The New European

PUNK TO THE END

Re­mem­ber­ing my friend, the Buz­zcock Pete Shel­ley

- BY MAL­COLM GAR­RETT

When Buz­zcocks singer Pete Shel­ley died last week there was a wide­spread out­pour­ing of af­fec­tion. MAL­COLM GAR­RETT, who de­signed the band’s strik­ing cov­ers (and this week’s stun­ning New Euro­pean front page), re­mem­bers the PG Wode­house of punk and tells the sto­ries be­hind their great­est cre­ations

If I hadn’t met Pete Shel­ley ev­ery­thing would have been com­pletely dif­fer­ent. When I look back on more than 40 years, I think ‘how lucky was I?’ I called him the PG Wode­house of punk.

I met him through Lin­der Ster­ling (cre­ator of the iron-headed woman im­age on Buz­zcocks’ Or­gasm Ad­dict sleeve), who I was at col­lege with. She went to see Buz­zcocks to­wards the end of 1976 and de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship with Howard Devoto (orig­i­nal Buz­zocks singer, later in Mag­a­zine). She in­tro­duced me to Howard and to Richard Boon (Buz­zocks man­ager) and at the start of 1977 I met Pete when they all came to a party at my flat in Rusholme.

By then they had pro­moted a Sex Pis­tols gig in Manch­ester and be­cause of that peo­ple talk about Pete as a cat­a­lyst for punk. But that’s not fair. A cat­a­lyst takes no part in the chem­i­cal re­ac­tion. He pre­cip­i­tated the re­ac­tion and par­tic­i­pated in it.

Buz­zcocks were a one-off. The com­bi­na­tion of punk and pop with­out ever los­ing its edgi­ness, but still with the im­mense charm that Pete had. Howard was bril­liant but he did not have the charm of Pete. He had that look in his eye that made you think you were both in on a se­cret, that he knew you knew some­thing no­body else did.

As a writer he was ex­tra­or­di­nary. The more I lis­tened and paid at­ten­tion, the more I ad­mired the deep in­tel­lec­tual level and also the deep en­ergy level he worked on.

When I heard Pete had passed away I was on a train from Lon­don to Manch­ester. It was the day of the O2 out­age and you could only get lit­tle bits of con­nec­tion. So you went from hear­ing a ru­mour to peo­ple try­ing to con­firm it to the fact that it had ac­tu­ally hap­pened.

I pre­tend to be blase about peo­ple pass­ing away. My fa­ther passed away early, my el­der brother has passed away since. It’s just a way some peo­ple deal with it.

With Pete, though, I had a pow­er­ful sense of how, just through the things he did and said and the way he went through life, he was the most di­rect in­flu­ence on my work as a de­signer. I found the best band, and the best writer, the ones who hap­pened to be a per­fect match for me and my sen­si­bil­ity.

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