R.I.P. Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks

Music News
12/06/2018
KEXP
photo by Matthew B. Thompson

Pete Shelley, the lead vocalist of the legendary English punk outfit the Buzzcocks, passed away today from a suspected heart attack, BBC confirms. He was 63.

As one of the longest running acts in punk rock, the Buzzcocks formed in 1975 with Shelley (then using his real surname McNeish) and Howard Devoto after the two met at Bolton Institute of Technology in 1975 and subsequently traveled to London to see the Sex Pistols. Buzzcocks debuted in 1976 in Manchester, opening for the Sex Pistols. One of the seminal 1977 wave of London punk bands, they achieved both critical and commercial success, with their singles compilation Singles Going Steady widely considered one of the definitive documents of early English punk at the same echelon at London Calling or Never Mind The Bollocks.

When Devoto left the group in 1977, Shelley took over as lead vocalist and chief songwriter, a role he maintained in Buzzcocks until his death. Difficulties with their record company and a dispute with Virgin Publishing over the UK release of their greatest hits record, Singles Going Steady, brought the band to a halt in 1981, but they reunited in 1989 and continued to tour regularly, including shows earlier this year in Europe.

Shelley also had a solo career beginning int he 80s that often experimented with electronic music. Shelley released his first solo single, the song "Homosapien", produced by Martin Rushent. "Homosapien" was banned by the BBC for "explicit reference to gay sex", but this didn't stop it from becoming enormously popular in dance clubs in Europe and North America: on the US dance charts, "Homosapien" peaked at number fourteen. It was also at this time that Pete Shelley talked about his bisexuality, which had been implicit in many of the Buzzcocks songs he had written but now came to attention due to "Homosapien" and the BBC ban. The next year saw the controversial single followed by an LP of the same name.

Join us in remembering Shelley's life and music with favorites from the Buzzcocks and his solo career below. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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