INTERVIEW: Buzzcocks | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The British punk movement wasn’t all just banshee-esque shrieking, safety pins and tartan pants; it was also colour contrast shirts, Mancunian slurs and penning ditties over pint-fuelled poetry in the local pub. Buzzcocks emerged in 1976 as a force to be reckoned with, armed with two minute melodies, fantastic haircuts and a desire to bring a sense of hysteria to the otherwise bleak times. “Growing up on those terraced streets, you could never really see the skies,” cites Steve Diggle, guitarist and the last original remaining member of Buzzcocks, “and you couldn’t see too far out of the house so in those tiny rooms, you really started to look inside yourself. I’m from fucking Manchester and it was hard when we were growing up and it was tough.”

After witnessing Sex Pistols perform live in London, co-founders Pete Shelley and Howard DeVoto booked them to perform in Manchester, where they sought out Steve and drummer John Maher to complete the line-up. Their debut performance occurred just below the headline bill for one of punk’s most iconic bands. With artists such as The Smiths and New Order amongst the notable heads in their audiences, they rapidly realised that they were at the epicenter of something massive. “We’re all unemployed, we’re twenty odd years old and we want excitement and we want life! The nucleus of punk rock was the vibrant attitude; it was lively and dangerous back then and we had this very unique sound. We had the pop punk but also this experimental, sensitive, artistic side and people were wondering what it was all about. We felt alive!” Steve recalls.

you’re gonna get the new version of Buzzcocks. If you don’t like it, then don’t fucking come!

The DIY nature of the subculture allowed for it to take over the country, with bands sprouting up in every nook and cranny of the UK, inspired by the trailblazing of Buzzcocks and their passion for nothing but the music. “That first year was magical. Everybody went crazy and every day was exciting; there were no computers, no phones or nothing and everything was a little grey, but you see these towns come alive and you had to stop and rethink your whole consciousness of what this music was doing and you felt unstoppable. I wondered how the hell our music got all the way to Birmingham, never mind Australia! A lot of record companies tried to book people and tell them what to do with punk, but it really pulled the carpet from under their feet.”

The unfortunate passing of frontman Pete Shelley in December of last year saw the future of Buzzcocks remain uncertain, however Steve remains adamant that he would never let the music that soundtracked a generation disappear, and the band return to the region to perform at Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery on Wednesday 18th December. “My brother Pete,” sighs Steve, “forty two years we were together. Me and him went all the way. He said to me before he died that he wanted to retire but I had his blessing to continue, and I told him that we’re going nowhere. Change is a very constant thing in life. Life changes and sadly, Pete Shelley is gone and there’s nothing I can do to bring him back; if I could, I would, but we have to go on from here. You can’t live life backwards, and you’ll get somebody moaning that it’s not the same but tough, you’re gonna get the new version of Buzzcocks. If you don’t like it, then don’t fucking come!”

Buzzcocks play Wylam Brewery, Newcastle on Wednesday 18th December


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