# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Pete Shelley - 17/4/1955...6/12/2018

  by Maarten Schiethart

published: 4 / 2 / 2019

Pete Shelley - 17/4/1955...6/12/2018


Our Dutch writer Maarten Schiethart pays tribute to Pete Shelley who died in early December, and reflects on his late 1970's and early 1980's career both as a solo artist and as lead singer with Buzzcocks.

Many band names start with B. Beatles, Buzzcocks, Byrds, Bongos just to name a few. Most people know of the Beatles, yet how many have heard of Buzzcocks? The BBC merged a Sex Pistols' album title with Shelley's band and this has become the weekly TV highlight, 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. After suffering a great loss with the death of Mark E.Smith earlier in 2018, Manchester has now lost the other pioneer who lifted the city's music profile around 1976. At the age of 63, Pete Shelley passed away just before embarking on a tour with the revamped Buzzcocks. Mark E.Smith and Pete Shelley share little musically, yet The Fall and Buzzcocks were the bands whose singles I set out to get straight after hearing them on the John Peel Show. The Fall never made it to the Top 40, yet several Buzzcocks' singles managed to enter the charts. Before forming Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley had already sniffed at Krautrock and during the in-between and after of Buzzcocks, Shelley recorded and released 'Sky Yen', an LP of adventurous electronica. Punkpopsters felt betrayed by this display of experimental music. Only a little later Pete Shelley's take on new wave disco pop, with the single 'Homo Sapiens' which also gave his next solo album its name, rang the notion in a way that Frankie Goes To Hollywood would have settled for, and alienated him further from early disciples. Gone was the perception that this man could rival Ray Davies. Whereas few thought of Pete Shelley in comparison to Ray Davies, many thought of how punk music could relate to the Beatles and the Stones. In the slipstream of the Sex Pistols and the Clash, Buzzcocks records became widely available, yet not in numbers sufficient enough to enter the charts in countries on the continent. From 'Boredom' on the 1976 'Spiral Scratch' EP onwards, I was mesmerized by their string of absolutely fantastic singles before it came to a halt when 'You Say You Don't Love Me' went amiss chartwise in 1979. 'You Say You Don't Love Me' perhaps Shelley's finest moment, met with unrecognition, and, after a glorious stint of two and a half years, Buzzcocks parted with their major record company. United Artists, a bunch of United Bastards although Pete Shelley would never say so. Those singles all had mighty melodies, but they were mysteriously phlegmatic on peace, love and understanding and rarely took a political stance. Unheard of these days with over-priced postage costs, singles released in Britain would cross the Channel in a matter of hours. Buzzcocks' fame, however, remained restricted to Britain and late 1979 saw Buzzcocks' immediate end. Shelley makes a somewhat sparse but angrier comment on the lyrics to 'What Do I Get?'. Until then Shelley had never raised big questions. 'Fast Cars' was one other of the few songs where an antagonistic Pete Shelley would express dismay at the world. Ironically the slick cover of Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen in Love' by Fine Young Cannibals was used in a TV commercial advertising a posh sports car. Pete Shelley hated Fast Cars.

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