For The Love Of Pete (Pete Shelley)

The shocking, premature death of Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks on the 6th of December upset myself & many others. His smart, vulnerable, romantic lyrics matched to a crisp, exhilarating, distinctive sound made for Pop-Punk perfection which, as you know, retains its spark & appeal 40 years on. My friend Raymond Gorman, himself a guitarist/songwriter of note with That Petrol Emotion & The Everlasting Yeah, posted this thoughtful, personal tribute on Facebook. It deserves a more permanent place than a social media feed & Loosehandlebars is not only that place but also pleased to welcome a new contributor.

 

 

Image result for buzzcocks howard devotoBuzzcocks meant the world to me when I was young and I got to meet Pete on more than a few occasions. Always truly lovely, sweet, funny and happy to chat. Imagine meeting your heroes and you find out they’re as wonderful as you thought. He even gave me his phone number but I was always too starstruck to actually ever call him. Bassist Steve Garvey was always a real gent to us/me as well. The records they made before the initial split with Martin Rushent, the best producer whose contribution should not be overlooked, were perfect.

 

 

THAT SOUND. I learned to play chords playing along with the Ramones but my playing really came on more when I started to play along with Buzzcocks. I had a small practice amp and a cheap crappy Satellite guitar (straight from Kay’s catalogue which I bought using my paper round money – £1 for 100 weeks). and suddenly I could play all the spidery lead lines on “Another Music in a Different Kitchen”. I grew up in a very macho, violent environment and I wasn’t like that so Pete’s vocals and lyrics weren’t alien to me plus I’d already been softened up by Bowie and Bolan. For someone who wrote poetry in secret (yeah like I’m gonna advertise that as a teen in Derry, Northern Ireland!)

 

buzzcocksI thought for the first time that maybe I could maybe give lyrics a go too. After all as Pete once said himself: “I never knew there was a law against sounding vulnerable.” Buzzcock’s heyday didn’t last that long. I remember when they started to go out of favour and was incredulous when “You Say You Don’t Love Me” wasn’t their biggest single to date and even though their star waned I still bought all their other records and the C81 tape too for “I Look Alone”. When That Petrol Emotion were looking for a singer we put an ad in New Musical Express and one of the influences we looked for was Buzzcocks.

 

 

Related imageTPE covered “Fiction Romance” when I was still the singer and later we also did a faithful but killer version of “Nothing Left”. Our label was called “Noise-A-Noise”. What is “Can’t Stop” but John and I trying to write a Buzzcocks song?? So it’s sad that Pete’s gone. I was pleased to read in an interview that he still liked champagne and seemed to be in good form. It’s wonderful that he was able to make a living for so long and in no way complained that they should have had more success. He was a true punk (with a library card) and a true trailblazer of the DIY spirit that fuelled that movement. He helped me find my own voice and a raison d’etre. He was also a seeker of truth. I learned of his interest in Eastern philosophy and the Zen tradition and then read up some myself. He was erudite and articulate. Highly intelligent but suspicious of intellectualism. More than anything though he was a bloody brilliant and talented human. I’ll miss him loads. “Everything is and that is why it is” will be the line.

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We’re Not Addicted To Oil But Our Cars Are.

Way way back I had a provisional driving licence but I never got around to actually learning to drive. I delivered milk on a Sunday & surprisingly you were deemed capable of pointing a large electric vehicle in the right direction, on a real road, with no previous experience. My route took me out of town to a couple of villages & it was a good thing that the float knew the way because at 6 a.m. on a Sunday I was likely to be asleep at the wheel. My girlfriend lived in one of these burgs. She taught Sunday School at the church (Really !), I would give her & some of the kids a mild ride in my 3-wheeled wagon. I’m guessing that this would be frowned upon by the dairy & possibly against the law. I liked the job, every day I got the wheels, the empty glass bottles & myself back unscathed was quite a big deal.

Any road up, my family didn’t own a car until after I left home. Dad used the redundancy money he received when his “job for life” became economically unviable. He later upgraded with the compensation he got for the occupational lung disease which killed him before he was 70…the working life eh ? I spent the next 30 years living in cities & joined the twice-daily commotion of rush hour commuter confusion. This metropolitan mayhem got old fast but the more private alternative to public transport seemed no more attractive, all of us, being driven on the bus or driving themselves were in the same dreary boat.Of course I knew people who were car owners, good folk who were kind enough to allow me to accompany them on their journeys. More than that, in fact I gave up my virginity to a lovely young woman in the back of a friend’s Ford Cortina estate. Thanks for the loan Dave.

 

 

Yeah ! Like Iggy, I am the Passenger. Happy to be riding shotgun & never interfering because I have no idea or opinion about what goes on after the turning of the key. Instead I try & be the best fellow traveller around. I can read a map, select a killer playlist, talk up a storm to keep you awake or just shut up, take care of the catering & roll up a doobie in the dark. Let’s see your sat-nav do that. This  combination of Jeeves & Dr Gonzo seems to be what is desirable from the ideal passenger…maybe it’s the company I keep. I’ve been the minder/muscle on cocaine deliveries, the guy who threatened to kill me in a Tesco car park in Leeds put me off that game. I love treks across continental Europe because it’s an rare opportunity  to experience the driver’s eye view of the road. Sacre Bleu ! No wonder I don’t drive.

 

“The more you drive, the less intelligent you are”, says Miller in “Repo Man” (1984). Now Miller is an acid-fried hippie burn out but some of my best friends are a little…well, y’know & I’m not about to take the risk that he may be right. Have you seen those men-but-still boys who present “Top Gear” ? Makes you think. My friend Martin, one of the most considerate & insouciant humans I know, undergoes a Hulkian transformation when he’s behind a wheel. I am always shocked by this when I travel with him. I can bore for Britain on many subjects but I am excluded from the “what do you drive ?” petrolhead small talk. I get to  walk away from any discussion anywhere about shock absorbers, spark plugs, the best way to negotiate every town’s one-way system & that’s the way I like it.

 

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The infernal combustion engine, that’s some invention. Congesting our towns & cities, a 6-lane network of  concrete & tarmac imposed in the name of progress across any bucolic bailiwick. Urban public transport is left to the lumpen while the beautiful National Railway Museum in York is a poignant memorial to a superannuated technology. The automobile won. Henry Ford’s assembly line aimed to put the world on wheels & mass production is pointless without mass consumption & that’s the only reason you own all this crap that your grandparents never had. Cars are still sold with ridiculous associations to “freedom” & “individuality”, constructs that have no relation to the stuff you buy so fuck that noise. The primacy of the car has made the Western world dependant on a cheap, plentiful supply of gasoline…that’s working out well !

 

 

Unlike the Buzzcocks I don’t hate cars, fast of otherwise. I quite like the red ones ! My boss would give me a lift home in his Rolls Royce. You were probably a gangster if you drove a Roller through the city’s ripped backsides of the Old Kent Road & I made sure that my street knew we were coming. I just never got around to learning how to use  them & they seemed to take up to much time, energy & money. I enjoy walking, I talk about the terrible weather to the old ladies at the bus stop, try to put them right about their casual racism & this July I get my free bus pass so that’s it for me then.

 

It’s probably a little ingenuous (who me ?) that I am still gratified when someone turns up in their motor to run me about. It has never been an everyday thing & I would never impose on a friend to provide a free taxi service. What’s today…Friday ? I was in a car on Tuesday & it’s a possibility that I will be again over the weekend…what a life I lead ! I now live in an industrial town surrounded by villages undisturbed since the Viking incursion. My nephew Dan & I get mobile & explore market towns stranded by the Industrial Revolution, picnic in the rolling Wolds, visit an undeveloped perfect beach or make a 30 mile round trip for the best ice cream in the county. I’m the guy being driven around, head out of the window like a puppy, expecting good things around each corner. We make a good team, there’s a division of labour going on. Dan likes to drive & I am very happy being the Passenger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete and Audrey (Ah Oui !)

A double dose of delight here. Pete Shelley’s rifftastic return to rock romance matched with France’s gamin gift to us all, the mesmerizing mademoiselle (enough alliteration !) Audrey Tautou. An electronic high five to whoever was inspired to make this connection  for a Y-tube clip. It works.

Anyone who did not fall in love with Amelie/Audrey needs to lighten up…really. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s imaginative and stylish love letter to Paris has a central performance which is charming , mischievous and beguiling. If you think the movie is cloying and too whimsical then your heart is too hard. You need a hug. Audrey Tautou’s other film as Jeunet’s muse, “A Very Long Engagement”, is an epic story of love and war. It is, perhaps, even more rewarding on repeated viewing than “Amelie”.

Pete Shelley is punk’s romantic poet. His short, sharp stabs about the trouble with love make the Buzzcocks one of the most enduring and listenable of the class of 1977. By 1979 he had lost his innocence. The two closing tracks of the band’s third and final LP are shrieks of angst. “Hollow Inside” & “I Believe” are brilliant rackets made by an unhappy man. “There is no love in this world anymore” he shouts as his band implodes. For his solo LP “Homosapien” he and producer Martin Rushent played with synths and sequencers and it sounded a little cold. Next time round Pete got his guitar out of it’s case and wrote some love songs again. Maybe it didn’t sell but this full length “No One Like You” is a great uplifting noise. Rushent took his toys off to the Human League and conquered the world. Pete got the band back together and a night out with the ‘Cocks is a guaranteed good time.