BUZZCOCKS- What Do I Get

WHY CAN’T I TOUCH IT?

-a show of appreciation for Buzzcocks

Bolton born band Buzzcocks were a different breed of Punk. Looking more like the Small Faces than Sex Pistols and decidedly more ‘minimalist’ in their sound, they channelled their anti-establishment tendencies through subtle but innovative outlets. Though aside from proving Punk comes in all shapes and sizes, their influence on the music industry generally was panoramic. They were responsible for bringing the Sex Pistols to Manchester- at that legendary show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall and another following that a month later. This incidentally was 41 years ago today, and their live debut as a band. They were the earliest band to create their own Record Label, hence becoming early pioneers of the Independant Label movement. And surprisingly, they were really one of the only Punk bands to talk about sex and sexuality in their music. Pete Shelley often discussed his bisexuality throughout their songs, such as in ‘Homosapien’. Which, at the time, was a momentous feat of courage. That and ‘Orgasm Addict’ were banned by the BBC at the time of their release.

The band met at what is now University of Bolton, via a poster put up by Howard Devoto- an endearing move definitive of a bygone era, don’t you think? He was looking for likeminded fans of the song ‘Sister Ray’, and through this met Pete Shelley. Together they went to the see the Sex Pistols in London. Here, they began their efforts to bring them to Manchester- and form a band in time to support them. Whilst they didn’t manage it for that first legendary show, it was here that Malcolm McClaren introduced them to Steve Diggle. Putting them and the gig in history books.

By January 1977, they put out their first EP- Spiral Scratch, narrowly missing out to the Damned’s New Rose becoming the earliest Punk release. Spiral Scratch was recorded by the raving genius Martin Hannett and released through their own label, and it was a huge success considering- going on to sell 16000 copies. Boredom is the single that really characterises the EP- using two alternating guitar notes repeatedly throughout the song offered a new, stark Punk sound. And lyrically, even at that early stage, it made clear that Punk was already on it’s way out. Or at least, Devoto thought so, who left soon after to form Magazine.

Following this, Buzzcocks had a shuffle round and Shelley took on vocals. His shrill sing-song voice is instantly recognisable, and widely influential. August 1977, and they signed to United Artists on the bar of the Electric Circus. They soon got to work on two next singles, ‘What Do I Get’ and ‘Orgasm Addict’. One was banned, and one was a hit- which speaks volumes on the nature of Buzzcocks appeal. Moreover, even though Punk died it’s grizzly death not long after- Buzzcocks seemed to enjoy even greater success. In 1978- when Punk was well and truly done- they released ‘Ever Fallen in Love’, which to this day is one of the most loved British songs of all time.

The important thing about Buzzcocks is that they were truly doing some different. They loved music, took inspiration from new ideas, but used it to do something   create something even newer  and more unique. They never succumbed to image, or the idea that they had to be a certain way. They were never ashamed of who they were, and weren’t afraid of doing something offensive. They may have floppy Mod hair and smart suits instead of spikes and ripped tartan, but in all honesty- they totally eclipse bands like Sex Pistols. Proving that Punk isn’t a look, a haircut, a sound or group. It’s an attitude, a defiance, it’s a f****** spirit.