The Buzzcocks / Slits/ Gang of Four / John Cooper Clarke, Leeds University Refectory. Mar 18th 1978

 

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In the summer of 76 only three bands mattered, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks. Two years on the Buzzcocks still mattered. Their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen had been released a week earlier. Love Bites, their second, was only six months off, such was the prolific output of main songwriter Pete Shelley. Their debut album release was behind their contemporaries, but the wait was worth it. Well produced, excellent songs, with wit alongside the energy. The Buzzcocks were the arch protagonists of Punk Pop.

buzzcocks-1978
The John Peel radio show had ensured that their material was well known, their opening salvo of singles “Orgasm Addict”, “What Do I Get” and “I Don’t Mind” building on the seminal Spiral Scratch EP featuring “Boredom”.

GangofFour

Gang of four

Bottom of the bill were the Gang of Four in one of their earliest live performances. Their debut album Damaged Goods is very good, their performance that night was not. Shambolic, under rehearsed and lacking stage craft, they limped through twenty minutes to widespread disinterest before leaving the stage. Few noticed. The Slits boasted the novelty of an all- girl band with significant music press coverage. Unfortunately they too decided that this was to be a night of shambolic performances.  The wonderful Viv Albertine could not save the day on looks alone. A sound similar to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” provided temporary respite, but when they were canned off stage, they looked relieved.

slits

The Slits – Viv Albertine on right

It would be easy to assume that this was not the moment for a spot of poetry. You would be wrong. A gangly Mancunian ambled on stage with his notebook and performed what we would now call performance poetry. The two previous acts had meant that the can throwers in the audience had found their range. Any fairground coconut stand would have had their prize supply wiped out by these assassins. A solitary, stationary figure – he was a sitting, well standing, duck. But he survived. So appalling had been the acts previous, that his wordplay, good humour and courage won him a reprieve with “Kung Fu International” still ingrained in my consciousness today.

JCC

John Cooper Clarke to the rescue

Without John Cooper Clarke the Buzzcocks would have been in trouble, angry crowds tend to develop a bloodlust. Instead, an uplifted, expectant 2000 fans were treated to forty five minutes of dazzling brilliance. The highlight of which was a glorious piece of schadenfreude. I have previously mentioned that the can throwers were in deadly form that night. This was never more so when, perfectly timed to coincide with Pete asking ‘ What do I get’ ?, a can hit him full in the face. Professional to the core he integrated ‘you bastard’ seamlessly into the lyric, carrying on undaunted.

Pete

Pete Shelley in his prime

Unquestionably Manchester’s melodic answer to the Ramones, a breathless finale closed a memorable night.
Set List
Boredom
Fast Cars
No Reply
You Tear Me Up
Get on Our Own
Love Battery
Whatever Happened To
Sixteen
I Don’t Mind
Fiction Romance
Autonomy
I Need
Moving Away from the Pulsebeat
Orgasm Addict
Oh Shit
Encore
Breakdown
What Do I Get
Ever Fallen in Love

The Buzzcocks were at the peak of their powers. Two hit albums in 78, and lauded by the music press, and their contemporaries. Here with Debbie Harry, equally in her prime, the hottest woman in rock then.

debbie h

 

Market Tavern, Kidderminster, Sept 5th 1992
Fourteen years later, the teens were now in their mid 30’s. The pub back room, holding 250 had around 400 in it and was dangerously overcrowded, the security overwhelmed. The band wisely decided to play – and get out .Barely three years into their reformed entity, sans Maher replaced by Tony Barber on Drums, and Garvey replaced by Phil Barber on bass. They could still do it, such that they played the prestigious Town and Country club in London later that year followed by the Hammersmith Odeon the next. It was good to have them back.

 
Set List
Fast Cars
Who’ll Help Me to Forget
Last to Know
Get on Our Own
When Love Turns Around
Why Compromise?
Trash Away
Noise Annoys
Harmony in My Head
Sixteen
Autonomy
Hollow Inside
Promises
Nostalgia
What Do I Get
Encore
Orgasm Addict

papa smurf

Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall 22nd Jan 2009

 
Twenty years on from reforming, the band had become a reliable, successful, stalwart on the touring calendar. The Wulfrun is the smaller hall from the more prestigious Civic, and it wasn’t sold out, with around 500 there. Nonetheless they blasted through a set which has served them well. Shelley was unrecognisable, portly, and with a large grey beard which resembled that of Papa Smurf. He never much cared for image when the songs carried him through.

Set List
Boredom
Fast Cars
I Don’t Mind
Autonomy
Get on Our Own
What Ever Happened To?
Why She’s a Girl From the Chainstore
Sick City
Sometimes
Why Can’t I Touch It?
I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life
You Say You Don’t Love Me
Noise Annoys
Breakdown
Promises
Love You More
What Do I Get?
Harmony in My Head
Encore:
Oh Shit!
Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?
Orgasm Addict

And that was the last time. Pete Shelley died in 2018, nine years later. They only had one crossover hit, “Ever Fallen in Love ( With someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with)?”. But at their heart they were a great live act, with fabulous three minute pop songs. Incredibly, from when they formed in 1976, as a band they only failed to tour between 1982 and 1988, during which they were pursuing solo projects and playing live individually, and in 1995. That is thirty- five years on the road, a testament to their endurance, hard work, and talent.

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