When I was a junior in high school my Spanish teacher (Slopers, remember Snora?) caught me listening to my Walkman in class. When she confiscated it I told her I wanted to take out the tape first. One of my classmates sitting next to me saw the cassette and said out loud “You listen to The Buzzcocks?” Now you have to understand, she was not saying that in a flattering way and for the next two years since we fought all the time she would always end an argument with “well at least I don’t listen to The Buzzcocks.” She even signed my senior yearbook that way. I still think it’s funny to this day. What really matters though is how much I loved that band back then and more important, still do.
That cassette was entitled Singles Going Steady and was “acquired” from the old Bill’s Records and Audio at Metrocenter Mall. I’ll be honest, the only reason I got the tape was the title of the lead track, “Orgasm Addict”. I was only a freshman at the time, what do you folks expect from a child? However, when I actually played the whole tape I was floored. I was already a fan of The Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash. This was an English punk rock band that somehow slipped through the cracks for me when I was listening to those other bands in grade school. Singles Going Steady was a compilation of the band’s U.K. singles from 1977-1979 and the accompanying B-sides for those singles. “Orgasm Addict” is a great song but paled in comparison to other songs on that cassette such as “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”, “Autonomy”, “I Don’t Mind” and my favorite song from the band, “What Do I Get?”
The Buzzcocks came together in Bolton, Manchester, U.K. back in 1976. The band was founded by vocalist Howard Devoto and guitarist Pete Shelley. Devoto left the band after just one year and one EP entitled Spiral Scratch. Pete Shelley took over the vocal duties and to be honest, I have always felt that the best work from The Buzzcocks came with Shelly on the mic. The classic line-up of Pete Shelley on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Steve Diggle on the guitar and vocals, Steve Garvey on bass and John Maher on drums from late 1977 to 1981 released the first three Buzzcocks albums from 1978-1979, Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978), Love Bites (1978) and A Different Kind of Tension (1979). The band broke up two years later.
I never had a chance to see The Buzzcocks during the original run but did see the band play a phenomenal set at The Jar during one of their reunion tours that started happening after 1989. Don’t ask me what year since I can’t remember. The band did not possess the raw punk attitude of The Sex Pistols, the political activism of The Clash or the wild energy of The Damned. What they did possess was an incredible mix of pop hooks with punk rock energy. I always considered the band to be more of a power pop band than anything, one listen to their music if you never have and I think you would agree with me.
Amazingly enough with Shelley and Diggle still part of the fold The Buzzcocks are still going strong, having just released their ninth album The Way in 2014 and playing Chicago’s Riot Fest later that same year. For the uninitiated I recommend both Singles Going Steady and 1991’s Operator’s Manual: Buzzcocks Best, plenty of singles from the glory years of the band to get you fully acquainted with what punk pop should sound like! Here is the video for my favorite song “What Do I Get?” Pop hooks galore!
Album Inspiration: Operator’s Manual: Buzzcocks Best