Background Information
Origin Manchester, England
Genre Punk Rock[1]
Pop Punk[2][3]
New Wave[1][4][5]
Years active 1976-1981
Label(s) IRS
Cooking Vinyl
ROIR Records
Associated Acts The Tiller Boys
Flag of Convenience
Pete Shelley
Steve Diggle
Tony Barber
Danny Farrant
Former Members
Howard Devoto
Mick Singleton
John Maher
Barry Adamson
Steve Garvey
Mike Joyce
Phil Barker

Buzzcocks are an English punk rock band formed in Manchester in 1976. They have been led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Pete Shelley for nearly their entire existence.[6]

They are commonly regarded as an important influence on the Manchester music scene, the independent record label movement and the punk rock, power pop, pop punk and indie rock genres in general.[2] They are primarily remembered for their singles, a string of would-be hits that combined a strong grasp of pop song craftsmanship with rapid-fire punk energy. These singles were collected on Singles Going Steady, described by critic Ned Raggett as a "punk masterpiece"[7] The widely covered "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" remains one of their best-known songs.

The name "Buzzcocks" was chosen by Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley after seeing a review of Rock Follies in Time Out, which included the line "it's getting a buzz, cocks!" ("cock" being a Manchester slang term meaning "youngster").[8]


Early yearsEdit

Howard Trafford, a student in Bolton Institute of Technology (now the University of Bolton), put an ad in the institute, to solicite musicians for collaboration, which was answered by Peter McNeish[9], another student in Bolton. Both had experience in music, Trafford in electronic music[10] and McNeish, in different rock bands and experimenting with minimalism.

However, they formed the band later, in February 1976 [11]. McNeish changed his name in stage to Pete Shelley, and Trafford to Howard Devoto, after a bus driver in Cambridge. They shared common interests in electronic music, the idiosyncratic work of British musician Brian Eno, and American protopunk groups like The Stooges. In late 1975, Shelley and Devoto recruited a drummer and formed an embryonic version of Buzzcocks that never performed and which dissolved after a number of rehearsals. Their first gig happenned in their Bolton college in the night of April 1st 1976, featuring Garth Davies on bass guitar and Mick Singleton on drums, who was member of the band only that time and played in his own Manchester band Black Cat Bone. [12]

After reading an NME review of the Sex Pistols' first performance, Shelley and Devoto travelled to London together to see the Sex Pistols in February 1976. Shelley and Devoto were impressed by what they saw and arranged for the Sex Pistols to come and perform at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, in June 1976. Buzzcocks intended to play at this concert, but the other musicians dropped out, and Shelley and Devoto were unable to recruit other musicians in time for the gig. Once they had recruited bass guitarist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher, they made their debut opening for the Sex Pistols' second Manchester concert in July 1976. A brief clip of Devoto-era Buzzcocks performing The Troggs "I Can't Control Myself" appears in the Punk: Attitude documentary directed by Don Letts. In September 1976 the band travelled to London to perform at the two-day 100 Club Punk Festival, organized by Malcolm McLaren. Other performers included: the Sex Pistols, Subway Sect, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Clash, The Vibrators, The Damned and the French band Stinky Toys.

By the end of the year, Buzzcocks had recorded and released a four-track EP, Spiral Scratch on their own New Hormones label, making them one of the first punk groups to establish an independent record label trailing only The Saints's "(I'm) Stranded". Produced by Martin Hannett, the music was roughly recorded, insistently repetitive, and energetic. "Boredom" announced punk's rebellion against the status quo while templating a strident musical minimalism (the guitar solo consisting of two repeated notes). The demos recorded while Devoto was in the band were later issued officially as Time's Up. Long available as a bootleg, this album includes the alternative takes of all the tracks from the Spiral Scratch EP as well as early version of tracks that later appeared on the official debut Another Music in a Different Kitchen.

After a few months, Devoto left the group; he returned to school for a year, then formed Magazine. Pete Shelley continued as vocalist; his high-pitched, melodic singing stood in stark contrast to the gruff pub rock vocal stylings of many punk contemporaries. Diggle switched from bass to guitar, and Garth Davies rejoined on bass as Garth Smith or Garth. Garth appeared on the band’s first Radio 1 Peel Session, in September 1977, but due to his alcoholism he was quickly replaced with Steve Garvey, joining Dirty Looks in New York. This new line-up signed with United Artists Records.

Signing to UAIEdit

Their first UAI Buzzcocks single, "Orgasm Addict", was a playful examination of compulsive sexuality that was (and remains) uncommonly bold. The BBC refused to play the song, but the single sold well. Later, more ambiguous songs staked out a territory defined by Shelley's bisexuality and punk's aversion to serious examination of human sexuality. The next single, "What Do I Get?" reached the UK top 40 charts. "Lipstick", the B-side to "Promises," shared the same ascending progression of notes in its chorus as Magazine's first single, "Shot By Both Sides," also released in 1978.

Their original career consisted of three LPs: Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites, and A Different Kind of Tension, each supported by extensive touring in Europe and the U.S. Their trademark sound was a marriage of catchy pop melodies with punk guitar energy, backed by an unusually tight and skilled rhythm section. They advanced drastically in musical and lyrical sophistication: by the end they were quoting American writer William S. Burroughs ("A Different Kind of Tension"), declaiming their catechism in the anthem "I Believe", and tuning in to a fantasy radio station on which their songs could be heard ("Radio Nine"). In 1980, Liberty Records signed the band, and three singles were released. However, only one of these, the double 'A' side "Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore/Are Everything" made the Top 75.

In parallel with Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley, formed a more experimental and post-punk band, The Tiller Boys, along Eric Random and Francis Cookson, while Steve Garvey joined The Teardrops in 1978, along The Fall's Tony Friel and Karl Burns; both bands were releasing material in late 1970's and broke up at the same time Buzzcocks split up.

Breakup and reunionsEdit

After recording demos for a fourth album the group disbanded in 1981, when Shelley took up a solo career. Diggle and Maher formed Flag of Convenience, who released several singles between 1982 and 1989. Garvey formed Motivation and moved to New York. Maher also joined Wah! by the time Buzzcocks broke up. Shelley and Devoto teamed up in 2002 for the first time since 1976, producing the album Buzzkunst, a play on the German word for 'Art'. The album was a mix of electronic music and punk.

John Maher now owns and runs John Maher Racing, a vintage Volkswagen performance tuning workshop located on the Isle of Harris, Scotland.[13] He has built and raced several Volkswagen Beetles. In 2005, Shelley re-recorded "Ever Fallen In Love" with an all-star group, including Roger Daltrey, David Gilmour, Peter Hook, Elton John, Robert Plant and several contemporary bands, as a tribute to John Peel. Proceeds went to Amnesty International. Shelley also performed the song live, with Plant, Daltrey, Gilmour, Hook and Jeff Beck at the 2005 UK Music Hall of Fame.[14]

Buzzcocks have reformed several times since 1989, featuring Shelley and Diggle with other musicians; initially with Maher and Garvey for a world tour, then briefly replacing Maher with Smiths drummer Mike Joyce. In 1993, Tony Barber joined on bass and Phil Barker on drums. This line-up toured on one of Nirvana's last-ever tours in 1994, and in 2003, toured with Pearl Jam. In April 2006, Barker left and was replaced by Danny Farrant. In March 2006, the band released their eighth studio album, Flat-Pack Philosophy, on Cooking Vinyl Records, the supporting tour found them playing on a leg of the mid-2006 Vans Warped Tour.

They made an appearance for Maximo Park's homecoming gig in Newcastle upon Tyne on 15 December 2007.

In January 2009 the band embarked on a UK and European tour, the 'Another Bites Tour', in which they played their first two albums in full, as well as an encore of their other hits.[15]

TV show titleEdit

Buzzcocks' name was combined with the title of the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind The Bollocks to create the title of the long-running UK comedy panel game show Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Diggle claimed in his autobiography that he and Shelley had only granted the BBC use of their name under the impression that it would be a one-off, probably unsuccessful pilot, and that they are now mildly disgruntled that the name is more readily associated in Britain with the TV series than with their band.[16] Shelley himself appeared on the programme in the mid 1990s.


Studio albumsEdit


  • Buzzcocks (1976 as bootleg, official release 2000)
  • Singles Going Steady (1980)
  • Parts 1-3 (1981) - compilation of Liberty Records A+B sides
  • Product (1989) - three-CD set containing Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites, A Different Kind of Tension, a cut-down Singles Going Steady (to avoid duplication of tracks) and a third CD Many Parts, featuring live material and Parts 1-3.
  • The Peel Sessions Album (1989)
  • Operator's Manual: Buzzcocks Best (1991)
  • Chronology (1997) - studio demos
  • I Don't Mind The Buzzcocks (1999)
  • Ever Fallen in Love? Buzzcocks Finest (2002)
  • Inventory (2003)
  • The Complete Singles Anthology (2004)

Live albumsEdit

  • Entertaining Friends (1992) - live at the Hammersmith Odeon, March 1979
  • Lest We Forget (1993)
  • Live At The Roxy Club April ’77 (1993)
  • Live in Paris (2001)
  • 30 (2008)


non-album singles
from Another Music In A Different Kitchen
  • "I Don't Mind" - (14 April 1978) #55 UK
non-album single
  • "Love You More" - (30 June 1978) #34 UK
from Love Bites
non-album singles
  • "Promises" - (17 November 1978) #20 UK
  • "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" - (2 March 1979) #29 UK
  • "Harmony in My Head" - (13 July 1979) #32 UK
  • "Spiral Scratch EP" - (August 1979) #31 UK (Reissue)
from A Different Kind Of Tension
  • "You Say You Don't Love Me" - 1979
  • "I Believe" - 1980
non-album singles
  • "Are Everything - Part 1" - 1980 #61 UK
  • "Strange Thing - Part 2" - 1980
  • "Running Free - Part 3" - 1980
  • "Alive Tonight EP" - 1991
from Trade Test Transmissions
  • "Innocent" - 1993
  • "Do It" - 1993
non-album single
  • "Libertine Angel" - 1994
from Buzzcocks
  • "Jerk" - 2003
  • "Sick City Sometimes" - 2003
from Flat-Pack Philosophy
  • "Wish I Never Loved You" - 2006
  • "Sell You Everything" - 2006
  • "Reconciliation" - 2007


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buzzcocks Get Philosophical On New Album
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Buzzcocks, Pop Punk Pioneers
  3. Buzzcocks: Biography : Rolling Stone
  4. | The Must-Have Music Guide
  5. John Cooper Clarke - New Musical Express Review 1978 Review
  6. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas; profile of Buzzcocks; URl accessed Jan 06, 2007
  7. allmusic ((( Singles Going Steady > Overview )))
  8. Gimarc, George (2005) Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970-1982, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-848-6, p. 27
  9. [1]
  10. [2]
  11. Buzzcocks Discography. Actualized each time a new disc is released. It appears and can be downloaded in this link
  12. [3]
  13. John Maher Racing: VW Performance
  14. "Music legends unite for Peel tribute single" (The Guardian, 23 September 2005)
  16. Diggle, S and Rawlings, T, Harmony In My Head (Helter Skelter, 2003, ISBN 1-900924-37-4 )

External linksEdit

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