Pete Shelley in His Prime
David Bowie and Lou Reed are dead.
And now we’ve lost Pete Shelley, leader of the Buzzcocks, who died in Tallinn last week of a probable heart attack.
The Buzzcocks’ first single for United Artists Records was “Orgasm Addict”, which was promptly banned by the BBC. Can’t imagine why.
Then there was the Buzzcocks’ biggest commercial success, of which New Music Express wrote that “Shelley’s bisexuality would form the subject matter of arguably punk’s greatest song, 1978’s ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)’.
And more “singles that fused pop craftsmanship with rapid-fire punk energy “, like this…
Look. If you don’t own it already, get a copy of the Buzzcocks’ “Singles Going Steady”. The Buzzcocks were a singles band, and “Singles Going Steady” is a superb collection of their best songs.
Play it loud.
I missed the Buzzcocks the first time around, which gave my brother David permanent bragging rights, because he saw them perform live before I did. It wasn’t until their 1989 reunion tour that I went to my first Buzzcocks concert, at the old 930 Club in Washington. They’d been inactive for a while, and I didn’t know what to expect.
It was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. They played everything, and they played it faster and ten times as loud as I played it at home. It was a truly transcendent night.
In an interval between one of the Buzzcocks’s many breakups and reformations, Shelley released his first solo single, the song “Homosapien”. It was banned by the BBC (plus ça change…) which didn’t stop an extended version of the song from becoming a major dance hit in the US. For a while, it seemed to be playing everywhere.
In The Guardian‘s obituary for Shelley, Neil Gaiman is quoted as writing: “Part of my youth dies with him.”
It’s a sad sentiment I share.