30 years later, Buzzcocks still in a punk state of mind

Tue Jun 1, 2010 6:10pm EDT
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By Derek Caney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "And I'm surfing on a wave of nostalgia/For an age that's yet to come." Pete Shelley, the lead singer of the Buzzcocks, wrote those wistful words 32 years ago, during the short-lived punk revolution that unleashed bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash on the musical landscape in the late 1970s.

Fast-forward to 2010, and Shelley is happily surfing that wave, singing the aforementioned "Nostalgia" as well as older songs such as "Boredom" and "Orgasm Addict" for youngsters raised on the likes of Green Day. Now, those kids can see for themselves how much the fast-paced power-punk melodies of contemporary chart-toppers owe to the Buzzcocks.

On stage recently at The Fillmore in New York, Shelley had conceded only some thinning gray hair and a few extra pounds to the passing years. To his left was guitarist Steve Diggle in a stylish baggy polka dot shirt, demonstrating one archetypal punk-rock pose after another.

"It's hard to imagine doing anything for 30 years," Shelley, 55, told Reuters at a downtown Manhattan pub over a Sam Adams lager. "Punk was always more of a state of mind. It's just one of those strange things that happen. That's why I always say to people, 'Go on and do it.'"

And many people did after hearing the Buzzcocks do it. In addition to Green Day, R.E.M. and Nirvana both cited the band as a central influence. And more recent bands like The White Stripes and Arcade Fire owe the Buzzcocks a debt of gratitude.

Shelley is both flattered and baffled by the wealth of bands that claim to be influenced by the Buzzcocks. "There's been lots of quite famous bands who've said, 'If it wasn't for you...' which is good in a way."

He feels similarly about Iggy Pop. "I bought him a drink once. I said, 'I'll buy you a drink because I've nicked so much off of you," he chuckled. He found himself in the opposite spot when Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records -- home to The Jesus And Mary Chain and Oasis -- cornered Shelley in a pub.

"Alan said exactly the same thing to me that I said to Iggy and he bought me a drink," he said.   Continued...

<p>Members of the punk band The Buzzcocks are shown in this 2009 publicity photo in Amsterdam released to Reuters June 1, 2010. from left are Danny Farrant, Steve Diggle, Chris Remington and Pete Shelley. Shelley is both flattered and baffled by the wealth of bands that claim to be influenced by the Buzzcock. REUTERS/Ian Rook/Handout</p>