Thursday, December 06, 2018

Pete Shelley (1955 - 2018)

2018 continues to be a challenging year: Pete Shelley is dead.

Pete Shelley (known offstage by his real name of Peter McNeish) is best known for co-founding and leading Buzzcocks, a landmark and long-lived punk band. Buzzcocks' influence can be felt and heard in nearly every "punk" band that you've heard on the radio, particularly Green Day and their descendants (and The Descendants).

Shelley wrote many of the band's songs, and his sense of melody and ability to write hooks enabled the band to burn furiously and brightly for several years, releasing 3 astounding albums between 1978 and 1979: "Another Music From A Different Kitchen", "Love Bites", and "A Different Kind Of Tension". During that time they also recorded a pile of incredible singles, later compiled on "Singles Going Steady".

My friends John Hong and Tyson Whitney turned me on to Buzzcocks in high school, and in college I went through a period of several months where they were all I listened to. I studied the songs and marveled at their perfect, simple construction.

Not long after that, I had the opportunity to interview Pete Shelley for my college radio station. I am somewhat embarrassed to note that I went full Chris Farley on him, and was barely able to stammer out questions not much better than "Remember when you wrote 'Nostalgia'?...THAT WAS AWESOME!" Fortunately, Pete was a good sport and handled his 10 minutes like a true professional.

Buzzcocks' songs showed a tremendous degree of versatility, and managed to make heartbreak and depression catchy and endearing. If you have to pick one song to sum up his brilliance, it is the instant classic "Ever Fallen In Love":

A close second would be "Why Can't I Touch It", which is barely punk (as currently thought of), and has the same wistfulness and longing. Another instant classic:

Pete Shelley's musical range is much broader than even Buzzcocks' broadly appealing punk. Shelley started out making vageuly kraut-rock-ish electronic music, and had some solo success with proto-synth pop, most notably the gay club anthem Homosapien:

"Telephone Operator" is almost industrial:

Thank you for the music, Pete.

[Buzzcocks and Pete Shelley's music can be found on most digital services]

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