British punk/pop legend Pete Shelley – born Peter Campbell McNeish – has died of a heart attack at the age of just 63.
Both lead singer of punk pioneers Buzzcocks and a successful solo artist, Shelley had an incredible knack for melding pop hooks with punk attitude, and the results were often sublime.
The sad news has been confirmed by the official Buzzcocks Twitter page.
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.
— Buzzcocks (@Buzzcocks) December 6, 2018
Shelley was one of those who was at “that” gig by the Sex Pistols at the Free Trades Hall in Manchester on June 6, 1976 – mainly because he and bandmate Howard Devoto actually invited the London band to perform there. This gig was the seed that inspired Manchester bands ranging from Simply Red to Magazine, and The Smiths to the majestic Joy Division, to form.
Buzzcocks not only brought a huge breath of pop nous to British punk, they were pioneers in the independent record scene. Their Spiral Scratch EP was completely self-financed and self-distributed, and inspired many others to go the D.I.Y. route with great success. They were the second such band to do this, after Brisbane’s The Saints.
Perhaps their most well-known song was 1978’s clunkily named but majestically executed Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), which came to many peoples’ attention years later via a cover by Fine Young Cannibals. That version was OK, but not a patch on the energetic original. Other singles such as Orgasm Addict, What Do I Get? and Everybody’s Happy Nowadays also exhibited a pop sense that was a cut above most of Buzzcocks’ contemporaries.
While Buzzcocks disassembled and reassembled in various guises throughout the years right up to now, Shelley also had a solo career that garnered him many fans.
Perhaps his most known song in Australia was 1981’s Homosapien, a Kraftwerk-influenced electopop belter that was catchier than any one pop song has the right to be and reached number four in the charts. Not bad for an openly gay track that upset the BBC greatly at the time for the line “homo superior, in my interior”.
The influence that Pete Shelley had on later bands who followed the pop-punk/powerpop/post-punk route cannot be underestimated, and we’re rather shaken at his all-too-soon departure.
At least we know that he will live on via an amazing legacy of work. Vale Pete Shelley.