Pete Shelley

It goes without saying that Pete Shelley is a songwriting genius. His lyrics about unrequited love, sexuality and masturbation gave him and Buzzcocks a unique voice and over the course of a few years at the end of the 70s and into the 80s they wrote some of the definitive songs of the period. Some of their songs are among the finest of all late 20th century pop culture- Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With) obviously but also Boredom, Why Can’t I Touch It?, Harmony In My Head, Everybody’s Happy nowadays, What Do I Get?, Moving Away From The Pulsebeat, Autonomy… the list goes on and on. His death on Thursday at the age of 63 is a massive loss and the outpouring of tributes across the internet over the last couple of days shows how deeply people have been affected by Buzzcocks and Pete’s songs.

I was once in the car with mother-in-law and Singles Going Steady was in the tape player. She couldn’t believe that someone would write a song called Oh Shit never mind record it. We were out of the car before this one came on…

Orgasm Addict

And this 1981 solo single is a work of brilliance too, forward thinking and progressive musically and lyrically, funny and brave- ‘homo superior/in my interior’- and still sounds great on a dancefloor today.

Homosapien

Well It Seems So Real

More from Manchester’s musical back pages (and not Morrissey who makes it worse every time he opens his mouth right now- just when you think he can’t sink any further he does. Pretty soon it will be impossible to listen to The Smiths without visions of racist, far right fuckwittery). I overheard the opening to Why Can’t I Touch It? coming through from the TV and stopped in my tracks to let it go on. Whatever programme it was didn’t let it go on very long but it sounded superb, the reggae feel to the drums, the opening riff, all angular and jerky, followed by Pete Shelley’s high pitched frustration and confusion (I’ve always assumed this song is about sexual frustration). The twin guitars stalk around each other while the bass and drums play a kind of Mancunian dub version of Can. Why Can’t I Touch It? was released in 1979 and while it doesn’t necessarily sound very modern or 2018 it also doesn’t sound like it is nearly 40 years old.

Why Can’t I Touch It?

You’re Living Too Fast

The Vinyl Villain’s run through of Buzzcocks singles reached Orgasm Addict yesterday. Which made me think of their first album, 1978’s Another Music From A Different Kitchen (a title based on a Linder piece of art called Housewives Choosing Their Own Juices In A Different Kichen). The album closed with Pete Shelley’s frenetic Moving Away From The Pulsebeat, a Buzzcocks masterclass in Mancunian street urchin punk, with thumping drums, trebly guitar and impassioned vocals. A massive breath of fresh air.

Moving Away From The Pulsebeat

Lipstick


Buzzcocks had such a sharp grasp of guitar pop music, melody and universally affecting lyrics that they’d probably have sold records if they’d been born ten years earlier, ten years later or ten years from now. I suppose the arrival of punk and DIY meant that they could just go out and do it, as this 1979 B-side shows. B-side!

>It’s For You

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Sticking with Manchester in the 80s this is former Buzzcock Pete Shelley with his 1983 ‘hit’ (number 66 with a bullet) Telephone Operator. Post Buzzcocks he dumped the breakneck guitars for a more electronic sound, with guitars. In this creepy little song Pete expresses desire for the person at the switchboard- ‘telephone operator, you’re my aural stimulator, phone you up an hour later, you’re all I’m thinking of’.

Telephone Operator.mp3#1#1

Buzzcocks ‘Boredom’

A 7″ single from January 1977 called Spiral Scratch gave us this song, Boredom, and in no particular order, Buzzcocks, Howard Devoto, the production career of Martin Hannett, the northern punk scene, the birth of the British independent record labels, D.I.Y. punk, the return of the Sex Pistols to Manchester, and provided the inspiration for dozens of other bands, not least Orange Juice (Rip It Up quotes it and copies it’s one note guitar solo). Not bad going.

How could a song called Boredom be so exciting?

Boredom.mp3