It’s a compliment to Pete Shelley that his death has provoked some rather fine online tributes from his friends and peers. In the modern world where something along the line of ‘Pete Shelley, sad news, RIP’ is regarded as newsworthy it’s nice to hear the likes of Peter Hook genuinely stating that without Mr Shelley he would probably still be working the docks.
Shelly was an innovator and along with fellow Buzzcock Howard Devoto kickstarted the Manchester scene. I described their early adventures a couple of years back.
After Devoto left the weight of keeping the band going fell heavily on Shelley’s shoulder. He wrote most of the songs and sang them in a slightly fey voice somewhere between Jilted John and AL Stewart, and when he wasn’t singing we was playing weedy guitar solos which had a slight beauty all of their own
The band were at the top of their powers at the end of the 70’s. ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ was deservedly their greatest hit, a great tune with lyrics we call all identify with. For 3 years they were a pop band just like One Direction or anyone else modern who I don’t care about. If you went to a disco you would people hear Buzzcocks along with Blondie, Squeeze, Boney M and the Bee Gee’s. They were punk and popular. ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ tends to overshadow their other songs but there were plenty to enjoy from ‘Orgasm Addict’ to ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ .
That was Shelley’s legacy, the early albums had some interesting moments as did his brief solo career but like so many bands, a quick perusal of their back catalogue shows live albums and greatest hits and live recordings of their greatest hits outnumbering new product.
Buzzcocks were still touring earlier this year and as with Blondie the current line-up has probably been together a whole lot longer than the original but can still remember the originals names (‘Paddy’ Garvey and John Maher if you’re asking ) but haven’t a clue is on currently on bass and drums. The band continued to make the occasional record which were fine, but it would be a weird fan who turned up hoping to hear all of ‘The Way’(2014) or ‘Modern’ (1999).
And what a lot of the tributes illustrate is that this was the soundtrack to our youth and in a way that’s so much more important than the actual quality of the music. How great it was to have ‘ Fast Cars’ or ‘Promises’ or ‘What do I Get?’ as the music of our formative years, we were spoiled. In a way Shelley was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time but then again so were we.
And that still leaves the question why was he living in Estonia ?