Punk history on the installment plan…part one
The Buzzcocks had to be quick because they didn’t know how long they would last. That’s what Pete Shelley told Tony Wilson over tea and cigarettes in this documentary B’dum B’dum from 1978.
Made as part of Granada TV’s What’s On series, B’dum B’dum follows the tale of the band Buzzcocks from formation to first split and the creation of splinter group Howard Devoto’s Magazine.
Shelley met Devoto at Bolton Institute of Technology in 1975. Shelley responded to an ad Devoto had placed on the student notice board looking for musicians to form a band. The pair clicked and started writing songs together. Then they wanted to perform their songs, so they sought out other musicians to play them (Steve Diggle, bass, and John Maher, drums), and hey presto, Buzzcocks.
The influence had been punk and The Sex Pistols, but Devoto found punk “very limiting” as “in terms of music there was a whole gamut of other stuff”:
“...Leonard Cohen, Dylan, David Bowie. With the Pistols and Iggy Pop, it was the anger and poetry which hooked me in really…
“I think that punk rock was a new version of trouble-shooting modern forms of unhappiness, and I think that a lot of our cultural activity is concerned with the process, particularly in our more privileged world, with time on our hands—in a world, most probably after religion.
“My life changed at the point I saw the Sex Pistols, and became involved in trying to set up those concerts for them. Suddenly I was drawn into something which really engaged me. Punk was nihilistic anger, not overtly political anger. Political anger could have been the radical Sixties.”
Pete Shelley, Tony Wilson, Howard Devoto during the making of ‘B’dum B’dum’ 1978.
The Buzzcocks recorded and released the “massively influential” Spiral Scratch a four track EP, which contained the Shelley/Devoto songs “Breakdown,” “Time’s Up,” “Boredom,” and “Friends of Mine.”
Parts three to five with Shelley and Devoto, plus full Buzzcocks concert, after the jump…