Sub Pop (short for "Subterranean Pop") is an American record label founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt. In 1988, Sub Pop Records LLC was formed by Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Washington. Sub Pop achieved fame in the late 1980s for first signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and many other bands from the Seattle alternative rock scene. They are often credited with taking the first steps toward popularizing grunge music, and have continued to achieve critical and commercial success in the new millennium, with bands such as Fleet Foxes, Foals, Beach House, The Postal Service, Flight of the Conchords, Sleater-Kinney, Blitzen Trapper, No Age, Wolf Parade and The Shins on their roster. In 1995 the owners of Sub Pop sold a 49% stake of the label to the Warner Music Group.

Links To Peel

In January 1989, Peel wrote a piece for The Observer (later republished in the Olivetti Chronicles) on the phenomenon of the Seattle sound coming from the Sub Pop label:

"In the past eighteen months the name of Seattle has popped up whenever two or three have gathered together to speak of non-chart pop - and as often as these folk have said 'Seattle' they have said 'Sub Pop'. "

In a 2014 interview, Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt recalled the importance of the Peel article, following the DJ's support for the 'Sub Pop 200' compilation:

"The real payoff for that was John Peel writing a review in the London Observer in February of ’89[1], in which he states that Sub Pop ‘had the most distinctive regional sounds since Tamla Motown’. That is a statement. That is a huge endorsement by possibly the most influential person in alternative music on the planet."[5]

According to Pavitt, the success of Sub Pop in the UK was vital in winning wider recognition for the label and its bands, with Peel viewed as a key element:

"We had support from John Peel, so England was everything.[2] It allowed us to get out of the indie-rock ghetto in America and actually get some somewhat mainstream attention in England. And of course that reverberated around Europe and the US and so forth."[6]

After Nirvana moved to Geffen Records in 1991, Sub Pop benefited financially from the huge success of 'Nevermind',[3] despite losing other top bands to the majors. In 1997, Peel selected the record as one of his Top 20 Albums in a list for The Guardian newspaper.

In March 1994, Sub Pop allowed Peel and his son William to choose session tracks by artists on the label for a compilation album called 'The John Peel Sub-Pop Sessions'. A short clip of Peel speaking on the phone kicks off the collection.[7]

Peel continued supporting artists from Sub Pop even after the end of the Seattle alternative rock scene that the label created, following the suicide of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana in April 1994.


Nirvana - Peel Session 1990

Nirvana - Peel Session 1990

Sub Pop Records artists who did Peel sessions. [4]

Soundgarden - Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (Peel Session)

Soundgarden - Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (Peel Session)

Mudhoney - By Her Own Hand (Peel Session)

Mudhoney - By Her Own Hand (Peel Session)

Festive Fifty

Sub Pop Records artists who had Festive Fifty entries on the Peel show.[6]

Sub Pop Records Compilations


For this 1994 compilation album, John and his eldest son William choose Peel session tracks by artists who were signed to Sub Pop.

(The Sub Pop Singles Club, a monthly subscription service run by Sub Pop Records, ran between November 1988 and December 1993 and issued one single per month to its subscribers. A total of 61 singles were released, always in limited editions. No full compilation album of them has been issued so far.)[7]

(LP - Sub Pop 100)

(3xLP - Sub Pop 200)

(2x7"- Smells Like Smoked Sausages)

(CD - The John Peel Sub-Pop Sessions 1989-1993)

(CD - The Eagle Is The Most Popular Bird)

External Links


  1. According to Olivetti Chronicles, the date of publication was 1989-01-29.
  2. Sub Pop's UK-centered strategy also included a focus on the British music press. In March 1989, Melody Maker writer Everett True flew out to Seattle for a landmark article on the label that mentioned Peel's support for the "Sub Pop 200" compilation.[1]
  3. Jelbert, Steve (2008) "Labelled With Love", The Times, August 2, 2008.[2] The label's website notes that exploitation of its association with "something called the grunge scene" has "frequently proven financially fruitful".[3] In February 1992, Sub Pop put out the knowingly titled compilation "Smells Like Smoked Sausages", featuring current bands on the label.
  4. The following session artists have either been signed to the Sub Pop record label or had material released through them.
  5. In December 1992, Spencer and guitarist Judah Bauer from the three-piece Blues Explosion both appeared on the Sub Pop Singles Club release 'Big Yule Log Boogie", put out under the name Jon Spencer.[4] Spencer also played with Sub Pop Peel session bands Boss Hog and Pussy Galore.
  6. The following Festive Fifty artists have either been signed to the Sub Pop record label or had material released through them.
  7. A list of the singles is available at Discogs.
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