Pete Shelley Dies: Buzzcocks Frontman & Film/TV Soundtrack Stalwart Was 63

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Pete Shelley, singer and guitarist for influential British punk and power pop pioneers Buzzcocks, has died. He was 63 and passed away today in Estonia from a suspected heart attack, according to news accounts.

A spokesperson for Buzzcocks confirmed the death with Deadline’s sister publication, Rolling Stone.

“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,” the spokesperson said. “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 was born on April 17, 1955 as Peter Campbell McNeish in the British town of Leigh.

Although Buzzcocks never were a big record seller, they were regarded as one of the standard bearers in a scene that spawned the Sex Pistols and the Clash, among others. The band’s three minute bursts of power pop distinguished them from the angry punk side of the scene, with Shelley and bandmate Howard Devoto as the leaders. Shelley eventually took over as the lead singer and chief songwriter when Devoto left.
The group flared brightly, with its debut album, Another Music In A Different Kitchen, making it into the Top 20 on the British album charts. Their biggest impact came when the single “Ever Fallen In Love… (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” rose to Number 12 on the British charts.

But Shelley left Buzzcocks in 1981 and took an interesting musical tangent. His solo record, Homosapien, featured synthesizers and drum machines, a far cry from the blazing guitars of Buzzcocks. The title track was banned by the BBC for its cheeky line, “homo superior/ in my interior,” but became a huge dance club hit.

While the BBC didn’t like that particular moment, they did use Shelley as the composer of the theme fronting their Tour de France bicycle race coverage in the 1980s through the mid 1990s, and his music was all over such popular shows as Top of the Pops and British Men Behaving Badly.

Shelley reunited with Buzzcocks in 1989 and the group released its fourth studio album, Trade Test Transmissions, in 1993. That started a series of tours and new albums, spawning a new love of the early material, which cropped up in such films as Shrek 2 and Shaun of the Dead, and TV shows ranging from The Simpsons to Cold Case.

Buzzcocks’ last album, The Way, was released in 2014.

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