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.
Buzzcocks 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!)
I 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.
TPE 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.