FLASHBACK: The Buzzcocks

by Hannah Galvin

Manchester saw itself in a cultural stir back in 1976. The punk era had exploded, everyone everywhere seemed to be communally pissed off and the Sex Pistols fronted an iconic show to a room of forty people at the Lesser Free Trade Hall.

A gig still talked about today, we can thank the organisers of the show Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto – the founding members of THE BUZZCOCKS.

In the same year they formed, The Buzzcocks clearly didn’t waste any time as they were quick to record and distribute their first single Spiral Scratch. Through the exposure of this ten minute EP and playing contextualised gigs, the punk group had themselves signed with United Artists by just 1977.

Between the period of Spiral Scratch and their United Artists debut single Orgasm Addict, The Buzzcocks experienced a lineup modification. Co-founding member Devoto had left the group to go out and promptly make his band Magazine happen. The group’s bassist Garth Smith had followed suit. By this point, The Buzzcocks would now consist of both Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle on guitar and vocals, Steve (Paddy) Garvey on bass and John Maher on drums.

Since signing to United Artists, they had released two singles and their debut record, Another Music In A Different Kitchen.

Being a part of the Punk movement, they controversially played on the conservative, music television program Top Of The Pops (TOTP). Although this was a very odd thing for a punk band to do, their aim was not to sellout but t0 “spread the word”.

Their chart-hogging single ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ saw The Buzzcocks appear three times on the show, although they had played on TOTP more than double the amount of times in total.

Extremely quick with their recordings, The Buzzcocks were pretty much touring every two months by the year of 1978 as they believed that every single released was to coincide with an array of shows. They released their first two full-length records in this same year!

October 1979 saw the final Buzzcocks studio album released by United Artists. It’s imminent title, A Different Kind Of Tension was quite fitting as the relationships between both the band members and the label had become problematic.

After United Artists became EMI, the band were struggling. By 1981, The Buzzcocks turned to producer Martin Hannett (Joy Division) as their regular guy Martin Rushnet (The StranglersGeneration X) became increasingly unavailable.

Everything had pretty much turned to shit by this point as the drugged up sessions with Hannett resulted in wasted hours and catastrophe as the band saw themselves fucking around during precious studio time.

However, 1981 for Shelley wasn’t too shabby at all as his label Genetic had kicked off; not to mention the release of his debut solo single Homosapien.

Although The Buzzcocks had disbanded, they reformed in the year of 1990. After a US tour with the classic Buzzcocks‘ lineup, Diggle and Shelley have since been extensively recording and playing shows as a result of their lively reunion. With them on the road, they are accompanied by Tony Barber on bass and Phil Barker behind the drum kit.

You can trust that as long as founding member Pete Shelley is around, the sound of The Buzzcocks won’t change too drastically as he once wrote, “How I hate modern music…. How I wish it would stop.” Well Shelley, if you feel that much haste towards music in this day and age, you may as well have written that with your blood!

Published on Purple Sneakers.