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Buzzcocks

From Academic Kids

Buzzcocks were one of the key first generation punk rock bands in the mid to late 1970s.

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Buzzcocks

Biography

The band was formed by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto soon after they had met and travelled to London together to see the Sex Pistols. Buzzcocks debuted in Manchester, opening for The Sex Pistols, in 1976.

That same year, original members Howard Devoto, Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle, and John Maher self-released a four-track EP, Spiral Scratch on their own New Hormones label, thus heralding the independent label movement.

The music was roughly recorded, insistently repetitive, and energetic. "Boredom" announced punk's rebellion against the status quo while templating a strident minimalism (the guitar "solo" consisting of two repeated notes over and over).

Vocalist Devoto immediately left the band, already aware of the rapid co-opting of punk's attitude by the mainstream. He formed Magazine, a less easily apprehendable mix of energy, ennui, and atmosphere. Pete Shelley continued as vocalist, his high pitched melodious whine an antidote to the gruff pub-rock flavour of many contemporaries.

True to their name, the first Buzzcocks single, "Orgasm Addict", played with sexuality in a way few punk groups dared. Later, more ambiguous songs staked out a territory defined by Shelley's bisexuality and punk's aversion to sex except as bodily function. Their trademark sound was a marriage of catchy pop melodies with punk guitar energy, with an unusually tight and skilled rhythm section—an anomaly in punk.

Their original career consisted of three LPs: Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites, and A Different Kind of Tension, each an advancement in musical sophistication. By the end they were quoting W. S. Burroughs ("A Different Kind of Tension"), declaiming their catechism in a not-very-punk anthem ("I Believe") and tuning in to a fantasy radio station on which their songs could be heard ("Radio Nine").

But it was for their singles that they are primarily remembered, a string of would-be hits that demonstrated a strong grasp of the vernacular of pop song craftmanship. These were collected on Singles Going Steady, the CD version of which is a complete document of their 7" releases.

Soon after their third album they disbanded, only to reform in the 1990s to retread the same path. Their original unreleased demos were later issued officially as Time's Up. Long available as a bootleg, this album includes the Spiral Scratch EP.

Shelley and Devoto recently teamed up for the first time since 1976, producing the album Buzzkunst, a play on the German word for 'Art'. "After all those years of cocks, we thought kunst would make a change". A mix of electronics, punk, and mannered sub-Luxuria outings, the result is disappointing but nonetheless essential for fans.

John Maher now owns and runs John Maher Racing (http://www.johnmaherracing.co.uk/), a vintage Volkswagen performance tuning workshop located on the Isle of Harris, Scotland.

Like many other groups whose name appears to be a plural noun (notably Eurythmics), Buzzcocks' name is frequently rendered incorrectly with a "The" in front it. The group's name is simply Buzzcocks.

Buzzcocks' name was portmanteaud with the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind The Bollocks to create Never Mind The Buzzcocks, a UK comedy panel game with questions on popular music, broadcast on the BBC first in 1996 and continuing as of 2004. This in turn may have influenced a Buzzcocks anthology CD called I Don't Mind The Buzzcocks, which opened with the track I Don't Mind. Such recycling and subversion of phrases seems entirely appropriate for Buzzcocks, though those choosing these names may not have been aware of this.

Discography

  • Spiral Scratch (1976) New Hormones Records
  • Time's Up (1976)
  • Another Music In A Different Kitchen (1978)
  • Love Bites (1978)
  • Singles Going Steady, a collection (1979)
  • A Different Kind of Tension (1979)
  • Trade Test Transmissions (1993)
  • All Set
  • Modern
  • Buzzcocks (2004)
  • + numerous live albums and compilations

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