Better mind the Buzzcocks

By Scott Kara

With a four-date New Zealand tour lined up, the British punk rockers show they still have pulling power, writes Scott Kara.

The Buzzcocks. Photo / Supplied
The Buzzcocks. Photo / Supplied

It's time to sit down by the fire with Uncle Pete from the Buzzcocks and listen to a few yarns about the good old days - and the stories behind some of the band's best songs.

There's a fire because Pete Shelley, the guitarist, singer and founding member of the punk rock originals, now lives in the homeland of his Estonian wife, and it's a little chilly in the Eastern European nation.

"It's nice. It's cold in winter but it's warm inside. And it's a lot cheaper than London.
"It's my home now and I was only in London last weekend [playing shows] and it was noisy and dirty and smelly," he chuckles.

He's recounting the recording of two of the Buzzcocks songs. Firstly, Why Can't I Touch It from 1979, which, at six-and-a-half minutes long and with a graunching lope to it, is not particularly punk rock. But an anthem nonetheless.

"It was around about the Friday before we were going into the studio to record Everybody's Happy Nowadays," says Shelley, whose memory is remarkable.

"That weekend we were in Strawberry Studios in Stockport that 10cc used to own and record at. We had been to a Greek restaurant for dinner and had a nice time with wine and ouzo, and when we went back to the studio we were probably a little bit more mellow than we would normally be.

"And I just had this idea for a song, and then when we were in the rehearsal thingy, we just started playing. We thought, 'Oh this is great, this is'. Because it was, it was different. And rather than turning out a three-minute songs we thought we'd do a long one."

At the opposite extreme is the short, sharp burst of melodicism that goes into Love You More, a single from 1978. "I can tell you the exact day I wrote it. It was the 4th of January, 1975, and the reason I know it so well is that on New Year's Eve I started going out with a new girlfriend, and the reference to 'Don't wanna end up like no nine-day wonder' was because the last boy she went out with, a friend of mine, she went out with for nine days."

It's almost certain you will hear Love You More when the Buzzcocks return to New Zealand this weekend, and there's a slim chance you might hear Why Can't I Touch It?.

The band - also made up of guitarist Steve Diggle (who joined the band in mid-1976), as well as drummer Danny Farrant and bass player Chris Remmington (who joined in 2006 and 2008 respectively) - have been to New Zealand a number of times in the past 10 years. Their rip-snorting set at Auckland's St James Theatre in 2006 was a memorable night, and in 2009 they played their first two albums - Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites from 1978 - in their entirety.

This weekend they start a four-date tour, including a show at the Powerstation on Sunday, which shows the Buzzcocks still have pulling power.

"We just try to play as many of the hits as we can in our allotted time," says Shelley of the band's concerts these days. "It's just to celebrate all the things that we've done."

Shelley and Diggle are fine with nostalgia trips. A year ago, the band did a series of shows which featured three different line-ups of the Buzzcocks and over the course of the night they played 42 songs.

"People were still coming up to us and saying, 'Oh, you didn't play that one, or that one.' So we just try and do as many of the classics as possible and the thing is there are lots of people bringing their teenage kids along these days too. So they want to hear them."

Who: The Buzzcocks
What: Punk rock originals
Where and when: Bodega, Wellington, Saturday; Powerstation, Auckland, Sunday; Dux Live, Christchurch, April 30; Mayfair, New Plymouth, May 1
Listen to: Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978); Love Bites (1978); A Different Kind of Tension (1979); Singles Going Steady (1979); Flat-Pack Philosophy (2006)

- TimeOut

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