Buzzcocks lead singer Pete Shelley is dead at 63

Co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks had suspected heart attack

Pete Shelley of the Manchester 70’s punk rock band Buzzcocks performing at the Academy, Abbey Street, Dublin on Friday 23rd October 2009. File photograph:  Matt Kavanagh

Pete Shelley of the Manchester 70’s punk rock band Buzzcocks performing at the Academy, Abbey Street, Dublin on Friday 23rd October 2009. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

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Buzzcocks leader singer Pete Shelley has died of a suspected heart attack aged 63.

Buzzcocks official Twitter account said: “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.”

“Pete’s music has inspired generations of musicians over a career that spanned five decades and with his band and as a solo artist, he was held in the highest regard by the music industry and by his fans around the world.

The band added that a more detailed statement would follow.

The lead singer’s brother Gary McNeish wrote on Facebook: “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, is tell you my brother Pete Shelley had a heart attack this morning and passed away.”

The band rose to fame in the late 1970s with their song Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) receiving critical acclaim. It reached No. 12 in the UK charts in 1978.

Shelley was born in Leigh, near Wigan, England, and formed Buzzcocks in Bolton in 1975 with Howard Devoto. They were one of the seminal bands of the punk era. They made their live debut in Manchester in 1976, on the same bill as the Sex Pistols. The band self-financed and released their debut EP,  Spiral Scratch, in 1977. Devoto left the group shortly afterwards and Shelley took over singing duties, with  Steve Diggle on bass and John Maher on drums.

They released three albums, Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978), Love Bites (1978) and A Different Kind of Tension (1979), and broke up in 1981. Shelley and Diggle reformed the group semi-regularly beginning around 1989, touring as recently as 2016 and releasing a new record, The Way, in 2014.

Speaking in 2006 about his views on music, Shelley told the Guardian: “I’m not interested in being able to play. A musician is like another brand of entertainer.

“There are plenty of musicians that I enjoy watching that are entertainers. But I wouldn’t want to be that, because the thing with an entertainer is that there is always that dishonesty, which is what punk tried to get rid of.

“It was like, you’re not pretending to be something you are not. You are just what you are. Punk is an art of action. It’s about deciding to do something and then going out and doing it.”

The Buzzcocks in the early days. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns
The Buzzcocks in the early days. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns

Peter Hook, ex-bassist of New Order, described Shelley as a true gent”. “He helped us so much at the start of our career out of a sheer love for all things punk. Without Pete & the Buzzcocks I would probably still be working at the Docks,” Hook said

Lead singer of The Charlatans Tim Burgess also paid tribute to Shelley. “Farewell Pete Shelley. The first album I ever owned was Love Bites By Buzzcocks. This is my favourite song by them.”

Norman Blake, the frontman of the band Teenage Fanclub, said : “His songs were important to me when I was a young man and they still are to me now.”

Singer Tracey Thorn, of Everything But The Girl, quoted from Buzzcocks’ song track 16 Again in a Twitter post showing a photo of a young Shelley: “But after all life’s only death’s recompense.” She described Shelly as “an amazing songwriter”.

The author Neil Gaiman tweeted: “Part of my youth dies with him. RIP Pete Shelley.”

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