How John Peel could make you AND break you — the story of 3D

Photo by Scott Cawley

Liverpool band 3D (A Fish In Sea) recorded three sessions for The John Peel Show on Radio One.

For an unsigned band, the third Peel Session in 1982 was a record.

3D’s guitarist and singer John Reynolds — or Riff, as he was known then — said his support was unprecedented. “I think it’s fair to say he got us a record deal.

“He said on-air how if he had a record label, he’d sign us up immediately. Next day we were inundated with offers.”

For the uninitiated, The John Peel Show ran for nearly 30 years on Radio One — and had a reputation for introducing unsigned bands to a mass audience.

The Smiths, Pulp, The Undertones and The White Stripes are among the acts to have had their first play on national radio thanks to John Peel.

Deal with RAK Records

3D — who’d started out as a six-piece — signed for RAK as a four-piece, with Fred Palethorpe, Steve Spurgin and Jon Corner making up the rest of band with John.

They recorded an album’s worth of material and three singles were readied for release, Break the Fix, Nearer and Dance to Believe.

Break the Fix was set to be played on Radio One’s Round Table.

The review show featured guest broadcasters and musicians giving their opinion on the week’s new releases — and with an audience of over 10 million — it could make or break a single.

‘Poor man’s ABC’ start of the end

On the week 3D’s new single was set to be released, John Peel was one of the guest reviewers. “When we heard Peel was on,” said John, “we thought we were made.”

Unfortunately, it didn't quite pan out that way. “He absolutely slaughtered us.

“He said the record sounded like ‘a poor man’s ABC’ and I tend to agree. We hadn't been true to ourselves.”

With hindsight John admits they'd been over influenced by producers and record label, and the material wasn't representative of the band. “You meet people and trust them, when perhaps you should stick to your guns.”

The band were then caught up in an argument between record label and publishers over promotion costs — which arguably cost them a Top 75 single and numerous TV appearances.

Eventually RAK lost interest and decided to call it a day, without releasing the album.

Label boss and a move into education

Since the demise of 3D John’s continued to work in the music industry. Running his own independent label and production company Benson Street Recording.

He also carried on to write and record while managing bands and tours — negotiating recording and publishing contracts.

John now works as a lecturer in Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management at the Paul McCartney founded Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

Despite gloomy predictions for artists and the industry, John remains upbeat about the future for aspiring musicians. “In many ways it’s not changed. It’s all about hard work.

“Online now gives you endless opportunities to reach people…it’s a matter of recognising these opportunities and making them work.”