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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Life’s An Illusion Love Is The Dream (The Buzzcocks)

On the 8th of December 1989, a Saturday night, the pubs of Brixton were buzzing. We were in the Trinity Arms, tucked away in a quiet square, with friends before rocking down to Electric Avenue to meet the rest of the posse. On the street, in the bars, I met so many people I knew & the talk was of just one thing. The Buzzcocks, a much-loved band had reformed & were playing their first London gig for a very long time. Small groups of people became a crowd as we approached the Brixton Academy. Inside the funky converted cinema there was not a spare seat to be had. A roar greeted the band’s appearance but it was the first chorus of the first song…”these Promises…Whoa-oh-oh…are made for us…Whoa-oh-oh, oh-oh”…when both the audience & the band knew that this was going to be a very special night.

And indeed it was. As we left the show a voice behind me said “I never thought that I would hear….played live”. Here is the song he named.

The Buzzcocks were significant fomenters of a vibrant Manchester punk scene. Fellow students Pete Shelley & Howard Devoto had booked a venue so that the Sex Pistols could play in the city. Unfortunately their own band had no rhythm section & could not play. This & a following gig amalgamated like minds & talents. In January 1977 the band released their EP “Spiral Scratch”, produced by Martin Hannett, on the New Hormones label. The D.I.Y. punk credentials were impeccable, the music was absolutely seminal. The band were on their way despite Devoto deciding to leave the group.

I don’t want to make a list but great songs poured out of the band. “Orgasm Addict” was the best of the Devoto/Shelley songs. In 1978 “What do I Get” was the forerunner to 2 LPs & 2 more 45s. Pete Shelley’s world-weary take on romanticism allied to a youthful confidence that a loud & fast take on motorik German rock just might work made for a heady pop-punk mix. I saw the band play before an adoring home town audience in 1978 & it was all killer no filler…a fine Summer’s day in the park. A week later Devoto joined the Buzzcocks onstage for a ramshackle take on the Troggs.

It was a frantic year for the band. As punk spread from the big cities the ‘cocks were getting more popular. I remember graffiti in London & Birmingham, “I Hate Fast Cars”, “Noise Annoys”…cool. Roger’s lapel badge said “I get no sleep”, mine was a double header “Love” & “Bites”. Then, I guess, there were similar pressures on the band to those felt by the Undertones. What seemed fun 2 years before, a constant touring schedule, being  judged by the snappy singles, started to lose its gloss. Both Pete Shelley & guitarist Steve Diggle became more ambitious about their music and more cynical about a lot more.

The 3rd LP, “A Different Kind of Tension”, is possibly the best of the Buzzcocks’ records but Pete’s disillusionment is plain on an extraordinary Side 2. “I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life”,  “Hollow Inside” & “I Believe” are all relentless & disturbing. The boy who’s biggest problem had been falling in love with someone he shouldn’t have fallen in love with was now a man who shouted “there is no love in this world anymore”. Great  music but it did not bode well for the future.

“Tension” was the final Buzzcocks record. The record company were more eager to promote the collection “Singles Going Steady” than finance another LP. They could still make those classic singles but the band called it a day, a pity but no surprise.

“You Say You Don’t Love Me” was Micky & Christine’s song. I had been the best man at their wedding. By 1990 they had separated but were still friends, in fact for the reunion concert they were sat together in the two seats next to me. When this final romance with an ambiguous twist came around I glanced across at them…awkward ? Not a chance, they shared a smile, a kiss & held hands…two lovely people.

Pete made some solo records, good ones. We went to see the “Homosapian” tour because we were fans. What we really wanted was Pete, Steve Diggle, Steve Garvey & the rock solid John Maher charging into those songs they had written between 1976 & 79. It could be dismissed as our own nostalgia for some very carefree times. I prefer to see it as an example of music that has spirit, energy & humour having value at whatever stage of life you are at. The Buzzcocks were a great British band.

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.