×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Buzzcocks Leader Pete Shelley Dies at 63

Pete Shelley, the lead singer of the influential English punk rock band Buzzcocks, has died in Estonia. He was 63.

The BBC reported that he died on Thursday of a suspected heart attack.

On Thursday, Shelley’s band mates tweeted a statement, saying “Pete’s music has inspired generations of musicians over a career that spanned five decades.”

Formed in Manchester in the early days of the punk explosion, the band is known for short, fast and loud hits like “Orgasm Addict” — which some radio stations refused to play — “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?” and “What Do I Get.” Though no less aggressive and pointed than their peers, Buzzcocks flashed a more melodic, airplay-friendly sound, thanks to Shelley’s tuneful skills as a writer.

Buzzcocks were founded in 1976 by schoolmates Shelley (born Peter Campbell McNeish) and Howard Devoto (né Howard Trafford), who left the band in 1977 to form the angular post-punk act Magazine. Shelley went on to become Buzzcocks’ principal songwriter and front man.

Shelley left the Buzzcocks and had a hit with “Homosapien” in 1981 as a solo performer; the single was banned by the BBC for its reference to gay sex, but it became an underground hit nonetheless. As a solo artist, he issued five albums during the ‘80s; his last solo album, “Cinema Music and Wallpaper Sounds,” was released in 2016.

He later toured with a re-formed Buzzcocks, which had dates scheduled through June 2019. The reconfigured band, which featured Shelley and guitarist and founding member Steve Diggle, recorded six albums between 1993 and 2014.

Shelley was born in Leigh, England, just west of Manchester. The aspiring singer, songwriter and guitarist began playing with Devoto after answering an ad on a message board at Manchester’s Bolton Institute of Technology: “Wanted: people to form a group to do a version of [the Velvet Underground’s] ‘Sister Ray.’”

The group began working in earnest after Shelley and Devoto booked the Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, a signal event in the city’s rock history that was depicted in Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 film “24 Hour Party People.”

The group, which also included bassist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher, issued their biting debut four-song EP “Spiral Scratch” in February 1977 on their own New Hormones label.

“The implications of ‘Spiral Scratch’ were enormous,” critic Jon Savage noted in his 1991 history “England’s Dreaming.” The record became a model for a legion of DIY punks in Britain, spurring a flood of self-released music.

After Devoto exited Buzzcocks later in 1977, expressing impatience with the punk movement, the band was reconfigured with Diggle taking on lead guitar and Garth Smith joining on bass. (Smith was soon displaced by Steve Garvey.) The quartet was signed to United Artists Records in the U.K.

The group’s tuneful, acerbic singles (sharply produced by Martin Rushent) and a trio of strong 1978-79 albums – “Another Music in a Different Kitchen,” “Love Bites” and “A Different Kind of Tension” – vaulted Buzzcocks to the top rank of England’s first-generation punk groups. (The band’s early 45s were compiled on the flawless 1979 hits package “Singles Going Steady.”)

However, the group imploded after failed sessions for a fourth album, and Shelley embarked on a solo career with the proudly out-gay anthem “Homosapien.” Though the 45 made a splash, Shelley’s later solo material, which leaned on electronics and krautrock rhythms, made little impression on Stateside listeners.

Buzzcocks ultimately regrouped for live performances in 1988. Shelley and Diggle returned to the studio for the album “Trade Test Transmissions” in 1993, and continued to record and tour with a rotating cast of rhythm players into the new millennium.

Shelley’s survivors include his brother Gary.

More Music

  • Billie Eilish

    Billie Eilish Fans to Receive Perks Due to Chicago Venue Change

    Billie Eilish and her music agents at Paradigm are experiencing what most would call a first class problem. The demand to see the 17-year-old singer live has prompted a change of venue for her June 9 show in Chicago — from the 5,000-capacity Aragon Ballroom to the 20,000-plus-seat United Center arena. The last-minute venue change [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres Buys Adam Levine’s Beverly

    Adam Levine Cashes in on Sale of Max Mutchnick’s Former Mansion to Ellen DeGeneres

    Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo have sold a baronial Beverly Hills mansion with an illustrious chain of ownership for a reported $45 million to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The mainstream radio rock star, who, it was announced Friday, will not to return as a coach on “The Voice,” and the Namibian-born Victoria’s Secret [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • Dan the Automator

    Heeding the Call of Olivia Wilde, Dan the Automator Scores 'Booksmart'

    Dan The Automator, aka Daniel Nakamura, knows a thing or two about setting a mood. The Bay Area-based producer has worked on projects such as Gorillaz’s debut album, Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Prince Paul) and multiple projects with rapper Kool Keith. Now, Nakamura has set his sights on film scoring, and will make his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content