaking the band in England. ”The Faces never would have made it without his support,” says McLagan. ”God bless him. And there are easily a hundred other bands who can say the same thing.”