Music lovers collective hearts- all over the world, are aching right now. Earlier this week we lost Pete Shelley, Buzzcocks main man, and prolific songwriter. It’s few who can equal the bursts of joy, and also the flow and ebb of emotion that were consistently woven into his compositions.
Luckily I got to see them in the 80s, and many times afterwards. They were one of the most energetic live bands I’ve ever witnessed, and although my exchanges with him during his WFMU visit were brief, he made an impression on me of being a lovely human being with regard for everyone as well as being very focused & fun loving.
They played live on WFMU in July 1996 and I engineered the set – before I had much tech training. It was not the greatest audio experience (I remember attaching a headphone cable to drummer Phil Barker’s belt loops and telling him he wasn’t allowed to move – and bringing him water!) , and I’m not sure any recording of it even exists, but I remember parts of the day vividly.
Buzzcocks were touring in a winnebago, and our driveway in East Orange, NJ was curvy, narrow, and had a little wall /high curb, so it was difficult for larger vehicles to navigate. They may have gotten stuck when they drove in, they definitely got stuck when driving out.
When Shelley specifically walked in the door, I was like a dog straining on a leash… “I LOVE YOU!! — I’m Diane” giggling, like a fool. He gave me a big grin and said “well, hello, I”m Pete”, and I countered with a loud “I KNOW”, and we both cracked up.
Steve Diggle must have been occupied somewhere in the station until air time, as I didn’t speak with him much. They were as gracious as could be considering that WFMU was hosting a live band with someone at the helm that was still learning to get around on the gear. They played on DJ Leila’s show, and although I don’t remember how long their set was, I DO remember them playing “What Am I Supposed To Do” a Steve Diggle composition from All Set, and “Harmony In My Head,” for sure. The rest is as they say, all a blur.
That was also the day their label -IRS records went under, and they were told they would have to give up the winnebago. After the session, they were trying to figure out what to do about the tour (this was the All Set record) and their vehicle.
This is a link to my WFMU show when I interviewed Steve Diggle -and it contains about 10 Buzzcocks songs throughout and is time stamped so you can pop around. It was edited to be a solo podcast, and there are no direct podcast links, so my podcast page is linked, and then you’ll need to browse! The iTunes listing number changes every time an episode is added, so look for the release date of 9/4/2017, as they are chronologically sorted.
It’s always sad when we lose an artist – too young or not. And with any creative person with an output, at least we have their legacy. There is a campaign to make “Ever Fallen In Love” to be #1 this week (it did not originate with the band, but they endorse it), it’s got the same Buzzcocks link, and I suppose if everyone does download the identical link, that could actually happen. There are lots of other remembrances and live shows being posted, follow the band’s twitter feed.
And, his work is done, and done SO WELL! Shelley’s solo records are wonderful and he is one of those people who I think was made to express himself through music. For that we are all very lucky, lucky that however his life meandered, that he got in front of people, made records and blew us all away. Pete Shelley’s works – with Buzzcocks and solo – were a force, an inspiration and will always put a smile on my face. Thank you, thank you, thank you.