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Pete Shelley death: Buzzcocks lead singer dies from suspected heart attack, aged 63

The band described Shelley as ‘one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters’

Clémence Michallon
New York
Thursday 06 December 2018 22:22
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Pete Shelley talks about life before the Buzzcocks in 2016 interview at The British Library

Pete Shelley, the leader of the English punk rock band Buzzcocks, has died at the age of 63.

The singer, songwriter, and guitarist died on Thursday in Estonia, his country of residence, the band’s management told BBC News.

Shelley passed away due to a suspected heart attack.

Buzzcocks are best known for their 1978 hit “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”, written by Shelley.

The band confirmed their frontman’s death in a tweet on Thursday, writing: “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.”

Musician Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks perform onstage during day two of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on 14 April, 2012 in Indio, California. ((Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images for Coachella))

They further paid tribute to Shelley, adding in another message: “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.”

Norman Blake, the frontman of Teenage Fanclub, paid tribute to Shelley’s musical legacy.

“Not been on here for a while, but I can’t not mark the passing of Pete Shelley,” he wrote on Twitter. ”I love(d) Buzzcocks. His songs were important to me when I was a young man and they still are to me now. Thank you Pete and R.I.P. You will be missed.”

Tracey Thorn, formerly one half of the dance music duo Everything But The Girl, also paid her respects, quoting from the Buzzcocks’ track “16 Again”.

“Oh God but I loved Buzzcocks,” she said. “And Pete Shelley was an amazing songwriter. ‘But after all life’s only death’s recompense.’ RIP.”

Author Neil Gaiman said that part of his youth had died along with Shelley.

Buzzcocks, whose other members are Steve Diggle, Chris Remington and Danny Farrant, have several shows scheduled in the near future, including one in the Netherlands on 14 December and another at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 21 June, 2019.

The group are also among the line-up of a musical cruise helmed by Belle & Sebastian called the Boaty Weekender, set to take place between 8 and 12 August, 2019.

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Shelley, a native of Leigh, formed Buzzcocks with former member Howard Devoto. Buzzcocks have often been compared to the Sex Pistols and billed as one of the many bands who sprouted from the group’s historic 1976 concert in Manchester.

Buzzcocks went on hiatus and reformed several times, putting out nine studio albums in total, the latest of which came out in 2014.

Shelley also embraced a solo career and released six studio albums, including the groundbreaking Homosapien in 1981.

The song of the same name, released as a single, was banned by the BBC at the time of its debut due to an “explicit reference to gay sex” in its lyrics.

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Shelley openly discussed his bisexuality, once telling Pitchfork that other punk bands “didn’t seem to bat an eyelid” because “the idea of what people know, or the stereotype of a punk, hadn’t been formed”.

“People think it was all ‘argghh’ and angry and violent, but it was really about people enjoying themselves and making things happen,” he said of punk music.

Shelley credited the genre for putting people ”in the driver’s seat”, adding: “Don’t worry about the fact that nobody’s making good music. You only have yourselves to blame. You can go out and make it.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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