Band: Buzzcocks
Album: Love Bites
Year: 1978
Label: United Artists
Status: Still going
From the way the song bursts into life with no warning to the urgent guitar and drums, the non-stop energy blasts pop punk into our ears. So far, so expected. What’s surprising in punk is to find emotional honesty in as song, for example the distinctively timed words in the verse “You make me feel I’m dirt / And I’m hurt”. Normally we’d expect a punk song to swap the last words for “You cunt” (Sex Pistols, My Way). But not Buzzcocks. This is a personal situation, a lonely problem. As the guitar shreds at the end, and the drum whacks into the last chorus, Pete Shelley is still repeating the complaint. Nothing’s gonna fix it. Sometimes love’s too broken for you to do anything but grit your teeth or walk away.

Not humourless though. This song about love, with a huge heart on the single’s sleeve, had the B-side “Just Lust”.

Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto formed Buzzcocks in Bolton, Manchester. The band’s name comes from the buzz of music plus “cock” (or cocker) – old Manchester slang for “mate”. And Devoto’s original surname was Trafford. Yeah, they’ve got the true Manc credentials.

They went to see the Sex Pistols, and ended up opening for them when the Pistols played in Manchester, a connection commemorated in the TV show Never Mind The Buzzcocks (tellingly, it is just referred to as “Buzzcocks” to fans). Buzzcocks are important. The US ignores many UK bands, but Buzzcocks supported Nirvana on one of their last tours in 1994.

The band had a hiatus between 1981 and 1989 while Pete Shelley started a successful solo career. He worked with other artists, had a song banned by the BBC for referring to gay sex (the BBC had already banned Orgasm Addict), released an album (XL1) with a ZX Spectrum programme that displayed graphics and lyrics synchronised to the music, like an early media player visualisation. Innovation mixed with an ability to upset the establishment continued the pop punk tradition.

And so a song released in the year that Joy Division made their first TV appearance has been chosen to represent this band whose punk attitude had a huge effect on the indie and Manchester music scenes.

Extract from page 144 of 2000 Tunes: A History of Manchester Music by M. H. Rees; used with permission. Read the whole series (25 extracts) here; or my summary post. Readers might be interested in my forthcoming novel about a man obsessed with Manchester music - confusingly, it is also called 2000 Tunes!