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Pete Shelley

From Academic Kids

Pete Shelley was born as Peter McNeish in April 1955 in Leigh. He was the lead singer and songwriter of the Buzzcocks, one of the first generation of punk groups.

Buzzcocks were formed by Shelley and Howard Devoto shortly after the two met at an electronic music society at Bolton Institute of Technology and travelled together to London to see The Sex Pistols. They debuted in 1976 in Manchester, opening for the Sex Pistols.

After the 1977 release of their first EP, Spiral Scratch, on their own independent label "New Hormones", which included the classic punk song "Boredom", Devoto left the group. Shelley continued to front the band, creating such quintessential punk singles of the period as "Orgasm Addict", "What Do I Get?", and "Ever Fallen In Love" along with three LPs, Another Music In A Different Kitchen (1978), Love Bites (1978), and A Different Kind Of Tension (1979), until difficulties with their record company brought Buzzcocks to a halt in 1981.

That same year, Pete Shelley released his first solo single, the song "Homosapien", which had originally been written for the next Buzzcocks LP. On this recording he returned to his original interests in electronic music and shifted emphasis from guitar to synthesizer. The song was banned by the BBC for "explicit reference to gay sex", which didn't stop it from becoming enormously popular in dance clubs in Europe and North America. At this time, Pete Shelley also talked about his bisexuality, which had been implicit in many of the Buzzcocks songs he had written but now came to attention due to "Homosapien" and the BBC ban.

The single was soon followed by an LP of the same name in 1982. It was during this time that Shelley began releasing many of his earlier electronic works, most of them soundtracks for films, on his own label, "Groovy". These include Sky Yen, recorded in 1974 for a film by Devoto and released on Groovy in 1980, Hangahar, also a soundtrack, released in 1980 and Reprint, this time released on Snatch Tapes as a cassette only release. He released several singles as well, including "Telephone Operator" and, in 1986, Shelley followed up Homosapien with an LP of new songs called Heaven and the Sea. The next year he released another soundtrack recording, this time for the film Some Kind Of Wonderful.

Pete Shelley has also played with various other musicians during his career, including a stint with the Invisible Girls, who backed up Pauline Murray of the punk band Penetrator for her LP Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls and a band called Tiller Boys which included members of various punk bands, and Zip. As well, he reunited with Howard Devoto and together they created the LP Buzzkunst, released in 2002.

In 1991, Buzzcocks reunited, and released a new full length recording, Trade Test Transmissions, in 1993. They continue to tour and record, their most recent release being the self titled CD Buzzcocks in 2004.


Pete Shelley is also the title of a short story by Patrick Marber contained in Speaking With the Angel, a short story collection edited by Nick Hornby. In it the narrator loses his virginity while listening to a Buzzcocks song.


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