Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley grappled with metaphysical questions as eloquently as he wrote about physical desire
I thought Pete Shelley was going to die the night Buzzcocks played the Double Door in May 2010. The temperature hadn’t dropped much from its 90-degree high in the afternoon, and the club felt like a bathhouse. steam. Shelley’s hair had thinned out and it had gained a ton of weight since I had last seen British punk legends seven years earlier. He seemed to be in great pain under the lights, and as he sweated through the band’s early punk-pop classics – “I Don’t Mind”, “Love You More”, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn ‘) t ‘) ve) “- I wondered how many times he had sung them since they first hit stores in 1978, and where his mind was going as his body tore them apart at breakneck speed.
Shelley – who truly passed last week, devastated by a heart attack at the age of 63 – is celebrated for these sublimely eye-catching singles of romantic angst and confusion, and for her open and pragmatic bisexuality, which has come to the fore. flourished in her solo dance. -club hit “Homosapien”. But while his songwriting was the subject of a great deal of romantic lamentations, always spoken in the second person regardless of gender, from there he could switch to a pure philosophy or a noble spirit. . No song sums up this dichotomy between the carnal and the metaphysical better than “Why Can’t I Touch It?”, A B-side from the 1979 Buzzcocks. Its mischievous title suggests the complaint of a horny teenage girl, but at the top of her voice. bass riff and crisp rhythm guitars, Shelley longs for transcendence: “Well it feels so real I can see it / And it feels so real I can feel it / And it feels so real I can taste it / And it feels so real I can hear it / So why can’t I touch it? ” Word Why spans almost two bars.
“Orgasm Addict”, the band’s first single after signing in 1977 to United Artists Records in the UK, is still too hilarious and obscene to air on commercial radio, brimming with teenage lust. The main character compulsively masturbates, then has unique moments with assistant butchers and bellboys. “You kiss with school kids, winos and heads of state,” Shelley sings. “You even did it with the lady who puts the little plastic spools on the Christmas cakes.” In the middle of the song, where you would expect a guitar solo, Shelley’s wordless vocals reach a screaming climax.
The demands of the body seep through Another music in a different kitchen, the group’s first LP in 1978, with rockers as feverish as “I Need” and “You Tear Me Up”. Shelley was still in her twenties when he wrote these songs, but no later than 1993, on the excellent Commercial test transmissions, he always worked in this vein: on the spiritual “Palm of the hand”, he begs a lover to “Directing attention, yes, the kind that relieves / You have the instruments of pleasure at the end of your sleeves.”
For all the lust of Shelley’s songs, he was also preoccupied with the big questions of existence, which began to pervade his lyrics as Buzzcocks went from two-and-a-half-minute melodic blasts to a more psychedelic sound. On Love bites, the band’s second LP, Shelley revel in paradox, questioning the nature of consciousness (“Only in the real world things are like in my dreams”) and time (“Well how strange it might sound / My future and my past are currently in turmoil / And I’m riding a wave of nostalgia for an age yet to come “). Musically, he began to favor chirping guitar riffs, repeating endlessly on John Maher’s edgy drums – their grooves reached hypnosis on cosmically-oriented songs such as “ESP” and “Are Everything”. .
“I was doing philosophy and comparative European literature when Buzzcocks started”, Shelley say to the Quietus in 2014. “As [Buzzcocks guitarist] Steve Diggle says we were punks with library cards. We found a whole new world of ideas, but we tried to temper all of that meaningful stuff with humor. ”This intellectualism became more evident on the band’s third LP in 1979. Another kind of tension, whose title song is an epic litany of conflicting commandments: “Be good! Be bad! / Be wise! Be stupid! / Be careful! Be dangerous! / Be satisfied! Be envious!” At the end of the song, the controls come to you simultaneously, on the left and right stereo channels.
“A Different Kind of Tension” is followed by seven-minute “I Believe”, which is even more awe-inspiring – it became the band’s closer show for years to come. Fans walked home chanting the climactic chorus (“There is no love in this world and more!”), But the preparation for this release is an encyclopedia of competing belief systems: communism, fascism, futurism, absolutism, Christianity.
Bored with the Buzzcocks formula, Shelley broke up the band in the early 1980s for a solo career, helping to lay the groundwork for electro-pop with his Homosapien LP. But on the blowing, otherworldly “What’s that?” questions always arise from him: “Is there anyone there?” / I thought about it / Do we really have a soul? / Is there a paradise?
The Buzzcocks reunited in 1989, and Shelley and Diggle led changing lineup for another three decades. As recently as 2006, on the title track of their album Flat pack philosophy, Shelley was always searching for answers, “Why am I here, why do we live?” / All my hopes, dreams and desires / Assembly required. Now that Pete Shelley’s mind and body have parted ways, I hope he finds what he’s been looking for all these years and, finally, touches it.