How the boozy, druggie, bisexual Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley made music history

How the boozy, druggie, bisexual Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley made music history

December 8, 2018

Peter Hook, who later formed Joy Division and New Order, was there, as was Morrissey.

It was organised by students Pete McNeish and Howard Trafford. Within six weeks they were calling themselves Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto — and were supporting the Pistols with their own band, Buzzcocks.

This time Factory Records visionary Tony Wilson was there, as well as The Fall’s Mark E Smith and Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis.

Pete Shelley died on Thursday aged 63. If his only achievement was promoting those two gigs he would go down in music history.

But punk pioneers Buzzcocks inspired fans and musicians in so many ways.

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wrote on Instagram: “Buzzcocks pretty much invented a style that would influence multiple generations of lonesome hearts and weirdos.”

The Charlatans’ singer Tim Burgess said Shelley’s “perfect three-minute pop songs” were “the soundtrack to being a teenager”.

Peter Hook said: “Without Pete and the Buzzcocks, I’d probably still be working at the Docks.”

Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols said: “A superb songwriter, artist and a totally sweet-hearted guy who was one of the very few originals of punk and even a one off within that.”

Pete grew up in a typical working-class family in Leigh, 10 miles west of Manchester.

His mother was a mill worker and his father a ­fitter in the nearby Astley Green Colliery.

Buzzcocks were early indie pioneers. They paid for their record’s production themselves, raising cash from friends and family.

Their 1977 Spiral Scratch debut EP ended up selling 16,000 copies and reaching No 31. In 1978, after Devoto left, they had their biggest hit with bisexual Pete’s song about a gay relationship, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), which reached No  12.


Five of their best tunes

At the height of Buzzcocks fame boozy Pete — who played a split Starway guitar which he had broken in a fit of rage — described his relationship with drugs: “I took lots and lots of acid, coke, heroin, everything — I went to the point where time doesn’t exist any more.”

Buzzcocks split up and reformed several times over the decades. In 2012 Pete moved to Tallinn in Estonia with his second wife Greta.

After a life of raising hell, the original punk said he liked its slower pace of life.

In 2014 the band released final album The Way — but Pete’s music legacy lives on.


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