Pete Shelley

Pete Shelley, R.I.P. Those Buzzcocks records, that Buzzcocks sound, it blew my mind in 1977-78. I actually have a vivid memory of the first time I ever heard them. It was the opening of Fast Cars. No one had ever made rock music like that before. I was stunned. Wow. Saw them twice back then, and still have a Buzzcocks poster on our living room wall. A bunch of jazz LP covers and the Buzzcocks. Anyway, a big part of my life then, the Buzzcocks were, those big geometrically dissonant power chords and staccato elfin vocals, the hooks and hot drumming. Forty years later I’m still surfing on a wave of nostalgia for a wave yet to come.

Buzzcocks

(from a scrap of paper from 1979)

Went to the Santa Monica Civic to see the Buzzcocks. Great show—with the Gang of Four and the Cramps. The Gang of Four were so angular, as we used to say, and very impressive. The sometimes annoying Marxist pedagoguery of their lyrics that mars that debut album was not obvious in a live setting. I ran into John Dentino [later of the Fibonaccis] and he was a fan, especially of “Anthrax”. The Cramps were awesome. Ivy was as incredibly sexy as Bryan Gregory was unearthly weird. Lux got his leather trousers shredded by the obxnoxious kids. The beach punk contingent was out in force that night, hundreds of them, and they took the stage during the Buzzcocks’ set for a closer view and as the band looked barely to be over five feet tall, they all blocked the view of both band and audience. Pete Shelley charmed them into submission in his best schoolmarm style—”Nah sit doon! Sit doon!” and they did, like kids at storybook time in a classroom, in a half circle at the bands feet. And the show continued.

Spiral Scratch

I remember picking up the Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP back in 1979. The first self released punk record ever. You remember: Boredom/boredom/boredom. That one. It was a reissue and cost $4.99. That is $17 in today’s bread. $17 on a 7 inch record. That seems stupid to me now, but then made all the sense in the world.  I spent all my money on records then. I lived on top ramen and had an incredible punk rock record collection. It was all brand new, this crazy music, and buying the latest out of England was like buying be bop in the forties, obscure, expensive, essential and there went the rent money. I wore that Spiral Scratch out. Played it every day. Boredom, boredom, boredom. If you know it you’re hearing it now in your own skull. At some point in the early eighties, stoned, I lent my copy to my bass player. Sometime in the mid 80’s it wound up in his record collection in the trunk of his car when he was arrested at the Grand Canyon with no registration, several unpaid traffic tickets and a pocket full of blotter they never found. He said it was beautiful, the Grand Canyon, all the colors, the space, the presence, the being and unbeing, and he tripped his entire two week stay in a Clark County jail as well. He never went back for his car or belongings, and they were eventually auctioned off to someone who became the proud owner of an obscure Buzzcocks 7″. Not to mention a Some Chicken single. Some years later we can imagine a record geek, tired of the casinos and buffets and normal people, fleeing the casinos to haunt the thrift stores far from the Strip. Amidst the dreams and detritus he comes across my Spiral Scratch for a dollar, and something called Some Chicken. Oh boy. He shows them off to other record geeks. They’re green with envy. The years go by and he matures, takes a gig as a web developer, and bores of punk rock records and tattoos. Tattoo removal is expensive, so he puts the records up on Ebay and makes hundreds of dollars. Now he looks like a Republican and buys yacht rock and is screwing his secretary. He probably doesn’t even exist, but still, I hate the little fuck. And while the Some Chicken doesn’t bother me, I haven’t heard Spiral Scratch in thirty years.
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Never lend anything to a bass player.
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Spiral Scratch.