John Peel Wiki

Big Black.jpg

Big Black was an American punk rock band from Evanston, Illinois, active from 1981 to 1987. Founded by singer and guitarist Steve Albini, the band's initial lineup also included guitarist Santiago Durango and bassist Jeff Pezzati, both of Naked Raygun. In 1985 Pezzati was replaced by Dave Riley (1960-2019), who played on Big Black's two full-length studio albums, Atomizer (1986) and Songs About Fucking (1987).

Big Black's aggressive and abrasive music was characterized by distinctively clanky guitars and the use of a drum machine rather than a drum kit, elements that foreshadowed industrial rock. The band's lyrics flouted commonly held taboos and dealt frankly— and often explicitly— with politically and culturally loaded topics including murder, rape, child sexual abuse, arson, racism, and misogyny.

Following Big Black's breakup, Albini formed and fronted Rapeman from 1987 to 1989 and Shellac from 1992 onward. He also began work as a recording engineer, working with artists such as Slint, The Pixies, The Breeders, Pegboy, Urge Overkill, The Jesus Lizard, The Wedding Present, Superchunk, PJ Harvey, Nirvana and Nina Nastasia.

Durango, meanwhile, continued to play music during his law school years, releasing two EPs on Touch and Go as Arsenal and recording with Boss Hog. He then became a practicing lawyer, with clients including Touch and Go Records and Cynthia Plaster Caster. Riley was briefly a member of Bull but was incapacitated by a stroke in 1995, which was initially erroneously reported as a suicide attempt. Having lost the ability to walk, he maintains a blog about his experiences titled "Worthless Goddamn Cripple". In 2004 he participated in a musical project called Miasma of Funk, releasing the album Groove on the Mania! He has also published a book titled Blurry and Disconnected: Tales of Sink-or-Swim Nihilism.

Links To Peel

Peel was a big fan of the group and nominated their 1987 album, Songs About Fucking, as one of his favourite albums of all time in lists for Jocks Choice and The Guardian's Top 20 Albums. The album track 'L Dopa' was included by Peel in the Peelenium 1987.

Peel regretted not seeing Big Black perform live and mentioned this on Peeling Back The Years 5 (Transcript):

"I went to see the Butthole Surfers play in Hammersmith a few weeks ago, and it was the week after Big Black had played and everybody who saw Big Black said they were absolutely apocalyptic, but I missed them and they’ve now broken up and that is something I shall regret, genuinely regret, like not having seen the Smiths play live."

After the demise of Big Black, band leader Steve Albini was a continuing presence on Peel's shows over many years, both as a musician and as a producer of numerous artists played by the DJ.

Festive Fifty Entries




Big Black - Peel Session 1987

The session is available on Peel Session (1988, vinyl 7", King Dick)

1. Recorded: Unknown. Broadcast: 06 May 1987. Repeated: 19 May 1987, 25 November 1987

  • Dead Billy / Ugly American / Newmangenerator / L Dopa

Other Shows Played


Big Black - Colombian Necktie


Big Black - L Dopa-0

  • 10 February 1991: The Strong (Album: Sound Of Impact) ('The Strong' is a live version of 'Ready Men')
  • 06 July 1991: The Model (7" - He's A Whore / The Model) Blast First
  • 26 October 1991: Columbian Necktie (album - Songs About Fucking) Blast First
  • 08 December 1996: ‘L Dopa (LP - Songs About Fucking )’ Blast First
  • 28 December 1996: 'The Power Of Independent Trucking (LP-Songs About Fucking)' (Blast First) (JP: 'I've just realised what's happened. Somebody's done something in the studio, and I've had to set it back to where it was supposed to be before, which is why that was going so slowly, but I do know how to counteract that, and we'll do so immediately. So that was Big Black, playing far too slowly.')
  • 21 December 1999: 'L Dopa (LP-Songs About Fucking)' (Blast First) Peelenium 1987

See Also

External Links