Posts Tagged ‘Pete Shelley’

Pete Shelley in London, Britain - Oct 1977VARIOUS

Pete Shelley, the lead singer of the English punk rock band Buzzcocks, has died, as BBC reports via the band’s management. Shelley reportedly died at age 63 of a suspected heart attack in Estonia, where he was living at the time. On 6th December 2018, Buzzcocks singer and songwriter Pete Shelley died at the age of 63.

The Buzzcocks were formed in Bolton, England, by singer/songwriter/guitarist Shelley and singer/songwriter Howard Devoto, after the two met at the Bolton Institute of Technology (now known as the University of Bolton) and traveled to London to see a Sex Pistols gig. Buzzcocks then debuted in 1976 and opened for the Sex Pistols in Manchester.

Buzzcocks released their first EP Spiral Scratch in 1977, and went on to record nine studio albums. Devoto then left Buzzcocks in 1977, and Shelley became the frontman. Their most recent album, The Way, was released in 2014. The band is known for hits such as “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?” and “Why Can’t I Touch It?”

A re-issue of the Buzzcocks’ first two albums, Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites, is due for release on January. 25th, 2019.

The band’s Twitter account posted the following statement:

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For their 40th Anniversary, we’ll re-issue our first two albums, Another Music In A Different Kitchen & Love Bites, viaDomino Recording Company on January 25th, 2019.Both Lovingly re-mastered, with newly curated booklets featuring a Jon Savage penned essay & unseen images.

Like many bands first albums, “Another Music In A Different Kitchen” collected material written by the group – in particular Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle – that had been amassed during the previous years, going back to 1974 and 1975. According to Tony McGartland in his Buzzcocks: The Complete History, the songs were sequenced in the order that they were written. The play through seems to bear this out: the album begins in fast protest punk and ends in the seven minute, definitely non punk length Krautrock of ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat.’

Most of Shelley’s songs on the first side concern the vicissitudes of romance, but the opener Fast Cars name drops US campaigner Ralph Nader in an ecological diatribe: “They’re so depressing going ’round and ’round/Ooh, they make me dizzy, oh fast cars they run me down.” ‘No Reply’, ‘You Tear Me Up’, ‘Get On Our Own’ and ‘Love Battery’ are sharp, short (all under two and a half minutes), speedy disquisitions on the tortures of interpersonal communication, love and lust played with a perfect balance between pace, abrasion and melody.

Side closer ‘Sixteen’ is something else. It’s longer and contains an avant-garde breakdown around two minutes in, recorded with each group member isolated and unable to hear each other. “It started off as a false ending,” Shelley told me in 1977: “All sloppy, and then it carries on longer so that people are thinking, “Oh I’ve just clapped but they’re not thinking — what’s up?” and then it comes back in again.” It was, as John Maher added, “A remnant of our chaos days.”

Would Shelley like to be sixteen again? “In some ways yes, in some ways no. The words go: “And I wish I was sixteen again/Then things would be such fun/All the things I’d do would be the same/But they’re much more fun/ Than when you’re twenty one.” Things like going for a drink — now the novelty’s worn off but the enjoyment’s still there. There’s no difference between doing something when you’re 16 and 22, except there is a difference if you’re doing it for the first time.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the song is its rapid fire, venomous ending:
“And I hate modern music/Disco boogie and pop/They go on and on and on and on and on/HOW I WISH THEY WOULD STOP!” Never has a truer sentence been written about the true impetus behind Punk: not just boredom with progressive rock or dinosaur sixties acts but an intense disgust with mainstream pop music, which in 1976, the year of number one singles by Elton and Kiki, Abba, the Brotherhood of Man, Adge Cutler & the Wurzels, seemed not to have anything to do with teenage life and certainly nothing to do with excitement or the true teenage news.

The five songs on side two reflected the group moving away from simple love tropes into something more complex: as Shelley sang on ‘I Don’t Mind’, “Reality’s a dream.” Unlike the increasing militarism and violent posturing of the Clash, Buzzcocks aimed to explore male sensitivity and frailty (‘This pathetic clown’) – which in pop terms was still new, exactly what punk had set out to be. They began to use love songs as a conduit through which they could talk about other things: the nature of human relationships in a capitalistic society, the nature of reality itself.

Onstage Buzzcocks did not present as macho. Sometimes they’d try a group uniform, like the Mondrian shirts of early 1977, but mostly they just dressed as themselves: Diggle and Maher in various permutations of Mod wear, Paddy Garvey in leather jacket and skinny tie, and Shelley in a bewildering variety of styles. “It’s no good me wearing anything like that (bondage pants),” Shelley told me; “I’m just not the fashionable shape.” “You put those clothes on and you become a different character,” Diggle added: “I don’t feel myself, I feel like somebody else.”

‘Fiction Romance’ continues the themes of ‘I Don’t Mind’: male frailty, the commodification of emotions, the difference between reality and fantasy. Steve Diggle’s powerful ‘Autonomy’ spells out the true theme behind Punk: self determination. “It’s a discussion between two sides of your personality,” he told me; “It’s about discipline in yourself, like when you say you’d like to do something and you haven’t got control, you’re not autonomous. Like giving up smoking, which I’m trying to do now and it’s very difficult. I haven’t got control of myself.”

Shelley’s pell-mell ‘I Need’ tackles the capitalist perplex head on: “I used to only want but now I need/To get by with what I got but now I need.” After a fine bass led instrumental break, Shelley lays it out again: “I need sex/I need love/I need drink/I need drugs/I need food/I need cash/I need you to love me back.” ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’ continues the breakneck pace: lasting at least three times the standard punk rock single, it features some stinging psychedelic solos and some rapid fire classic break beats from John Maher.

There’s a pause, then the riff of ‘Boredom’ returns: back to the beginning. Another Music in a Different Kitchen is a perfect circle: thirty five and a half minutes of tuneful, exciting and thoughtful music that stretched the boundaries of guitar pop music at the same time as it delivered on the group’s promise. It was a critical and a commercial success, reaching the UK album top twenty in March 1978 and staying there for nearly three months. But Buzzcocks had no time to rest on their laurels.

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Behind the chocolate box cover, Love Bites is an album of paradoxes if not clashing opposites: real/imaginary, past/future, love/lust, connection/alienation, commerciality/experimentation. It’s to the group’s credit that they walk the high wire with ease: the attack is less punk, more measured and on occasion psychedelic, as befits the perceptual and philosophical nature of Shelley’s lyrics. The glossy pop star photo on the sleeve is matched by stranger photo realist portraits on the inner, by Robin Utracik of the Worst: Shelley in particular looks dishevelled, having just vomited when the source photo was taken.

Love Bites hit its moment. The reviews were good, and so were sales: it reached number 13 in the album charts, Buzzcocks’ best showing. They immediately went out on their fourth tour, Beating Hearts – supported by Subway Sect – which was marked in this year of Sham 69 by skinhead violence and stage invasions, definitely not what Buzzcocks were about. The fifth single of that year had already been recorded: ‘Promises’ and ‘Lipstick’, the latter of which used the same riff as Magazine’s debut ‘Shot by Both Sides’. Buzzcocks had reached their commercial peak, but Pete Shelley was deeply troubled.

Late 1978 was a harsh place, with competing styles and fads and the relentless pressure of rapid fire novelty that punk had set up. The pace was killing and on top of that the impetus of 1976 punk had faded. Shelley also felt that the original sense of community had gone: “Once we were in the music industry, people had become more diversified, there was nothing really to pull people together again.” More importantly, the constant touring was driving him mad: “It was a bit unnerving. When we did the Love Bites tour I was convinced by Richard not to leave the band. It was all getting too much for me.”

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Manchester outfit Buzzcocks’ innovation in punk was making the personal political. They didn’t go for grand statements like the Clash or the Sex Pistols would, they didn’t brand themselves experimentalists a la Wire. Yet there was something profound in the art of Buzzcocks writing high-energy songs about relationships and anxieties, Pete Shelley’s emotive yelp giving the songs their sneer and their heart. Shelley and guitarist Steve Diggle’s twin buzzsaw guitar attack was bright and the rhythm section of Steve Garvey and John Maher were what gave the songs propulsion. Singles Going Steady has all the trappings of a greatest hit compilation, mind boggling when you consider everything on the album was written, recorded and released during a span of two years. Unfortunately, Singles’ slight revisioning of Buzzcocks as a premiere singles act pushes some of their experimental tendencies to the wayside but that’s a small complaint when you’ve got some of the best pop songs including the eternally incandescent “Ever Fallen in Love?” in your arsenal.

On this day March  10th in 1978 Manchester and UK punk band The Buzzcocks released their debut album, Recorded & mixed at Olympic Studios in London December 1977/January 1978 ‘ Another Music in a Different Kitchen‘, on United Artists Records.

The original UK vinyl is issued with a black cardboard inner sleeve, with color photo on front cover. Subsequent pressings substituted a black and white photo. The initial few thousand copies shipped in a matching silver-grey outer ‘PRODUCT‘ shopping bag. The album was originally conceived with the track “I Need” on side one; but after a test pressing was made, the group felt the song should appear on the second side. A mix-up occurred at the pressing plant, and, as a consequence, some early copies of the album contained no “I Need” at all.

A blue vinyl version was re-released around 1986. The corresponding CD was released in March 1994 on the same record label. An undated songbook was published (VR 8003 2) with sheet music from the album, band photos, brief biographical material, and discography which includes the band’s second release, UAG 30197 “Love Bites”. As such, it would have been released after 22nd September 1978 the release date of “Love Bites”. In keeping with other releases, the line “Agreed Images” appears on the back cover below the stocking number.

It featured the band’s second line-up, with Pete Shelley handling lead vocals following the departure of their original frontman, Howard Devoto; the album included the single “I Don’t Mind”, which would reach UK #55; to promo the LP, Virgin Record Stores in London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester & Newcastle each released 500 helium-filled balloons containing coupons for a free copy . The term “perfect pop” is misused to hell, because it’s mostly applied to bands that never went near the charts; but Buzzcocks were pop, in that they consistently had top 20 singles. In Pete Shelley – angelic, sexually ambiguous, eyebrow-raised – they had one of the best songwriters of the time, and in Steve Diggle – loud, mod, a bit barky – they had his perfect foil, and a man also capable of great songwriting. The songs are all brilliant pop tunes in the classic style, but with lyrics whose doomed romanticism would put John Lennon to shame, and the kind of riffs that only a Stooges and T.Rex fan could write. From I Don’t Mind’s woozy declaration that “reality’s a dream” to Sixteen’s stentorian “And I hate modern music! Disco! Boogie! Pop!”, Another Music… was as melodic as pop has ever been and as honest and real as any plaid-faced grunge act.

  • Arranged By – Buzzcocks
  • Bass Guitar – Steve Garvey
  • Drums, Vocals – John Maher
  • Guitar, Vocals – Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle
  • Producer – Martin Rushent