Pete Shelley, singer/guitarist with Buzzcocks, one of the original wave of punk bands, passed away this morning.
He was inspired to start playing rock n' roll after seeing the Sex Pistols at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976 (along with punters who would go on to form Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths and Slaughter and the Dogs.) This was a seminal moment in the cultural history of Shelley's home city. Everything that unfolded over the next few decades - Factory, New Order, Spike Island, Madchester, The Smiths, the Hacienda - could be traced back to here.
But Shelley's band were so much more than 'punk rockers.' After original singer Howard Devoto left to pursue more ambitious soundscapes with Magazine, Shelley became the principal songwriter. And what brilliant songs he crafted. Buzzcocks signed with United Artists (at Manchester's Electric Circus on 16 August 1977, the day Elvis died) then went on to release some of the catchiest three-minute anthems to have graced the charts. Shelley's sonic cocktail involved taking the essence of pop - bittersweet lyrics and irresistible hooks - then propelling everything with an adrenaline-rush of guitars.
I saw them at Edinburgh’s Odeon in September 1979, supported by Joy Division. They were touring on the back of ‘A Different Kind of Tension,’ third in a sequence of stunning albums after ‘Another Music In a Different Kitchen’ and ‘Love Bites.’
40-plus years later, his love of music was undiminished. His passing in his early 60s has come as a shock to his legion of fans but the music he created, with Buzzcocks, as well as six well-received solo albums, is timeless.