Ever Fallen in Love

If you’re a Buzzcocks fan of any degree, I highly recommend the Pete Shelley lost interview read, Ever Fallen in Love. This new book is a thoroughly enjoyable look at one of punk rock’s greatest heroes, as interviewed by Louie Shelley (no relation to the singer).

Pete Shelley was known for having a canny attention to detail; the recordings, made over late-night calls with Louie, are brought to life here for the first time in print.

Buzzcocks at Rickshaw Theatre-8
[Buzzcocks at Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre; photo © Ariane Colenbrander/Vancouverscape]

Anyone who knows me knows my love for this band and my oft-quoted “No one writes love songs quite like the Buzzcocks do”. Having seen this band eight times in three countries, I have a deep admiration for the band’s pure power pop perfection, harmonies, buzzing guitars and easy-to-love songs produced since their humble beginnings. Two forewords, one by Henry Rollins (formerly of Black Flag), the other by Kid Strange (Shelley’s husband) kick off Louie Shelley’s introduction to the Buzzcocks story.

Each chapter dissects a Buzzcocks song. Pete Shelley leads readers down a mesmerizing rabbit hole as music sessions, album designs, intelligent marketing methods and tour adventures are divulged by way of these entertaining missives. For the true audiophile, each song chapter contains release date, recording and mixing location, songwriter(s), producer, sleeve designer, and whether a B-side, single or studio album.

Ever Fallen in Love

Had Buzzcocks formed five years earlier, they may have been a glam-rock band — and if they’d evolved four years later, perhaps they could have been New Romantics. The songs themselves, however, defy genre.

In fact, there are very few genres in which Pete Shelley’s pure, no-nonsense pop songs couldn’t be sung, a true testament to his ability as both a lyricist and tunesmith.

The band’s designer, Malcolm Garrett, was a student at Manchester Polytechnic when he was introduced to their manager Richard Boon. Malcolm produced posters using the school’s screen printing equipment and designed the logo still in use today.

An enormous amount of work went into conceptualizing Buzzcocks album sleeves, including a few photographic tricks used in capturing the lads on the cover of Love Bites.

Ever Fallen in Love

The band didn’t like that songs that had been released as singles appearing on their albums, so to get back at the record company, designer Malcolm included nothing on the single I Don’t Mind sleeve aside from the Untied Artists logo, and used the record company’s bland corporate cream and brown colour scheme.

The press ad for this single was even more agitating, featuring a huge cut-up United Artists logo that was rearranged with the strap-line, “Marketing Ploy: the Single from the Album”. Sly digs at the corporate world would remain a part of Buzzcocks’ ever-growing popularity within the punk world.

The book even describes in detail the method that Garrett used in creating the logo, right down to the Letraset lettering sheets, which this designer recalls fondly back during her graphic design education and early career.

Buzzcocks

They also broke the mould by not pandering to punk fashion, favouring what Louie Shelley calls the ‘Man at C&A’ look over Vivienne Westwood’s bondage gear from the well known SEX boutique that she co-owned with Malcolm McLaren on King’s Road back in the mid-70’s.

I always like having happy music, even with wrist-slitting lyrics. — Pete Shelley

The theme of not knowing whether a relationship is working out was often explored in the Buzzcocks tunes. “There’s always that thing when you fall in love, you worry that you’re not worthy.” The book also describes Pete as having an economical method of writing. Rather than trying out 20 versions of a song, he stuck with one, with very little rewriting or tweaking. This, he stated, was an efficient way of working regardless who was footing the bill.

Buzzcocks at Rickshaw Theatre-2
[Pete Shelley, final Vancouver performance; photo © Ariane Colenbrander/Vancouverscape]

Little fun facts are sprinkled throughout this engaging read as well: DYK that Fast Cars was inspired by Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, which claimed that many American cars were unsafe to drive?

Sixteen was an ode to Star Wars: The band found that by turning up their H&H amps really loud, their effects boxes would start feeding back and making godawful noises, not unlike some of the electronic sounds in the film.

Buzzcocks

At the end of each chapter is a list of footnotes worth a look. For example, the reader will learn that John Peel’s session were named after being recorded by “session men” artists rather than the BBC’s own house bands or orchestras. The four tracks were often laid down as sort of halfway mark between a studio recording and a live performance, sound-wise. Over Peel’s tenure, he recorded over 2,000 artists and 4,000 sessions.

Pete would have been floored at the outpouring of grief upon his death. He was a modest and simple Leigh lad who appreciated his fans and aimed to please.

Event alert! On Friday, November 12 (10:30 am PDT/1:30 pm EDT/6:30 pm GMT), in Manchester, there will be a panel discussion featuring Louie Shelley, ex-Buzzcocks drummer John Maher and designer Malcolm Garrett in conversation with John Robb, as part of the Louder Than Words Festival. A dedicated book signing will follow the panel. Tickets are available online (priced for attendance and attendance + book).

Ever Fallen in Love is available in hardcover, ebook and downloadable audio formats via Amazon.com in the US, Chapters Indigo in Canada, at Apple, Google Play and Kobo Books and book sellers around the globe.

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