Sixteen Again book cover

Mancunian Paul Hanley is an excellent choice of writer to author Sixteen Again, a book filled with close to 300 pages of interview snippets from the remaining members of Buzzcocks plus early founding member Howard Devoto, Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett and others.

After all, Hanley served as drummer for fellow Manchester band The Fall during the first half of the 80’s (his brother Steve was formerly the band’s bassist).

Sixteen Again is an ideal read for those looking to gain insight into the early Manchester music scene through many of its major players. As Buzzcocks also happen to be my favourite band, I appreciate Hanley’s equal love for the band and its impact on the punk and post-punk world.

He literally went with a few mates to drummer John Maher’s house to have a chat and was surprised at how friendly Maher was, given that they’d turned up unannounced at his doorstep. “The Pistols and The Clash looked like they could and would kick my head in given half a chance. Buzzcocks looked more like they would make me a brew.”

Buzzcocks

There was no real music infrastructure in Manchester, or any other regional cities. Everything was concentrated in London, and everything was concentrated with the major record companies. So if you wanted something to get done you needed go to London. But we bucked that trend by starting something in Manchester. – Pete Shelley, on getting gigs set up back in the early days.

Penetration fanzine creator Paul Welsh recalls a person with a fistful of cheap homemade flyers thrusting one in his general direction as he left a John Miles gig at The Palace. Disappointed and disillusioned with the show he’s just seen, Paul was canny enough to recognize that this would be a gig worth attending.

Band guitarist Steve Diggle described that now-iconic Buzzcocks/Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall as “the day the punk rock atom was split.”

On rehearsing for the first time with Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, Diggle added, “somehow, we connected. It was defiantly there. I think it stemmed from all three having experienced the Pistols. The feeling that you don’t need money, you just need ideas.”

John Maher reveals how Richard Boon became the band’s manager in a funny quip (page 57): “Howard was in the basement flat, Richard was on the ground floor, and his flat was nearest the phone in the hallway, so when calls started coming in about the band it was generally Richard that was answering them, which I always say is the reason he became the manager!”

The Fall drummer Paul Hanley
[Author/musician Paul Hanley]

I was happy to explore Manchester together with the author through entertaining and interesting conversations and observations, which made me appreciate Buzzcocks even more. He even got the one of Britain’s best-known graphic designers (and Buzzcocks chief creative wiz), Malcolm Garrett, to create the book jacket design and limited-edition badge.

For the Factory Records fans out there, you’d be pleased to learn that Garrett was also friends with would-be designer Peter Saville and it was Malcolm’s relationship with Buzzcocks that inspired Saville to offer his design services to Tony Wilson at a Patti Smith gig.

Included in this Manchester graphic designer powerhouse was Keith Breeden, who was helped by Garrett to find work as a struggling artist, and later turned out cover designs for ABC, Scritti Politti, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Duran Duran and The Mission UK.

The author thanks Pete Shelley at the book’s end for his invaluable help when he was navigating the years between 14 and 16. “I believe I’m not the only one.”

Paul Hanley has also authored Leave the Capital: A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings and Have A Bleeding Guess: The Story of Hex Enduction Hour. He and brother Steve currently host Oh! Brother, a popular podcast about The Fall.

Sixteen Again, in hardback, is available via Route Publishing beginning April 17, 2024.

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