Friday, August 25, 2006

 

Buzzcocks

I've spent the last two days turning my home upside down, rummaging through through my hard drive and searching through the 100's of back up cd's looking for records I was sure that I had! The original idea behind this was to find my copy of 'Spiral Scratch' which has proved to be somewhat elusive. This has really pissed me off seeing as I have already bought 2 copies the first on vinyl back in '77/'78, that I last saw in Italy, and the second was a CD reissue back when I was living in Montpellier.
So what is there to tell about the Buzzcocks that you don't already know? Peter Shelley and Howard Devoto met up while studying in Manchester sharing a mutual interest in music. Having been intrigued by a review of an early Pistols gig, they made their way to London early 1976 to see them play. Devoto claimed that this was a life changing moment and made him want to make things happen and get involved, and so the Buzzcocks came to life. The pair persuaded the Pistols to make the journey to Manchester and promoted their first major gig out of London at the Free Trade Hall in June the same year, followed by a second show in July. These two shows are the sort of thing legends are made from, there was less than 200 people present, though many more have later to have claimed to have been there. Of those that were there we can include Mark E Smith, Morrissey and Steve Diggle who would later team up with the Buzzcocks first as their bassist and then guitarist, infact the modern renaissance of the Manchester scene dates from these concerts. By the end of the year the Buzzcocks were a gigging concern and started touting their demo tape around. They soon came to the conclusion that DIY was the way forward and so they set up their own label, New Hormones, and set about releasing it themselves, in doing so they were the first of the punk bands to release an independent single and in so doing, kick started a revolution that is still felt today. It was an EP called 'Spiral Scratch' which was well received by the press and got air play from John Peel, both of which helped to make the release a success. Just after the January '77 release Devoto decided to quit to return to full time education, Shelley took over vocal duties as the band continued gigging, being early favorites at London's Roxy club, the press interest in the band continued to mount as did the interest shown by major labels and by the end of Summer they had signed with United Artists a deal that gave them complete artistic control. This they pushed to the limit by releasing the radio unfriendly 'Orgasm Addict' as their first single. The fact that pressing plants were refusing to handle the disc did not help and the offending vinyl refused to become the hit it deserved to be. They had to wait until the more accessible 'What Do I Get' was released the following year before they were invited on Top Of The Pops. September saw their excellent debut 'Another Music In Another Kitchen' hit the shops, an album that delivered on the promise they had displayed, with its crisp melodies, driving guitars and Shelley's anguished lyrics about love and other adolescent hang ups. One of the albums many highlights is 'Fiction Romance' built on an addictive mounting guitar riff. As was common at this period bands recorded, gigged and recorded again and so follow up releases were issued very quickly and as was the case with punk bands there were many singles that were not to appear on their albums, the B side of one of their single only releases 'Love You More' has long been one of my favorite songs, from its title to its nonsense lyrics and long instrumental break 'Noise Annoys' a true classic. For me the bands finest moment was to come with their second album 'Love Bites' a true work of song writing genius with melodies and hooks that many an artist would kill for, rightly the the album was a hit. The Title of their third album 'A Different Kind Of Tension' was maybe a little bit too close to the truth as excessive drug and alcohol intakes were starting to show, add to this UA being bought out by EMI who had no real interest in the band and it was good-bye Buzzcocks. Their influence in musical terms is still evident today with many a band from Husker Du and Nirvana through to any of today's melodic pop punk bands.
generally I'm not too hot on reformed bands but the Buzzcocks have proved to be an exception having released a number of good to very good albums since reforming in the late eighties the latest of which 'Flat Back Philosophy' from earlier this year is for my ears the best of the mkII albums, it's a shame that their live sets rely so much on their older materiel. The latest album is available from Cooking Vinyl and for those wishing to catch up with their early work you only need to buy the complete 3cd 'Product' which contains everything they recorded for UA and a live set recorded for London's Capital Radio.

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