I was delighted to be able attend a celebration of Pete Shelley’s life on the evening of Friday 21st June 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert featured Buzzcocks (and an array of special guest singers) with support from The Skids and Penetration.
It would dismissive and rude of me not to squeeze in references to High Wycombe in this article. Buzzcocks may never had played High Wycombe but that was the place, back in February 1976, that Shelley (then named Peter McGleish) first witnessed The Sex Pistols. The rest is history.
Meanwhile, support acts, The Skids and Penetration both did make it to play live in High Wycombe – Richard Jobson and his merry Scottish band treading The Nag’s Head stage in June 1978 for their first appearance outside of Scotland and London. Penetration also sampled the delights of High Wycombe Town in June 1978 as they took a break from supporting Buzzcocks on their UK tour.
So, fast forward more than 40 years to the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 and it seemed almost surreal to witness all three of these acts on the same night and on the same stage.
It was perhaps apt that Penetration kicked off with their Buzzcocks cover, ‘Nostalgia’. It set the tone for an evening that proved that Shelley will be remembered as one of the greatest pop song writers of his era.
Penetration – set list
Come Into the Open
Shout Above the Noise
Beat Goes On
Richard Jobson is a great frontman and the latest version of The Skids he has assembled is able to do admirable justice to the impressive back catalogue of classics from the late 70’s and early 80’s. We even got a run through of, according to Jobson, the ‘worse ever Skids song’ in the form of ‘TV Stars’.
Skids – set list
Of One Skin
Kings of the New World Order
The Saints Are Coming
Working for the Yankee Dollar
Scared to Dance
Hurry On Boys
A Woman In Winter
TV Stars/Pretty Vacant /What Do I Get?
Into The Valley
Buzzcocks came on stage to an ever-rotating backdrop of band and Shelley memorabilia – just in case you got bored with the music. However, from the opening guitar riff of ‘Fast Cars’, sung by Buzzcocks original Steve Diggle, there was little chance to draw breath.
The guests started to take stage from the fifth number in – The Damned’s Captain Sensible attempting to the take on Boredom with the assistance of an oversize lyric sheet!
Former Buzzcocks John Maher and Steve Garvey joined the line-up for the short and sweet ‘Love You More’, with vocals coming from Penetration’s Pauline Murray.
You can see from the set-list below how the remainder of the evening panned out – all the guests adding their own unique style to the songs. The versions may not have been perfect but this was more about the remembering the songs rather than the performances.
Buzzcocks – set list
A Girl From the Chain store
Boredom (featuring Captain Sensible)
Love You More (featuring Pauline Murray))
Why Can’t I Touch it (featuring Peter Perrett)
Fiction Romance (featuring Richard Jobson)
What Do I Get? (featuring Dave Vanian)
Something’s Gone Wrong Again (featuring Dave Vanian)
Time’s Up (featuring Thurston Moore)
Noise Annoys (featuring Thurston Moore)
Sixteen Again (featuring Tim Burgess)
You Say You Don’t Love Me (featuring Tim Burgess)
Harmony in My Head
I Don’t Mind
Ever Fallen In Love (featuring all the guest vocalists)
The annual FREE FrogFest festival takes place in and around High Wycombe High Street on Sunday 26th May 2019. As per previous years, as well as the live music, there are food stalls, drinks and kids entertainment. The festival aims to promote High Wycombe as a vibrant and attractive destination and encourage families to visit the town centre. Please support this free event.
The line-up for the 2019 event is expected to be as follows
11.30 – 11.50 – SOL SAMBA
12.10 – 12.35 – GEORGE JACK
12.55 – 13.20 – CASUAL MADNESS
13.45 – 14.15 – THE SOBERNAUGHTS
14.40 – 15.10 – XCS
15.40 – 16.10 – STEPH WILLIS
16.40 – 17.10 – TINY TINA TURNER
17.40 – 18.20 – DOLLY AND THE DINOSAUR
19.00 – 19.45 – MILLIE MANDERS AND THE SHUT UP
20.30 – 21.30 – THE HAWKMEN
11.50 – 12.10 – VIBES STEEL BAND
12.35 – 12.55 – MY MATE DAVE
13.20 – 13.45 – GARANCE LOU LOU
14.15 – 14.40 – SLOTH IN THE CITY
15.10 – 15.40 – MIB
16.10 – 16.40 – CARA MEANS FRIEND
17.10 -17.40 – ROBERT J HUNTER
18.20 – 19.00 – SUZY CONDRAD-SHE ROBOT
19.45 – 20.30 – JOCEE
The Sex Pistols Experience return to High Wycombe on Saturday 27th April 2019 with a gig on the outside ‘festival’ stage at The Antelope pub just off the High Street. Support comes from London punk/rock ‘n’ rollers, Rebel Station.
This is the opening night of The Antelope’s summer run of gigs and I would recommend you check out the links below for the latest information regarding other forthcoming gigs at this long running venue of live music in High Wycombe.
The second annual Animals Rock charity event at The Dashwood Arms, Piddington – raising funds for Animal SOS Sri Lanka – takes place from the evening of Friday 3rd May 2019, through to the evening of Sunday 5th May 2019.
There was a three band ‘punk’ influenced event at The Phoenix Bar, High Wycombe on Easter Sunday 21st April 2019 featuring Healthy Junkies, The Ragged Charms and Public Service Announcement.
Entry was a bargain £5 for the chance to see live three bands with differing influences but all with a passion for live music – as always, I urge you to support your local live music venues in High Wycombe and the surrounding areas.
Headliners Healthy Junkies are a London based band with a punk/garage sound. They have been on the live circuit for close to eight years and appeared at The Phoenix in March 2018. Their relentless hard-work has also seen them deliver a wealth of recorded output – including four albums – the most recent ‘Delirious Dream’, released in October 2018.
The band consist of Nina Courson (vocals), Phil-Honey-Jones (guitar), Dave Whitmore (bass) and Pumpy (drums) and provide an energetic mix of punk, metal and pop.
Looking for a reference point for influences, their sound has been compared to the likes of Sonic Youth through to Transvision Vamp, with perhaps an underlying nod to Nirvana. Don’t expect anything but pure on-stage energy and a slick delivery in the process.
Here’s a taste of what expect
Opening the evening were Public Service Announcement. They are no strangers to The Phoenix, having first played there in 2017 and most recently, a headline slot on 15th March 2019. The band consists of John Fleming (vocals), Pete Colverd (guitar) Dan Comben (bass) and Al Lane (drums). John and Pete are former members of High Wycombe post-punk outfit Basta Roc and played their first gig as Public Service Announcement in April 2017 during a charity event in memory of Gareth Jones.
Nearly two years on and the March 2019 gig marked the release of their debut EP – a five track beauty called ‘The Beginning’. The band originally started out playing a mixture of covers and re-works of Basta Roc songs. However, the writing bug appears to have kicked-in and the EP boasts tracks to be proud of.
The five tracks are: ‘What’s Happening’, ‘Come Back To Me’, ‘Five Years’, ‘When We Were Young’ and ‘Magnificent One’. Catchy tunes that stick in your ahead and with subject matter related to all ages. I urge you, at the very least, to take a listen to ‘Come Back to Me’ – written about struggling to cope with relatives and friends with dementia related illness. I was genuinely blown away when I first heard this played live at The Red Lion in Chinnor in August 2018.
On stage in the lead up to The Healthy Junkies were The Ragged Charms – a band making their first live appearance in High Wycombe but with a number of connections to the historically musical town.
The band were formed a year or so back through a collaboration between lead vocalist Ali Jones and guitarists Carlton Mounsher and Johnny Crees. The trio had previously worked with The Deadbeat Apostles but branched out to form their own sound and eventually added Andy Chalk and Neil Peters on bass and drums respectively to complete the rhythm section of the band. The five-piece made their live debut in January 2019 at The Isis River Farmhouse near Oxford.
And so to the connections with High Wycombe: Carlton Mounsher went to school in High Wycombe and was in what is considered to the first punk band from the town, Deathwish. Deathwish first gigged in October 1976 and famously/infamously (delete as appropriate) supported Generation X at The Nag’s Head in March 1977.
Andy Chalk also has a history of playing bass in 1980’s High Wycombe based punk/new wave bands but has more recently launched the Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound in November 2016 and briefly played bass for High Wycombe punk originals, The Xtraverts, during 2017.
Drummer Neil Peters comes from a slightly more recent local pedigree – playing with Straylight Interstate in the late 1990’s and then Subrosa5 as we moved into the 21st century. Neil is no stranger to gigs in High Wycombe having played the Phoenix under its original ‘Roundabout’ name, plus outings at The Antelope and The White Horse.
All this adds up to a version of The Ragged Charms that include an eclectic mix of sounds with influences drawn from Black American music through to traditional blues and straight forward rock ‘n’ roll. Ali’s vocals perhaps give their sound a sub-conscious comparison to PJ Harvey but they have enough variety in their output to let you make your own mind-up.
On Friday 1st March 2019 I was back as a guest on Andy Chalk’s Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound. This time sitting alongside another long-time friend, Martin Percival, talking more about the 40th anniversary of gigs in High Wycombe and reminiscing in particular about an appearance by The Damned at The Town Hall on 18th April 1979 – a gig where the punk originals were supported by a then up and coming punk/reggae group The Ruts and local band The Beez.
We played a selection of our Damned favourites from throughout the years, plus tracks from the support acts on the night. There was also the usual stuff old and new. It was broadcast between 9pm and 11pm on the new monthly (1st Friday of each month) time slot – hosted as usual by Andy.
It is possible to listen live in the High Wycombe area via 106.6 FM, via the internet and radio player.
Shows are also available to ‘Listen Again’ for four weeks via www.wycombesound.org.uk
The direct link to the Punkarolla ‘Listen Again’ page is:
I have since posted up more details of The Damned gig from April 1979 as a mark for 40th anniversary. This include set-lists from the all the acts that played that evening. If you want to hear previously un-circulated audio clips, please leave a comment and I’ll try to get these online.
An enhanced version of the advert from the Bucks Free Press is included below.
In this article we fondly remember Pete Shelley, founder member of ‘punk’ band Buzzcocks, who died on 6th December 2018 at the age of 63. Shelley’s legacy includes a memorable list of classic pop songs, as well as his part in evolving the ‘punk’ music around his home-land of Manchester. As a 20-year-old he travelled with two friends to see a Sex Pistols gig at High Wycombe College. What they saw that evening provided the catalyst for what would become two iconic gigs at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in June and July 1976 and pave the way for the likes of Factory Records, Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths and of course Buzzcocks, to help shape the future of British music.
Shelley (real name Pete McNeish) had tentatively formed a band in late 1975 with 23-year-old fellow Bolton student Howard Trafford (later to become Howard Devoto). On Wednesday 18th February 1976 they saw a first ever live review of a Sex Pistols gig in the New Musical Express and it inspired them to travel to London to track down the Pistols’ next gig.
It was also while they were down south that they would pick up a copy of Time Out magazine where the headline for the review of TV programme Rock Follies, ‘FEELING A BUZZ, COCKS’, gave them the idea for the name for their yet to be seen band –. After seeing the Pistols in High Wycombe they would return to Manchester to form Buzzcocks and promote the famous gigs at The Lesser Free Trade Hall.
Buzzcocks would play one of their first ever gigs at the latter of these two dates. Devoto took on lead vocals, while Shelley played guitar, aided by Steve Diggle on bass and John Maher on drums. In January 1977 they would release their debut EP, ‘Spiral Scratch’, on their self-funded New Hormones label – one of the first truly independent record releases in the UK. The EP included the now iconic ‘Boredom’ but the other three tracks, ‘Breakdown’, Time’s Up’ and ‘Friends of Mine’ had the same fresh sound and catch riffs.
soon after the release of ‘Spiral Scratch’, leaving founder member Shelley with decisions to make. Rather than recruit a new singer, Shelley bravely took on the front man role himself and the distinctive Buzzcocks sound was cemented with Steve Diggle moving to second guitar and Steve Garvey eventually becoming the permanent bass player.
With song-writing duties firmly on his shoulders, Shelley developed a way with lyrics that was virtually unique amongst his punk counterparts. Back in those formative years of punk rock, rather than tap into what was fast becoming clichéd lyrics referencing such topics as hate, war, crime, anarchy and violence, Shelley wasn’t afraid to mention love and write songs that included backing vocals of grown-men going ‘ooh, ooh’.
Also, unlike some of the other early London ‘punk’ bands who morphed out of the ‘pub-rock’ scene, Buzzcocks genuinely struggled to play their instruments during their early outings on the live circuit. Their early gigs would see the band muddling their way through primitive incarnations of their hits in the making – Shelley, in particular, with his sawn-off cheap guitar. However, the sound quickly developed into something unique and one that was enhanced to a new level in the studio.
Buzzcocks would eventually sign for United Artists in August 1977 – releasing their debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen in March 1978 – their rise to success would be fuelled by a series of consecutive pure punk pop singles – ‘Orgasm Addict’, ‘What Do I Get?’, ‘I Don’t’ Mind’, ‘Love You More’, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve Fallen in Love With)’, ‘Promises’, ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’, the list goes on and on.
It is relatively sad to look back to see that while many of the other original iconic British ‘punk’ bands played High Wycombe – including, Sex Pistols, Damned, Clash, Stranglers, Jam, Siouxsie and The Banshees and Generation X – Buzzcocks were never to perform on a High Wycombe stage – perhaps they weren’t ‘punk’ enough in the eyes of the promoters of the time? The nearest they came were appearances at Aylesbury Friars – first on 6th May 1978 and then on 28th March 1979.
It was at the latter of these two appearances, while still at school, that I was lucky enough to see them for the first time. I’d been captivated since seeing their Top of the Pops appearance of ‘I Don’t Mind’ in April 1978. I remember being amazed that it was possible to write a song that included the lyric ‘pathetic clown’. A couple of months later I heard their follow-up single ‘Love You More’ for the first time – lasting less than 2 minutes, I had to hear it again as soon as possible – hence a trip to town to buy the single in, by this time, its easily recognisable Buzzcocks style graphics.
I took the cover to the Friars gig in March 1979 in the hope of an autograph. At the end of the gig those with similar thoughts patiently waited to the left-hand side of the stage for the band to return. There was not much of a delay before Pete Shelley and fellow band member Steve Diggle emerged and happily signed autographs and chatted with their fans. At this point some random meathead security man decided he wanted to clear the hall and claimed the band had ‘gone home’ and there was no point in waiting. At which point Pete Shelley said in his distinctive high-pitched voice, ‘I’m still here!’. The intellectually challenged security man then repeated his claim that the band had ‘gone home’. Shelley responded with a slightly louder, ‘I’m still here!’ I can still hear his voice in my head saying those words.
In my youthful craze to hear more, I began accumulating live and early demo recordings of the band and soon discovered that Shelley’s pop songs were not limited to singles, or just three-minute songs. ‘Fast Cars’, ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’, ‘Fiction Romance’, ‘E.S.P.’, ‘I Believe’, to name just four.
The band split in 1981 leaving a hole for many of their followers. The records and tapes were stored away and we all moved on (for a while). Then in 1989 they re-formed and we were reminded what an incredible back catalogue of songs they could call on. The live shows were more powerful than ever. They recorded new music and also gigged until the point of Pete’s death and had arranged a 40 year anniversary gig at The Albert Hall in June 2019. I’d already got tickets and was in the process of going through the Buzzcocks archives when the tragic news arrived.
‘Oh Sh*t!’ was my one of my first reactions on the evening of Thursday 6th December 2018. Shelley had a song title for almost every emotion and in this case, the ‘B’ side of the 1977 Shelley penned classic ‘What Do I Get?’, seemed the most apt.
If by chance any family or friends of Pete read this, I send them my sincere best wishes and thanks for Pete’s life.
Love You More – from Paul
For your listening and viewing pleasure
Breakdown – Buzzcocks – Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall – July 1976
I Swear I Was There – Granada TV documentary 2001
Listen from 3:16 for Devotto and Shelley recalling the trip down south in February 1976
Buzzcocks in their own words – interview at British Library – 9 June 2016
Listen from 13:50 for comments from Shelley and Boon about Sex Pistols gig at High Wycombe February 1976
I Don’t Mind – Buzzcocks – Oxford Zodiac – March 2006 – first published December 2018
I was back on Andy Chalk’s Punkarolla radio show on Wycombe Sound on Friday 2nd November 2018 for another guest appearance. I can’t believe this was two years since my nervous outing on the debut show in November 2016!
This show featured more of my ramblings of the 40th anniversary of gigs in High Wycombe – this time looking back at appearances and playing music by Motorhead, 999, The Cure, Eddie and The Hot Rods and Pere Ubu. Plus, this time around, as an alternative to playing the back catalogue of The Fall, I delved into current breaking music influenced by punk and came up with tracks by Idles, Shame, Sleaford Mods and Cabbage. Plus, of course, Andy’s usual selection of underground punk music, including Black Bullets, The Accused. Ambition Demolition, DC Spectres, Healthy Junkies, Yur Mum and PollyPickPocketz. Plus an exclusive track by local band, Public Service Announcement – look out for their show at The Phoenix Bar on Friday 7th December 2018.
A reminder that it is possible to listen live in the High Wycombe area via 106.6 FM, via the internet and mobile app. Shows are also available to ‘Listen Again’ for four weeks via www.wycombesound.org.uk
The direct link to the Punkarolla ‘Listen Again’ page is:
Cherry Red records, announced as new shirt sponsors for Wycombe Wanderers in July 2018, launched a competition shortly afterwards.
Singin’ for Wycombe is asking for followers of the Club to record a song for Wycombe Wanderers, upload it to YouTube and/or Soundcloud and share it. The best efforts will be offered the chance to release their track on Cherry Red Records as part of a digital compilation.
The press release at the launch said: “The football club and record label will listen and select their favourites in December 2018. Those that make the final cut will be compiled in to a digital compilation which will be made available across iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube Music, Deezer and all the other legal digital platforms that Cherry Red distribute music to in early 2019.”
The news item also suggests the winner may get the chance to perform the song live at Adams Park.