Smash Hits Peel artists collage

a selection of Smash Hits covers featuring Peel session artists. Top: Skids, Siouxsie, Bottom: Specials, Undertones.

Smash Hits was a UK-based pop music magazine published from 1978 to 2006.

Initially a monthly, publishing lyrics to chart hits as well as features, interviews, singles and albums reviews, colour centrespread and full page posters, it soon became a fortnightly publication, appearing on Thursdays. The magazine featured an eclectic mix of pop, rock, new-wave, disco and even punk music in order to cater for all tastes in a time of rapidly changing musical styles.

Smash Hits was at its peak during much of the 1980s, always managing to move with the times and trends, despite competition in an evolving media market. Sales declined in the 1990s although the magazine still lasted until February 2006 when the final edition was published, 28 years after its debut.

Famous contributors in its early years include David Hepworth, Mark Ellen, both of whom became regular broadcasters and writers, and Neil Tennant who went on to form the Pet Shop Boys.

Links to Peel

Although Smash Hits attempted to cater for all tastes in its early years, focus was very much on new wave artists, many of which had been championed or featured by Peel on his show. Early cover stars include session artists such as Siouxsie Sioux, Billy Idol, Phil Lynot, Sham 69, Skids and many others.

Smash Hits also carried an 'Independent Bitz' section until mid-1981, a page or more on artists and releases perhaps more at home in the NME than in the pop charts, but naturally featuring Peel regulars such as Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division, Gang of Four, Slits, Pop Group and others. The 'Independent' section disappeared around mid-1980 replaced by the publication of just the Independent Charts, which also duly disappeared.

1996-03-27 Smash Hits cover Bluetones

Other bands championed by Peel but which had crossed over to the mainstream and chart success in the late 70s/early 80s such as Human League, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Simple Minds and Ultravox, also became Smash Hits regulars, cover and poster stars. The last Peel session group to have appeared on the cover of the magazine were Bluetones in March 1996. (full list here)

Peel mentioned

  • Well, What Did John Say?: Peel competition with Virgin Records for new Motors single, “That’s What John Said” (1980-05-29)
  • All Time Top Ten: Peel gives a list: "If you ask me again tomorrow, it'll probably all be different". (1981-08-20, p.12)
  • Get Smart!: a "Liverpool & Peel Fan" from Birmingham writes in to ask where he can get a Liverpool sweatshirt like the one Peel wore on TOTP on May 27th. (1982-06-24, p.30)
  • Personal Profile: Peel is asked about his memories, favourites amongst others. (1982-11-24, p.4)
  • Inside Radio One: Three page feature on the station's 15th anniversary including a section about Peel (1982-02-18. p.30)
  • Radio Gaga: Bitz news item about changes in Radio 1. "Mike Smith leaves, Gary Davies moves and John Peel stays where he is....for the time being." Rumours and speculation about Peel leaving the station or at least be moved to weekends only, as bosses want a more "laid back" late night show. Gary Davies' Saturday late show remains vacant so there is still some speculation that "John Peel might get shunted there". His contract had just been renewed for a year. (1984-02-16, p.16)
  • Get Smart (letters page): a reader writes in from Dundee asking which tracks were nos. nine and ten in the 1983 Festive Fifty. Linda is happy to reply having spoken to "John Peel's assistant, whose real name is Sue but everyone calls her Brian". (1984-03-01, p.29)
  • The Rise and Rise of Mike Read: article mentions how Read's own daytime radio show features "less predictable" music and has thereby "..pushed Peelie out into some strange left field..". (1984-01-19, p.09)
  • DJ in Radio 1 Split Shock Horror!: feature in Bitz about David Jensen leaving Radio 1 and the BBC. Jensen's 'one big regret' is breaking up the 'rhythm-pals' act with Peel. "I'm really sad about not being able to do things like Top of the Pops with Peelie anymore....Peel said to me the night it (Jensen's departure) was announced that he was sorry I was going and said he supposed he wouldn't see me any more. I just said don't be silly, I'll be visiting a lot, going out for meals with him etc. It was a very sad moment". (1984-07-05, p.17)
  • 6th Annual Smash Hits Readers' Poll, Best DJ - Peel voted no.9 by readers. (1985-12-18, p.21)
  • 8th Annual Smash Hits Readers Poll/"How the Stars Voted" - Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys voted for John Peel as "Best DJ". (1987-12-16, p.65)