Soundgarden in session for John Peel tonight. Their first, and only, session for John Peel, recorded on May 14, 1989 and broadcast June 7th. Soundgarden were one of the seminal bands of the Seattle Grunge/Alternative scene. And while at the same time the UK was going through its own transformation with Madchester, Alternative and the start of Brit-Pop, the combination of hearing all of them at the same time (via Peel and BBC Radio 1) must have given listeners whiplash. But it also pointed up to what was a lot of excitement going on in non-mainstream music at the same time all around the world.
1989 was the start of a turnaround period for much of music. Soundgarden would eventually sign with a major label (A&M) and were just beginning to breakthrough with audiences in the U.S., achieving their biggest success in 1994 with Superunknown debuting at number one on the billboard charts that year. But in 1989 that was some five years off and things were still pretty fresh and still being honed.
This session comes only two years after the release of their debut single Hunted Down, and the Screaming Life ep, both released through the-then fledgling label Sub-Pop. And it came on the heels of the release of their debut album for SST, Ultramega OK from May 1989, which their very first European tour, that began in May of ’89 was put together to promote.
So the appearance on the Peel program has an air of newness and excitement going for it and gave UK audiences a glimpse of things to come shortly after.
With the untimely death of Chris Cornell and with an assessment of his legacy and a reacquaintance with his earlier material, this Peel session is an important addition to what has been the overview of an astonishing but sadly cut short career.
Crank it up and enjoy.