Zigzag (or ZigZag) was a rock magazine started in 1969 by Pete Frame with the aim of covering the "underground" music which was featured in John Peel's programmes of the time but did not get much exposure elsewhere in the media.. Frame believed that neither the underground press nor the pop music weeklies did justice to the music he liked. The cover of the first issue of Zigzag featured Sandy Denny of Peel session favourites Fairport Convention, and mentions by Peel on Top Gear helped make the magazine known; it was sold at the same outlets that stocked underground papers such as IT and Oz. At first Zigzag was run on a shoestring budget but gained respect for in-depth coverage of its preferred artists and groups. Many of the magazine's favourites were also admired by Peel, including The Byrds, Love, Captain Beefheart and Buffalo Springfield.
Pete Frame acknowledged Peel's support in issue 25 of Zigzag (1972):
And what about John Peel then? Where would we all be without him? There's a handful of people without who's [sic] encouragement this magazine would have plummeted into extinction years ago - John Peel sits at their head.
Peel himself mentioned, in a letter published in the September 1973 issue of Let It Rock, that, of all the music papers and magazines he received each month, it was only LIR and Zigzag that he thought were worth reading twice.
In the early 1970s Zigzag showed a particular interest in American artists, especially singer-songwriters, associated with the folk and rock scenes of Greenwich Village and the West Coast. This reflected the taste of Pete Frame and his then colleagues. In the mid-70s Frame became less involved with the magazine, which again faced financial problems and had to seek help from record companies, resulting in a change of focus. Zigzag started to shed its "West Coast fanzine" image and now paid more attention to new developments in the British music scene, such as pub rock. At this time Peel producer John Walters began to write a regular column for the magazine.
The arrival of Kris Needs as editor in 1977 signalled another phase in Zigzag's history, with a concentration on punk that continued during the five years of Needs' time in charge. In January 1980, Needs wrote in the magazine that Peel "continues to make more positive contributions to the fertilization of modern music than anyone else". A year later, the DJ topped the Zigzag Readers Poll "Favourite Person" category for the third straight year (at least), with John Lydon, Siouxsie and Joe Strummer rounding out the top four (the "Hated Person" list was led by Margaret Thatcher, followed by Ronald Reagan).
Pete Frame later became well known as the creator of Rock Family Trees, first available in Zigzag and other music publications but subsequently collected together in several books and eventually the subject of two series of TV programmes, both narrated by Peel.
- John Walters: Links to columns by Peel's producer and other Zigzag material from the Kris Needs era
- Rock Family Trees: Full series rundown and YouTube links
- Wikipedia: Zigzag entry
- terrascope.co.uk: ZigZag 40th anniversary
- Rock Family Trees official site
- Peel article (October 1983 issue) part 1 / part 2 (via Cactus Mouth Informer blog)