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Obituaries

Buzzcocks co-founder Pete Shelley, British punk pioneer, dies at 63

  • Influential band from northern England debuted in 1976 as the opening act for the Sex Pistols
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 7:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 11:24am

Pete Shelley, the lead singer of the punk band Buzzcocks, has died aged 63, his bandmates have said.

“It’s with great sadness that we confirm the death of Pete Shelley, one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks,” the band said on Thursday evening.

“Pete’s music has inspired generations of musicians over a career that spanned five decades and with his band and as a solo artist, he was held in the highest regard by the music industry and by his fans around the world.”

The songwriter died of a suspected heart attack on Thursday in Estonia, where he was living, the BBC quoted the band’s management as saying.

Shelley wrote the band’s most famous song Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), which was released in 1978 – about two years after Buzzcocks formed.

Shelley was born in Leigh, near Wigan, in 1955 and began forming Buzzcocks in Bolton in 1975 with Howard Devoto, later of Magazine.

The band became part of the UK’s punk scene and have been closely associated with it ever since.

Speaking in 2006 about his views on music, Shelley said: “I’m not interested in being able to play. A musician is like another brand of entertainer.

“There are plenty of musicians that I enjoy watching that are entertainers. But I wouldn’t want to be that, because the thing with an entertainer is that there is always that dishonesty, which is what punk tried to get rid of. It was like, you’re not pretending to be something you are not. You are just what you are. Punk is an art of action. It’s about deciding to do something and then going out and doing it.”

Buzzcocks were there as the movement began to take off. Weeks after forming, Shelley and Devoto drove 320km (200 miles) in a borrowed car to see the Sex Pistols play and eventually convinced Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren, to let them play on the same bill in return for organising a gig for them in Manchester.

Punk is ... about deciding to do something and then going out and doing it
Pete Shelley

While they were not able to complete their line-up in time to play the gig, they did manage to play when the Pistols returned a little more than a month later.

They were also there to help launch the career of another band that went on to great success. Joy Division opened for Buzzcocks for their first gig.

Joy division and New Order bassist Peter Hook said Shelley was a “true gent” after news of his death broke on Thursday.

“He helped us so much at the start of our career out of a sheer love for all things punk. Without Pete and the Buzzcocks, I would probably still be working at the Docks,” Hook tweeted.

Other musicians also paid tribute to Shelley. Tim Burgess, lead singer of the Charlatans, praised Shelley’s skill at crafting songs.

Norman Blake, the frontman of the band Teenage Fanclub, paid tribute to the enduring musical legacy of Shelley.

And Tracey Thorn, formerly one half of the duo Everything But the Girl, also paid her respects, quoting from Buzzcocks’ track 16 Again.