A post on Facebook from Pete Shelley’s brother John Gary McNeish, (McNeish is Pete’s real surname) states that Pete died of a heart attack this morning. We have now had this confirmed by BBC 6 news and his Wiki page. Our hearts are truly broken. Pete along with Howard Devoto brought the Sex Pistols to Manchester in 1976 and formed Buzzcocks – one of the beating hearts of the Manchester music scene.
This has now been confirmed on BBC 6 news and added to his Wiki page:
Our sincere condolences go out to Pete’s family
Pete Shelley & Buzzcocks – A Potted History
Few people realise that the whole Manchester punk explosion would not have happened in quite the same way, if at all, had Pete Shelley not travelled to High Wycombe in 1976 to see the Sex Pistols. Active from October 1975, The Pistols were making waves in London and Pete and his mate Howard Devoto went to check them out. Pete subsequently struck a deal with Malcolm McClaren to bring the band up to Manchester, where they played two dates at The Lesser Free Trade Hall – the first on June 6th 1976 and the other the 20th July.
Depending who you listen to there were 29 to 40 people in the audience at the first gig with the support, a little known local rock band called Solstice. Between the two gigs The Pistols improved their playing immensely (Edweena Banger Interview LTW).
Those in the audience included a young Morrissey, Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Tony Wilson (Who was fronting So It Goes at the time), Eddie Garrity (Ed Banger), Mark E Smith, and of course Slaughter & The Dogs. Buzzcocks played on the second of the two nights.
The progression of punk in Manchester would have been a wholly different affair without those two gigs. Arguably, Curtis would not have been inspired to pull Joy Division together, Morrissey may not have been inspired to form The Smiths, Mark E Smith would not have formed The Fall, The Nosebleeds with Vini Reilly (Durutti Column) may not have happened and Tony Wilson may not have created Factory.
Buzzcocks formed the heart of a DIY ethic that would spread rapidly through the genre, releasing the first self produced punk EP, Spiral Scratch in January 1977 on manager, Richard Boon’s New Hormones label. The disc included the now famous track Boredom with its B’dum B’dum punchline.
The band quickly signed to A&M and after a dodgy start with Orgasm Addict, released a string of commercial pop-punk singles, including What Do I Get?, Ever Fallen In Love (Later covered by Fine Young Cannibals) and Harmony In My Head. Devoto left to form Magazine in early ’77 releasing Shot By Both Sides, a Shelley composition which would surface later in a different form as Buzzcocks’ Lipstick, the flip side of Promises.
Three albums were released, the first Another Music In A Different Kitchen, included the track Fast Cars which would inspire another Manchester band and the follow-up Love Bites, produced by Martin Rushent. A Different Kind Of Tension was released on 1979 after which the band released a greatest hits, Going Steady and after a spat with Virgin, split up in ’81.
Buzzcocks were not a hard-core punk band, they wrote about love and relationships and like fellow Mancs, The Distractions created soulful harmonies that did indeed stick in your head.
After a solo career which included the single Homosapien, Shelley reformed Buzzcocks in 1989 and continued to tour sporadically over the years, supporting The Stone Roses at their Etihad gig in 2016.
The band’s memorable run of hit singles will never be forgotten and Pete’s legacy will run and run. The band influenced so many other bands, even the sleeve of Promises gave Altered Images their name!
Rest in peace Pete and thanks for the melodies!
Top photo (Kevin Cummins©) from Martin Ryan’s book Friends Of Mine – Punk In Manchester 1976-78