Rough Trade Records logo.svg

Rough Trade Records is an independent record label based in London, England. It was formed in 1978 by Geoff Travis who had opened a record store off Ladbroke Grove. Having successfully promoted and sold records by punk rock and early post-punk and indie pop bands such as the Smiths and Desperate Bicycles, Travis began to manage acts and distribute bands such as Scritti Politti and began the label, which was informed by left-wing politics and structured as a co-operative. Soon after, Rough Trade also set up a distribution arm that serviced independent retail outlets across Britain, a network that became known as the Cartel.

Interest and investment of major labels in the UK indie scene in the late 1980s, as well as overtrading on behalf of Rough Trade's distribution wing, led to cash flow problems, and eventually to bankruptcy, forcing the label into receivership. However, Travis resurrected the label in the late 1990s, finding success with the Libertines, the Strokes and Antony and the Johnsons. The roster has been diverse, ranging stylistically through alternative rock, post-punk and new wave, garage rock, and psychedelic rock, but also art pop, folk, electronica, and soul.

(Read more at Wikipedia.)

Links To Peel

Rough Trade was a major hub of the UK independent music scene that came to dominate Peel's shows from the late 1970s.

The DJ was initially aware of Rough Trade as a record shop near his mother's home in west London, and he continued to recommend its outlets to listeners for many years, long after the retail operation split from the associated Rough Trade record label and independent distribution network.

Already an important national base for DIY music culture, including records and fanzines, Rough Trade launched its own label in 1977, with the release of 'Paris Maquis' by French punk outfit Métal Urbain, who did two Peel sessions. The DJ quickly became a vital radio outlet for many releases, including the fledgling label's first LP, “Inflammable Material” by Stiff Little Fingers, as well as landmark records by Cabaret Voltaire, Fall, Television Personalities, Robert Wyatt, Young Marble Giants and other session artists. The label eventually hit the commercial jackpot with The Smiths, who were huge favourites with both Peel and his listeners. The Smiths and the Sundays each topped the show's annual Festive Fifty rankings.

After a period of inactivity in the 1990s, the label returned in the early 2000s with a new generation of artists, including the Strokes, who recorded a Peel session and enjoyed Festive Fifty success.

In 2003, Peel played tracks from "25: Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before", a covers compilation celebrating the first quarter-century of the label, with artists from the current roster such as Belle & Sebastian and Detroit Cobras tackling classics from the Rough Trade back-catalogue.

After Peel's death in 2004, Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis[1] paid tribute to the DJ and his backing for the label:

"Without John, I don't think Rough Trade would have been able to grow and support the artists we have. Most of our bands did their first radio session with him: the Fall, the Blue Orchids, the Smiths. Think of people like Mark E Smith and Ivor Cutler, who would probably have been consigned to the dustbin of history without him: these are some of the geniuses of our culture."[2]

Festive Fifty

According to The Festive Fifty by Mark Whitby (1st edition, 2005, pg195), Rough Trade had the most Festive Fifty entries of any label in Peel's lifetime (with 94, compared with 58 for Factory in second place).

The list below, which is incomplete, covers Festive Fifty entries on Rough Trade; it does not include entries by Rough Trade artists on other labels. Please add further information if known.


(Artists on the Rough Trade label who did sessions for Peel. List includes sessions when the artists were not on Rough Trade.)


(Plays by Peel of various artist (v/a) releases on Rough Trade Records, including co-releases with NME, plus releases under the Rough Trade Shops banner, distributed by Mute.)

C81 NME Rough Trade
(NME 022, 1986) C86
Lipstick traces

(cassette - NME / Rough Trade C81) NME / Rough Tapes COPY 001

(LP - Soweto)

(LP - Here's Egg On Your Face)

(cassette - C86) NME 022

(LP - Lipstick Traces)

(CD – 25: Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before…)

Rough Trade Shops

(4xCD - Rough Trade Shops 25 Years) Mute

(7" EP - Rough Trade Shops: Rock And Roll 1) Mute

(2xCD - Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 2002) Mute

(2xCD - Rough Trade Shops Post Punk 01) Mute

See Also



  1. In 2009, Travis recalled listening to Peel announcing 'The Unknown Soldier' by the Doors on Perfumed Garden.[1]
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.