Via Roy, I found out about the death of one of my all-time favorite band frontmen- Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks passed away on December 6th. I have posted about the Buzzcocks before, their compilation Singles Going Steady, purchased by a teenaged Bastard, was the one album which most affected my musical tastes going forward. The band's sound was an incongruous mélange of aggressive, distorted guitar onslaught and warbled, emotional vocals... a perfect blend of punk aggression and pop sweetness.
The band specialized in songs about unrequited love, expressed in non-gendered terms by Mr Shelley (born Peter McNeish, he took stage name from the name his parents would have given him if he'd been born a girl). One of my favorite songs by the band, You Say You Don't Love Me, starts off with Pete singing about his unrequited love, then coming to the realization that he is okay with being, as the angry boys say, 'friendzoned'. It's a remarkably mature approach to teen emotional angst, with Shelley realizing that the word love 'entails a few things that I would be well rid of', at least in terms of this particular relationship:
What Do I Get? is a more straightforward tale of heartache, with the 'heart on sleeve' lyrics contrasting nicely with the crashing cymbal and driving, buzzsaw guitars:
The Buzzcocks also liked to subvert the typical machismo of rock-and-roll, with the song Fast Cars being a comical riposte to the typical Chuck Berry/Beach Boys/Dick Dale love of hotrods:
The band also had some more experimental songs, with Are Everything, covered later by Heaven 17, being a less straightforward song than their earlier oeuvre:
After the Buzzcocks broke up, Pete Shelley embarked on a solo career, in which he dabbled in electronic dance music. The single Homosapien is classic Shelley sexual ambiguity, expressed with good humor:
Telephone Operator was another great Shelley solo effort, an ode to an aural (or oral) stimulator which calls back to Pete's early, earnest tales of longing:
The Buzzcocks reformed for live shows, and even toured this year. Here's the band from a Mexico City appearance on this year's tour, singing their biggest hit, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)?:
The audience's singalong with the band tells you everything you need to know about the band and its fanbase. Pete Shelley gave us some great, heartfelt music with emotionally true, wise lyrics. His songs were always about tolerance, about maturity in relationships, about working through one's heartaches to find happiness:
Well, I'm not happy nowadays, now that I found about about losing Pete, but this shall pass. Pete wouldn't want us to grieve for him... the best way to memorialize him is to blast his body of work at full volume and work through the tears. Life's no illusion, love's not a dream, now I know just what it is... Pete told me that when I was still a kid, and for that I'm grateful.