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.


It’s A Guitar Thing. (The Pitts, The Petrols And The Yeah !)

I was looking for some fresh voices for my last post on The Everlasting Yeah’s current Pledge for “Anima Rising”, their upcoming LP (go on, click it). Around my computer I know Steve Pittaway to be a man of few words, all of them apposite & accurate. He was attending TEY’s gig at the Dirty Water Club in London on the 25th of July so I commissioned (Get Me !) a review if he would be so kind. Well…Steve is, praise Odin, a man who is passionate & effusive about things that matter to him. One of these things is the music made now & then by the members of The Everlasting Yeah. So could we have a warm hand on the entrance (oo-er !) of a new & welcome correspondent to loosehandlebars.

“”Road trips to London from the Midlands for big city gigs were a regular thing in my teens & twenties. These treks started to diminish & now I’m in my forties they are almost non-existent. It takes a special band to get me back on the road on a Friday after a full week at work, knowing full well that there’s a long journey back up the M1 before the night’s end. A special band that are only on their fifth gig (We wont count the low key acoustic gig under a different name but, for the sake of one-upmanship, I was there !). I had already made an earlier trip to London, another to Oxford to see this band. So last Friday I was back on the road again.

I should state that members of this band and I have a history. Our paths first crossed back in 1985 when, in a previous incarnation, That Petrol Emotion played at Warwick University. From that first gig I never  saw them do a below par show. Petrol’s gigs were always exhilarating, life affirming, just what you want & need from live music. I was gutted when they called it a day back in 1994 (Even worse I could not make their last ever gig).

One of the great things about the Internet is it can put you in touch with people from bands that you followed, whose music you collected. Back in 1999 I was able to hook up with one Raymond Gorman, guitar slinger with That Petrol Emotion. I learned that he was still making music and was willing to share it. I liked, no, loved what he sent me and offered words of encouragement when I could. I didn’t  realise back then that it would take 15 more years for him to actually be in a position to release new material on CD/ Vinyl. Now that day is fast approaching. Excited much am I. 

Raymond, along with former TPE band mates Ciaran McLaughlin, Damien O’Neill & Brendan Kelly re-incarnated as The Everlasting Yeah 2 years ago. From the outset a demo recorded in drummer Ciaran’s lounge made clear that this was a new band, one not content to trade on former glories, pushing things in a different direction. So here I am, Friday 25th of July in the Dirty Water Club, The Boston Arms, Tufnell Park, North London and that special band take to the stage. We are told from the off that what is about to happen is the band are going to perform all of the newly recorded LP “Anima Rising” in full, with a pause in the middle while the LP is turned over to side two!

Bang !… side 1 track 1, “A Little Bit of Uh-Huh, A Whole Lot of Oh Yeah”, an earworm since I first heard it at that low key gig, setting the scene for what is to come. Duelling guitars, a locked in rhythm section, shared vocal duties mainly by Ray and Ciaran, the others chipping in when needed. I am one of the few lucky people to have heard Raymond’s early instrumental demo of the song. Back then it was a wild psychedelic guitar fest, now it is a sing along anthem one that  engages from the off. Track 2 “Hoodlum Angels”, again a song given a good kick up it’s A since it was first demoed. There’s now more meat on those bones, Ciaran & Ray’s vocals mesh wonderfully together, Brendan’s bass line holds the whole groove, while Damien’s guitar phrases glides above it.

“New Beat on Shakin’ Street”, chock full of hooks,an instant singalong. At this point I realise, as a drumstick splinters, that Ciaran is playing out of his skin. How he manages to put such intensity and passion into his drumming and vocals is beyond me. “Yeah Yeah Yeah”. Track 4 “Takin’ That Damn Train Again” a song  built on a Krautrock foundation, the whole feel of the song  one of built up frustration that spills out not only in the lyrics but the whole musical accompaniment . I for one cannot wait to hear the recorded version of this with Mr Terry Edwards on saxophone.

Time to pause and flip the record. Side 2 Track 1, “Everything Is Beautiful”, is a song I first heard Ciaran doing solo (One day this man will release his singer/songwriter LP to the acclaim it deserves.). It is a change of pace in the set, slower than the other tunes. This full blooded version takes the song to another level; wonderful dual harmonies that raise my spirit. “All around the World” is new to me and it is during this song that I realise that this band is more than the sum of its parts. I cannot imagine that the band would sound the same if one member was to leave and be replaced (a good analogy would be the Bunnymen, did they ever really sound the same without Pete Defreitas?).

Track 3, the 12 minute long “The Grind” rocked the Roundhouse at last year’s show and tonight is no different. This tour de force shows The Everlasting Yeah to be a fine tuned machine, their relentless energy spreads to fill the room. “Anima Rising” ends on these high notes. That Petrol Emotion’s encores were usually surprising & spectacular cover versions. This is a new band, things are going to be different. They decide to do a song that they have rehearsed just the once, a brave if a little mad move. Lots of nervous glances between band members but they carry it off..just about !

With that the evening is over and Raymond professes his love for us all. That’s a thing about this band, there is a lot of love around them. In the room you can feel that same love reciprocated. When I try to explain to people why I go to gigs a lot it is for that feeling when band and audience are at one. It doesn’t happen all the time but tonight it did and was worth the trip & will be worth it again for the next time.”

Big thanks to Steve for taking the time to share his passion about this special band. If you click here you can soon be in on the The Everlasting Yeah’s debut LP “Anima Rising” & that’s a good thing.

Original Artyfacts From Post Punk Derry ( The Bam Bam and the Calling Archive)

It’s been too long since I have had either the cause or the opportunity to write about my old & good friends Bam Bam & the Calling. Someone has been getting busy tidying up their attic & has stumbled upon a dusty box labelled “BB&tC: Odds & Sods”. Back in the day this consanguine cassette collection would have entertained the finder & a small circle of friends. In our Age of E-Wonders, a whiff of techknowledge, a pinch of electrickery & these freshly  relocated artefacts are available on the WWW as a free download in the form of one of those neat Soundcloud graph things. Here’s one now. Just click on the arrow because “Kitchen Dogs” really is a cracker & not to be missed.

Bam Bam & the Calling are part of a triumvirate of bands from Derry in Northern Ireland who not only shared personnel but also a belief that energy & loud guitars were requisites for good rock music. The Undertones made records that we all know (& hopefully love). If you do not know the work of That Petrol Emotion then do yourself a proper favour. You could start with an entertaining, honest interview ( music included) with Raymond Gorman, guitarist with The Everlasting Yeah & a former member of TPE. Raymond served his musical apprenticeship in Bam Bam & the Calling . He had this to say about those good times…”Bam Bam are still active, they play in Derry periodically and are still great too. I was in the second incarnation which was like Adam And The Ants meets The Clash/Bunnymen, I think we actually didn’t realise or weren’t fully aware of how great we were at the time. I felt more like a rock star playing in Bam Bam than I ever did in the Petrols. It’s a crying shame and the biggest regret of my life is that we never recorded with that line-up. We made it onto N.I. TV for 30 seconds once but no-one seems to have the video anymore. Great days. Very fond memories”.

Wow ! Adam & the Ants, the Clash & the Bunnymen all at the same time, that’s a busy & crowded stage. “Kitchen Dogs” is from 1986, just before the Bam Bams left Derry intending to show London what’s what. The band needed little encouragement to accelerate the song’s original tempo. Those teenage licks have got to make you catch your breath.  Paul, Joe, John & Tom were still on the Bunnymen, still are, always will be. It’s too late to stop now.

Photo: 1987, LondonHere’s another one from 1986. Dave Fanning is a stalwart of Irish music radio, enough respect to be compared with John Peel. For every young Irish band it was a big deal to record a session for Dave. The whole country listened, even I did for a while because British radio, apart from Peelie, was pretty hateful stuff. Apart from 24/7 exposure to Television’s “Marquee Moon”, there was a big appreciation of R.E.M’s “Chronic Town” & those first 2 LPs. “Only Sing” has a lovely Byrdsian clatter . There’s a unity & an enjoyment in the sound…another winner.

I met Bam Bam & the Calling at this time. The music was not making them enough money to cover an outrageous hair product habit. Gravity defying coiffures do not come cheap so a bit of hard construction collar was required. These 2 tracks rejuvenate very good memories of rock & roll adventures & of some great musical nights. It was always a genuine thrill to see my 4 individual friends get on a stage to do that thing they do together so well.

Bam Bam recorded just 2 excellent singles. By the time the “Absurd Song” demo was recorded in 1994 their London expedition was over & the band were back home. For songwriter Paul Pj McCartney there was time for musical experimentation but it’s still rock & roll to me, still a Bam Bam joint & that is a good thing.

Photo: 2012, Derry..that was then, this is now!A man in the know tells me that there are plenty of these tracks to come spanning the 30 year history of the group. I’m looking forward to hearing  & collecting them. All I know is that the music will be the sort that we like…the stuff with a heart full of soul. These nuggets are available at that part of Soundcloud ruled by optimumhold or you can get over to  the Facebook page, press  “like” & your social media will be sounding better already. The price is right…these beauties are being given away…proper music by proper people…you know it makes sense…you’re welcome.

Everyone Knows It’s Indie

This month Cherry Red releases a 5 CD set, “Scared To Be Happy: a Story Of Indie-Pop 1980-1989”. 134 tracks, hours of, I’m afraid, mostly harmless fun.It is a pretty broad selection, the criteria seems to be that if John Peel played your track on his show then you were a contender. There are few things more dull than men old enough to know better going “rhubarb, rhubarb” about the definition of “indie” & how come my favourite band, which is even more obscure than Bad Dream Fancy Dress or 14 Iced Bears, didn’t make the cut. So here’s some music…

Time has not served the music of the 1980s too well. Even the best of the synths & suits bands now sound a little lame. I loved Heaven 17 & ABC at the time but I rarely reach for their dry, drum-machine, white boy funk these days. The worst of them, the Thompson Twins, anyone or anything who would describe themselves as “New Romantic”, were always awful. The jangle-pop, guitar based bands of the C86 generation were OK, they referenced a lot of music that I liked. I do however prefer my sounds to not be too precious, to have, I guess, cojones. Husker Du or Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike ? Guess.

The Quality Control Dept here at loosehandlebars  have been divided about the posting of “Almost Prayed” by the Weather Prophets. Nothing to do with the music, it’s a fine record. Everything to do with the leather trousers. Come on, are there no mirrors in your house mate ? The Prophets were formed after the Loft, an early signing to Creation Records, broke up, impressively, in mid-gig. The band not only stayed with the label, founder Alan McGhee managed & even played bass with them for a while. “Almost Prayed” a 1986 single was as good as it got for the Weather Prophets.It got them on the telly & down to the trouser shop & erm…I quite like this slice of the Weather Prophets but I don’t think I could eat a whole one.

This is more like it. The House Of Love came to play with the big boys. Straight out of South London they looked, with some justification, upon “indie” as a ghetto. These young guns were hoping to hang out with U2 & the like. They had the songs which did the important trick of tipping the hat to the correct classic influences but sounding modern & dynamic at the same time. “Shine On” was released by Creation in 1987. After a big bucks major deal all the stops were pulled out to make the song the hit that it seemed to be. The House Of Love was a double act. Guy Chadwick wrote good songs (“Destroy The Heart”, “Beatles & the Stones”, check ’em out). Guitarist Terry Bickers knew his rock history & made the songs sound better. However Chadwick was a motormouth, the interviews where Bickers sits silently are a little disturbing. The boys were eager for the rock & roll lifestyle before they had earned it. Their big advance went down their necks & up their noses & Terry became increasingly paranoid about becoming sidelined. He left the band in a blaze of glorious burning bank notes, magic mushrooms & Sham 69 tunes. Terry Bickers was not a well man, by the time a re-recorded “Shine On” made TOTP he had been replaced. The House Of Love were just another band that could have.

“Scared To Be Happy” has no tracks by Orange Juice, the Smiths & Felt, 3 bands who,whatever your indie parameters, made a big impression. I know that it’s a licensing thing not a judgement call. Included are bands who were a big deal, Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain & My Bloody Valentine (all off of Creation). There are bands who did sell records & there is the next generation, the Stone Roses & the La’s. There is an unreleased demo by We’ve Got A Fuzz Box & We’re Gonna Use It…what the f…?

Oh & there is a track from this noisy bunch of guitar guerrillas.


That Petrol Emotion’s contribution to “Scared” is “Its A Good Thing”, a single from 1986  but I’m going with “Abandon” from 1990’s “Chemicrazy” LP because just look at the clip…this good at a soundcheck !  TPE, a fine bunch of Derrymen with an American singer, kicked ass with their first 2 LPs. The O’Neill brothers, John & Damien, had been part of our favourite young  pop-punks the Undertones. 10 years on they wanted to write about more than chocolate & girls but  crunchy guitar hooks played like ringing a bell were, by now, 2nd nature. The aptly named “Manic Pop Thrill” was followed by the melting pot of “Babble”, a hit round our yard but, on reflection, ahead of its time.

At the end of the 80s there was a change  in the British music scene. In 1988 Acid House broke big across the country, DJs not bands carried the swing. A new gang of boys, led by the Roses, turned up. The “Madchester” mob, the ” baggy” brigade, indie-dance they called it. In 1990 TPE, hit by the departure of John O’Neill & the no show of the expected breakthrough, got a gale force of a 2nd wind with  “Chemicrazy”. The crackling charged energy of the guitars, the lyrics written by grown ups & Stevie Mack on top vocal form, was an autobahn ahead of those boys whose default setting was banal. Indie-dance, pah ! This was dance-rock.

That Petrol Emotion did not consider themselves to be part of any scene. Only yesterday, I am informed by the NSA, the writer of “Abandon” denied an affinity to “any of that fey indie bollix”. Charming language Mr Gorman !  Members of TPE drift across my F-book screen as do members of 2 of the bands who also feature on the set & are playing this weekend at a promo gig. The June Brides & the BMX Bandits always were & still are good value. Incredibly they will share the stage with 14 Iced Bears…huh ! I have no definitive or original conclusions about British Indie. The music I listened to in the 80s was by TPE  who are included but probably don’t fit, Stump, on C86 but not here & Yargo …yeah, Yargo. Another guy I listened to was  Michael Stipe, he said  “My feeling is that labels are for canned food”…It’s a broad church & music is love, especially the good music.


Mr Duglas T Stewart off of the BMX boys, if I can persuade myself that making a “friend request” is not the lamest thing a grown person can do then I hope you will look kindly on your Inbox. Also The Everlasting Yeah, 4 of That Petrol Emotion, are about to announce some gigs & let’s hope for some new music from them too, that first batch of tunes  were the very thing.