Pete Shelley, 63, co-founder and lead singer of the 70s seminal punk band Buzzcocks, dies at 63 of a suspected heart attack.
Buzzcocks issued a statement yesterday saying that Shelley died on Thursday in Estonia where he was living.
“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 announced.
“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.”
Shelly was born in Leigh, near Wigan, in 1955 and founded the punk band in Bolton, England, in 1976 together with the singer-songwriter Howard Devoto (later of Magazine); they were regarded as more polished, but musically no less influential, than the Sex Pistols. Shelley wrote the band’s most famous song Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), which was released in 1978, nearly two years after Buzzcocks’ formation.
Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine said Buzzcocks were one of the most influential bands to emerge in the initial wave of punk rock, with echoes of their music in everyone from Hüsker Dü to Nirvana. “The Buzzcocks were inspired by the Sex Pistols’ energy, yet they didn’t copy the Pistols’ angry political stance. Instead, they brought that intense, brilliant energy to the three-minute pop song. Shelley’s alternately funny and anguished lyrics about adolescence and love were some of the best and smartest of his era.”
Many artists paid tribute to Shelley on Twitter.
Charlatans’ singer Tim Burgess wrote that Shelley’s “perfect three-minute pop songs” were “the soundtrack to being a teenager”.
Teenage Fanclub singer Norman Blake tweeted how important Shelley’s songs had been in his youth, and remained so today ‘Not been on here for a while, but I can’t not mark the passing of Pete Shelley. I love(d) Buzzcocks. His songs were important to me when I was a young man and they still are to me now. Thank you Pete and R.I.P. You will be missed.’
Also singer Tracey Thorn, formerly of Everything But The Girl, tweeted Shelley had been an “amazing songwriter” while authorNeil Gaiman tweeted “part of my youth dies with him”.
Back in 2006, speaking about his views on music, Shelley stated, “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 started their career when the punk movement began to take off. Just a couple of weeks after forming the band, Shelley and Devoto travelled nearly 200 miles in a borrowed car to see the Sex Pistols play and managed to convince the latter band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, to let them play on the same bill in return for organising a gig for the Sex Pistols in Manchester.
They could not complete their line-up in time to play the gig, but they managed to play when the Sex Pistols returned one month later.
Buzzcocks helped to kick off the career of another band thatwould have become worldwide famous: Joy Division opened for Buzzcocks for their first gig.
Peter Hook, the JD and New Order bassist, said Shelley was a “true gent” after reading the news of Shelley’s death on Thursday. He tweeted: “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.”
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