The punks who changed Scottish pop music forever
The death at 63 of the Buzzcocks frontman led music figures to recall the influence he had on them over the years and the importance of a gig in Glasgow 40 years ago
IT IS a gig that has gone down in the annals of Scottish music history. Pete Shelley’s punk icons the Buzzcocks performed at the Glasgow Apollo, supported by Vic Godard’s Subway Sect. The date was October 21, 1978, and the concert went on to inspire a generation of Glasgow bands as well as others in Scotland to pick up guitars and write intelligent pop songs with a punk attitude. That concert and Shelley’s songwriting influenced bands including Orange Juice and the Postcard Records label that also launched East Kilbride’s Aztec Camera and Josef K from Edinburgh. Until then, Scotland’s pop landscape had been largely barren, albeit with a handful of illustrious exceptions. It also gave Alan McGee a jolt that led him to form Creation Records, the label who gave us Oasis and Primal Scream. Scotland’s music scene yesterday came together to pay tribute to the Buzzcocks frontman, who died on Thursday at his home in Estonia, aged 63. McGee, 58, told the Record: “Pete Shelley’s influence on the Scottish music scene was massive. “I saw the Buzzcocks at that gig at The Apollo and he influenced the Scottish indie bands, the Postcard bands and the Creation bands, because Shelley showed you didn’t need to be the traditional rock star like Jim Morrison.
“You could be this slightly effeminate guy like Pete Shelley, who was openly bisexual.”
Orange Juice were so enamoured by Shelley that frontman Edwyn Collins wrote the band’s second single, 1980’s Blue Boy, for him.
McGee said: “He had a bigger influence on Postcard than Creation but I love Buzzcocks. I was gutted when I heard that he had died.
“The main four bands at that time of that Glasgow Apollo concert were The Sex Pistols, Clash, Jam, Buzzcocks and, arguably, The Damned. But depending on what day it was, the Buzzcocks were everybody’s favourite punk band.
“Maybe The Sex Pistols and The Clash defined punk but for musicality, maybe the Buzzcocks were better than all of them.”
McGee believes Shelley’s songs also inspired future generations of bands including Primal Scream and Belle and Sebastian.
“They were like the indie-pop side of punk,” he said. “It wasn’t that surprising that Orange Juice or Belle and Sebastian happened because of the Buzzcocks.
“They were a big influence in all of these bands.”
Franz Ferdinand’s frontman Alex Kapranos also paid tribute to Shelley.
Kapranos, 46, said: “I loved Pete’s songwriting so much. It was emotional, believable, witty and heartbreaking at the same time.
“I remember picking up a second-hand copy of What Do I Get as a teenager and it blew my mind.
“It was so short but contained so much. I played it again and again, couldn’t get enough.
“I then went out and hunted down all the singles I could find and the albums Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites.”
He added: “I remember the Buzzcocks played the Garage at some point in the 90s.
“I was on the dole and totally broke, so I walked up to the ticket office and with a brass neck said, ‘Hi, I’m Alex, I’m a close friend of Pete’s. He said I’m on his guest list’.
“The girl saw I wasn’t there but instead of the expected grip of a bouncer propelling me out the door, she said, ‘Oh, you’ve not been added yet. You’d better just go in.’ What an amazing night.
“Pete was a huge inspiration. More than anything, he embodied the true punk ethos of inclusivity, the idea that anyone can do this.
“When I was first starting out in bands, that was a great encouragement. There was no snobbishness or pretentiousness.
“He wasn’t trying to show off how fast he could move his fingers on the fretboard. I wanted to write songs like that.
“My first band, The Blisters, used to cover Buzzcocks and a direct line can be traced of his influence to Franz. A song like Michael owes a huge debt to Pete Shelley. He leaves a fine legacy and will be missed.”
Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, 53, is another influenced by Shelley’s songwriting.
He said: “His songs were important to me when I was a young man and they still are.”
McGee said: “I met Shelley about 1990. He was playing a gig in London and I asked if I could buy him a beer because he changed my life.
“I messaged Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream when I heard the news that Pete had died a couple of hours before it broke.
“Bobby loved the Buzzcocks, Andrew Innes loved the Buzzcocks, the Primals loved the Buzzcocks. We all loved them.
“When Primal Scream were making the Memphis album about 1993, the Buzzcocks played the Viper Room in LA. They were our heroes.
“We were out of our minds and the Buzzcocks were playing all these great songs of theirs from the 70s. It was amazing.
“People will go back and say how good he is. I wish he’d got that respect the last 20 years.
“He is going to get respect now and that is cool.”
BRIEFS ENCOUNTERS Tickets from Buzzcocks gigs at The Apollo in 1978 and 1979 DRIVING FORCE Shelley, third from left, with the Buzzcocks in 1979
INSPIRATION Alan McGee
FANS Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, above, and Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice, left
LEGACY Alex Kapranos