Pete Shelley, Buzzcocks Founder and Voice of Romantic Punk, Dies | Culture

Pete Shelley, Buzzcocks Founder and Voice of Romantic Punk, Dies |  Culture
Pete Shelley, at a Buzzcocks concert in Mexico City last May.Marco Ugarte / AP

Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley, 63, died Thursday after suffering a heart attack. The singer, whose real name Peter Campbell McNeish, died in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, where he had lived since 2012.

By now in the game, we can tell the truth about British punk. That the Sex Pistols weren’t revolutionaries by profession: they simply aspired to become pop stars with a provocative offer. They self-destructively too soon but waved a fabulous hitch flag at restless teens. Among them were Shelley and his friend Howard Devoto, who saw them in 1976 in a pub on the outskirts of London.

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The reaction was immediate: they became the first punks in Manchester and formed the group Buzzcocks, a name that meant nothing but has sexual echoes. A few months later, they themselves hired the Sex Pistols to perform in a small room, where they wanted to open. It could not be: the formation was not consolidated. It was also a disaster in economic terms but the concert has reached mythical dimensions; was recreated in the movie 24 Hour Party People and is considered the big bang of Manchester Sound.

The first Buzzcocks album, Spiral Scratch, it sounded crude and abounded in clichés. But, in 1977, Devoto broke away to form an intellectually ambitious group, Magazine. And Buzzcocks signed a contract with United Artists, a multinational company with a welcoming human team, with Andrew Lauder as a scout, where they became a gleaming punk-pop machine.

Shelley soon narrowed down a particular territory: from the first person, he explored the dramas of love and desire in the tender age, matters largely ignored in sexless punk. A) Yes, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t ‘ve) He spoke of an incompatible partner for social reasons; Between the lines, a gay relationship was suggested (Shelley acknowledged bisexual). The message was universal: the song would be a hit again in 1986, on the Fine Young Cannibals version.

The Buzzcocks benefited from the archive of songs produced by Pete during his student years. Songs that could incorporate the choirs to the Beatles, required by the aesthetics of the new wave, or insistent rhythms derived from herb rock. In some corners they did not sound very far from their neighbors like The Smiths or Joy Division.

Crushed by the demands of the job and prone to bouts of depression, Shelley disbanded the group in 1981 and regained his fascination with electronic pop. Again, he was signed by Andrew Lauder, then on Island. There he published Homosapien, half done with producer Martin Rushent; the BBC, which already had him under surveillance by Orgasm Addict, he was quick to veto the title track, where he detected, attention, a “homosexual proclamation.” In real life, Shelley played two bands: he had relationships with women; he was married twice and became the father of a family.

The change in aesthetics was not very well received by his public. In 1989, the Buzzcocks reunited and proved to be in good shape. In later decades they released both live albums and collections of new songs. The last was The Way (2014), financed through crowdfunding. He had achieved a “discreet fame” that allowed him to work on a whim, also in Buzz art, a half disc with Devoto.

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Pete Shelley, Buzzcocks Founder and Voice of Romantic Punk, Dies | Culture