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PETE SHELLEY,
1955-2018

Pete Shelley, the brazen singer/guitarist who formed The Buzzcocks at the dawn of the punk movement in England, died Thursday (12/6) in Estonia where he was living. He was 63.

The BBC reported that the cause was a suspected heart attack.

Best known for “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've),” “Orgasm Addict” and “Why Can’t I Tough It?,” Shelley and his band married pop songcraft with punk brio and angst with irony in a style that would influence Mancunian bands and the first round of pop-punk bands. They were oracles on the business side too, as one of the first bands to self-release their music.

The band posted on its Facebook page, “It's with great sadness that we confirm the death of Pete Shelley, one of the UK's most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks. Pete's music has inspired generations of musicians over a career that spanned five decades and with his band and as a solo artist, he was held in the highest regard by the music industry and by his fans around the world.”

Shelley grew up in Leigh, Greater Manchester, forming The Buzzcocks with a fellow student at the Bolton Institute of Technology, Howard DeVoto. They made their debut in 1976, the same year DeVoto and Shelley attended the Sex Pistols’ “gig that changed the world” at Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester.

The Shelley-DeVoto team made only one recording together, the EP Spiral Scratch released on their New Hormones label, before Devoto split, leaving Shelley as chief vocalist and songwriter. The Buzzcocks would record three albums before calling it quits in 1981, but it was the compilation Singles Going Steady that I.R.S. released in 1979 that established the band one of the genre’s finest acts.

Shelley, a playful and irreverent songwriter, released his first solo album in 1980, a single-song electronic piece, on his own Groovy Records, returning to rock with his first solo single a year later, “Homosapien.” Banned by The BBC for a reference to gay sex, it became a dance club hit and would lead to Shelley recording more dance-oriented music that would put him in a league with Gary Numan and Ultravox.

The Buzzcocks reunited in 1989, first releasing Trade Test Transmission in 1993. They continued to record and tour up to Shelley’s death. The band was scheduled to perform in The Netherlands on 12/14 and Royal Albert Hall in June.

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