Pete Shelley was a real hero. A true personal inspiration. For me he was the magic bridge between the 60’s pop of my parents (The Beatles especially), and this new, rebellious rock referred to as ‘Punk.’ Upon hearing Buzzcocks in 1979, I immediately knew this was “Beatles on 45 rpm.” Super-sped up, but with an unmistakable melody and amazing hooks. Shelley’s nasally voice wasn’t classically great like Lennon or McCartney, but he always got a lot out of what he had.
And the lyrics, oh the wonderful writing. Razor sharp and concise and poignant. Pete Shelley definitely had a way with words. “I just need a lover like any other, what do I get?” is a universal theme. So is “In your dreams does your lover have my face” from ‘Lipstick.’ The entirety of “ You Say You Don’t Love Me “ is breathtaking:
You say you don't love me
well that's alright with me 'cause I have got the time
To wait in case someday, you maybe change your mind
I've decided not to make the same mistakes this time around
As I'm tired of having heartaches, I've been thinking and I've found
I don't want to live in a dream, I want something real
And I think I understand now the way that you feel.
Who hasn’t ever felt that way? Buzzcocks were one of the catalysts, along with Elvis Costello and Husker Du, that pushed me over the line at age 20 to pick up a guitar and start a band. They were my inspiration, not just the great songs and arrangements, but the cool sleeves and artwork and the sense that they were truly in control of what they were doing. Today I read a quote from Shelley from The Guardian:
"I’m not interested in being able to play. A musician is like another brand of entertainer. There are plenty of musicians that I enjoy watching that are entertainers. But I wouldn’t want to be that, because the thing with an entertainer is that there is always that dishonesty, which is what punk tried to get rid of. It was like, you’re not pretending to be something you are not. You are just what you are. Punk is an art of action. It’s about deciding to do something and then going out and doing it. "
I can’t think of a better description of Punk, and I know Adrienne and I have always adopted this exact ethos. Pete Shelley had the songs, the sounds, the lyrics. Every song I write I hold up to his standard, and I’ve only written a few that come close. I encourage you to listen to Love Bites, Another Music In A Different Kitchen, A Different Kind Of Tension, or Singles GoingSteady and see how it was all done, so beautiful and so real...you can touch it!
When were thinking about how we could breathe life into Zub again, our thought immediately went back to our original passion for music. Shelley and Buzzcocks are Ground Zero for that. It’s in the name of our podcast, a tribute to that seminal album, Singles Going Steady, in the 001 episode of Spiral Scratch. To cite a favorite Buzzcocks’ song, they are our Raison d’Etre. Thanks, Pete