The Buzzcocks were probably the most musically durable of the British punk bands. They producedv a stream of bitter-sweet, gender-neutral love songs by the openly gay Pete Shelley, garnished with distinctive buzz-saw guitars and awesome drumming from the great John Maher.

They were arguably the first band to use a distinctive visual style and logo for their records, ads, and marketing material. The Buzzcocks logo with the interlocked Zs was recognisable from the other side of any record shop. They reformed in the late 80s with most of the original members and have produced a number of albums since. See also

Well, you tried it just for once, found it all right for kicks
But now you found out that it's a habit that sticks
and you're an orgasm addict! - "Orgasm Addict"

British pop-punk band that was formed in 1976 by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto. As a teenager, Pete Shelley had played guitar in a few heavy metal bands before enrolling in the Bolton Institute of Technology. He became involved in an electronic music society there, where he met Howard Devoto. The pair began rehearsing with a drummer, no original music, just covers. The three of them didn't play any shows at all and soon disbanded. A few months later, Shelley and Devoto read a review of the Sex Pistols in the New Musical Express and went to see them play in London. After seeing the Sex Pistols, they decided to attempt to recreate the effect the Pistols had on London in the town of Manchester.

Buzzcocks got their name from a review of the television show Rock Follies - the ending quotation was "get a buzz, cock."* After they got a random drummer and bassist Garth Smith, they began rehearsing and felt they were ready for their first show. Shelley and Devoto booked the Lesser Free Trade Hall and talked the Sex Pistols into playing in Manchester. However, at the last second, the Buzzcocks had to cancel their performance because the drummer and the bassist had quit. Shelley and Devoto met Steve Diggle at the show in Manchester and recruited him to be their bassist. They then placed an advertisement in the Melody Maker for a drummer, which is how they found John Maher. July 1976 saw Buzzcocks playing their first show, as the opening act for the second Sex Pistols show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. At year's end, they'd played a decent number of shows and popularized Manchester as another "punk rock" city.

After touring with the Sex Pistols on their Anarchy Tour, the band released Spiral Scratch, a four-track EP, in 1977. They were the first band to independently release a record, putting out Spiral Scratch on their own New Hormones label. The EP was rough and repetitive, filled with infectious energy:
The Buzzcocks, more than anyone else, were responsible for wrenching the frenzied punk impulse into some sort of pop beauty. Making their debut with the infamous Spiral Scratch EP it was soon obvious that they had more to say than 'we are very angry'....

Devoto left Buzzcocks soon after the release of Spiral Scratch; he was disenchanted with the way punk was becoming mainstream and formed a new band, Magazine, which was less accessible than Buzzcocks. Shelley became the lead vocalist of the group, Steve Diggle switched to guitar and Garth Smith was reinstated as the bassist. In the summer of 1977, major labels were becoming interested in them; the band signed with United Artists in September, and were given complete artistic freedom over their music.

It was lucky that they'd been given total control over their own music, or their first single, Orgasm Addict, might never have happened: the song's subject matter stirred up some controversy.. The single was not successful but definitely got people talking about Buzzcocks. Garth Smith was kicked out right after this song was released and replaced by Steve Garvey. The next single, What Do I Get, got a little more attention and actually made it to the charts, albeit the bottom. Buzzcocks released their first album in March 1978, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, followed by Love Bites in September. The band was quickly becoming burned out at this point, not only because of their frantic recording and touring schedules, but also due to their heavy drinking and drug usage. Buzzcocks released their third album in 1979, A Different Kind of Tension. They had their first tour in the United States, but it didn't go over very well. The band also released Singles Going Steady, a compilation of their singles, in the United States.

I just want a lover like any other
What do I get
I only want a friend who will stay to the end
What do I get - "What Do I Get?"

The tension reached a breaking point in 1980, and the band began to tour a lot less. They released an EP, Parts 1,2,3, as three separate singles throughout the year. Later that year, EMI bought out UA, and didn't give the band nearly as much support as UA had. Buzzcocks wanted to put out a fourth album but EMI wanted them to release Singles Going Steady in the UK first. They wouldn't, and EMI refused to give them any money for the album. Shelley didn't want to battle with EMI over it, so Buzzcocks disbanded in 1981. After years of rumors that the band was going to get back together, Shelley and Diggle finally resurrected Buzzcocks in 1989, with a new bass player, Tony Barber, and a new drummer, Phil Barker. They are still recording and touring today.

What set them apart from the other first-wave British punk bands: they made use of the personal as opposed to the political, and they were a bit more cohesive and melodic in their songs. Shelley's bisexuality also put a different spin on many of their lyrics. They sang about teenage love, boredom, disillusionment with modern life and many of their songs were wistful and melancholy, but above all they were a great, fun band with fantastic hooks who had an expert grasp on the three-minute pop song.

I was so tired of being upset
Always wanting something I never could get
Life's an illusion love is a dream
But I don't know what it is - "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"

*Contrary to popular belief, the band's official name is NOT The Buzzcocks, it's simply Buzzcocks.



Spiral Scratch EP (1977, 1981, New Hormones Records)
Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978, United Artists Records)
Love Bites (1978, United Artists Records)
A Different Kind of Tension (1979, 1989 United Artists Records, IRS Records)
Singles Going Steady (1979, IRS Records)
Parts 1, 2, 3 EP (1984, IRS Records)
Total Pop 1977-1980 (1987, Ger. Weird Systems Records)
The Peel Sessions EP (1988, Strange Fruit Records)
Lest We Forget (1988, ROIR Records)
Live at the Roxy Club April '77 (1989, 1990, Absolutely Free Records, Receiver Records)
Product (1989, Restless Retro Records)
The Peel Sessions Album (1989, 1991 Strange Fruit Records, Strange Fruit/Dutch East India Trading Records)
Time's Up (1991, Receiver Records)
Operators Manual: Buzzcocks Best (1991, IRS Records)
Alive Tonight EP (1991, Planet Pacific Records)
Entertaining Friends: Live at the Hammersmith Odeon March 1979 (1992, IRS Records)
Trade Test Transmissions (1993, Caroline Records)
French (1996, IRS Records)
All Set (1996, IRS Records)
Modern (1999, Go-kart Records)


Orgasm Addict (United Artists Records, 1977)
What Do I Get? (United Artists Records, 1977)
I Don't Mind (United Artists Records, 1978)
Love You More (United Artists Records, 1978)
Ever Fallen in Love (United Artists Records, 1978)
Promises (United Artists Records, 1978)
Everybody's Happy Nowadays (United Artists Records, 1979)
Harmony in My Head (United Artists Records, 1979)
You Say You Don't Love Me (United Artists Records, 1979)
I Believe (United Artists Records, 1980)
Are Everything - Part 1 (United Artists Records, 1980)
Strange Thing - Part 2 (United Artists Records, 1980)
Running Free - Part 3 (United Artists Records, 1980)
Alive Tonight (1991)
Last to Know (1991)
Innocent (1993)
Do It (1993)
Libertine Angel (1994)
Jerk (Merge Records], 2003)
Sick City Sometimes (Merge Records, 2003)

Buzzcocks - A Punk Rock History.

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