The Buzzcocks were an English punk-rock band from Manchester that debuted with an EP on self-press New Hormones in January 1977, followed by eight singles and three albums on United Artists between October 1977 and September 1979. In 1978 alone, the band placed five songs on the UK singles chart. For its first eight months, the band was fronted by singer/lyricist Howard Devoto, who departed upon the EP’s release to form Magazine. Guitarist/songwriter Pete Shelley fronted the band through all remaining iterations.
Members: Pete Shelley (vocals, guitar), Howard Devoto (vocals, 1976-77), Garth Smith [aka Garth Davies] (bass, 1976, 1977), Mick Singleton (drums, 1976), Steve Diggle (guitar, bass, vocals, 1976-present), John Maher (drums, 1976-89, 1992), Barry Adamson (bass, 1977), Steve Garvey (bass, 1977-92)
The two instigators of Buzzcocks, singer–lyricist Howard Trafford (b. 1952) and musician Peter McNeish (1954–2018), met through a college notice board at the Bolton Institute of Technology in late 1975. The prior year, McNeish recorded 40 minutes of electronic noise with a purpose built oscillator (later released as Sky Yen). The two jammed to Brian Eno (“The True Wheel”), The Velvet Underground (“Sister Ray”), and Iggy & the Stooges (“Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell”).
In February 1976, they read a concert review in the NME of a new band, The Sex Pistols, who reportedly included a Stooges cover in their set. Intrigued by the band’s photo and overall description, the pair drove to see the act in London, where mutual friend Richard Boon accommodated their trip.
Once back in Manchester, Trafford and McNeish assembled a band with bassist Garth Davies and drummer Mick Singleton. McNeish adopted the surname Shelley, which he would have been christened had he been born a girl. Trafford became Howard Devoto. They named their band after a headline in Time Out magazine that stated “It’s the Buzz, Cock!” above a review for the ITV musical series Rock Follies. The formative Buzzcocks performed in April at Bolton Tech, where Shelley played a sawed-in-half Eastwood Starway, his signature red guitar at early gigs. Boon became their manager.
Shelley and Devoto promoted the Pistols first Manchester date at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. The Buzzcocks were slated to open but fell into lineup limbo. The June 4, 1976, show became a double-bill of the Pistols and symphonic-rockers Mandalaband, who recently made a concept album devised by Egyptologist David Rohl. The event became a watershed in the city’s musical renaissance with an audience comprised of future members of Joy Division and The Smiths.
Before the show, Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren introduced the Buzzcocks to guitarist–bassist Steve Diggle (b. 1955). Soon after, drummer John Maher (b. 1960) completed the lineup. The band rehearsed a mix of Devoto–Shelley originals and select covers, including songs by The Troggs (“I Can’t Control Myself”) and Captain Beefheart (“I Love You, You Big Dummy”). Demos from this period would later surface on the bootleg Time’s Up.
On July 20, 1976, the Buzzcocks played their first proper gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, where they opened for the Sex Pistols and local act Slaughter and the Dogs. On September 21, the Buzzcocks made their London debut as the closing act of the 100 Club Punk Special, a two-day event with sets by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, The Vibrators, Subway Sect, Stinky Toys, and an impromptu performance by a just-assembled Siouxsie and the Banshees. The event got extensive coverage in the nation’s music weeklies. Melody Maker reporter Caroline Coon, an early champion of punk, quoted Devoto as saying that he was “only in a rock band temporarily.”
On December 9, 1976, the Buzzcocks played at Manchester’s Electric Circus, where they were the fourth-billed act (below The Clash and Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers) on one of the few fulfilled dates of the Pistols’ ill-fated Anarchy In the UK tour. Later that month, they recorded their first EP with producer Martin Hannett. Boon established New Hormones as an outlet for his unsigned act.
1977: First EP, Devoto Quits, Shelley Sings
The Buzzcocks released one extended-play single before Devoto left the band to form Magazine, a more lavish act that released four albums and multiple singles between 1978 and 1981 on Virgin. After his departure, Shelley assumed the vocal slot and Diggle switched from bass to guitar. They rehired bassist Garth Smith, who stayed with the band until late 1977 and played on their first two singles. Late that year, the Buzzcocks hired Steve Garvey (b. 1958) as their permanent bassist.
The Buzzcocks recorded Spiral Scratch live on December 28, 1976, at Indigo Sound Studio in Manchester. Hannett is credited here as Martin Zero. The EP is housed in a simple off-white sleeve with a grayscale group photo by Boon. It shows Diggle and Shelley (light hair) lurched behind Maher and Devoto.
Spiral Scratch was the inaugural release on New Hormones, which then lied dormant until Boon kick-started the label in 1980. Meanwhile, the EP set a precedent that inspired other new bands to self-release records. Notable early examples include The Desperate Bicycles, which issued the August 1977 single “Smokescreen” (b/w “Handlebars”) on self-press Refill Records; and The Outsiders, a London trio that self-pressed the 1977 records One to Infinity (EP) and Calling On Youth on Raw Edge Records.
’77 Live Shows, Roxy Album
The Buzzcocks played two straight nights in January 1977 at the Roxy, a short-lived club in Covent Garden that served as London’s testing ground for the nascent punk scene. They headlined over Chelsea on Monday the 24th and played an exclusive showcase on the 25th.
After securing their new lineup with Shelley at the fore, they returned to the Roxy for an April 1 multi-act engagement with Wire and The Cortinas. The following night, the Buzzcocks and Wire performed taped sets back-to-back with X-Ray Spex and Johnny Moped for The Roxy London WC2 (Jan – Apr 77), a live document released that summer on Harvest. It features two Buzzcocks numbers (“Breakdown,” “Love Battery”) and tracks by The Adverts (“Bored Teenagers”), plus songs by Eater and Slaughter & the Dogs. On April 14, the Buzzcocks opened for rising Mancunian stars Sad Cafe (Mandalaband free of Rohl) at the Golden Palms in Blackburn.
On May 1, 1977, the Buzzcocks embarked on the White Riot tour, a package blitz headlined by The Clash and named after their debut single. The Buzzcocks were the second-billed act on most dates of the tour, which also featured The Jam, Subway Sect, and The Slits. The 25-date tour included stops in Birmingham (5/3/77: Barbarella’s), Liverpool (5/5: Eric’s), Leeds (5/17: Polytechnic), Bristol (5/26: Colston Hall), Canterbury (5/28: Odeon Theatre), Cardiff, Wales (5/24: Top Rank), and Edinburgh, Scotland (5/7: Playhouse) before wrapping on May 30 at the California Ballroom in Dunstable.
In July, Pete Shelley partook in a panel with singer Ian Hodge (The Worst) and Radio One DJ and punk champion John Peel at BBC TV studio, where they squared off against Pastor John Cooper and Conservative Councilman Bernard Brook-Partridge, both opponents of punk. The segment aired on August 3 as part of Brass Tracks, a BBC2 special on the punk movement presented by Brian Trueman.
Contract, First Singles
On August 16, 1977 — a date known in rock folklore as the day Elvis Presley died (and the day Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing filmed the “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee” slumber party scene in Grease) — the Buzzcocks signed to United Artists, buoyed by the chart success of Rattus Norvegicus, the debut album by recent UA signees The Stranglers.
The Buzzcocks recorded their first two singles in September at T.W. Studios in Fulham. Rattus producer Martin Rushent handled these and subsequent sessions. Rushent, a one-time protege of Bowie-soundman Tony Visconti, worked previously as an engineer on albums by Curved Air (Air Cut), Danny Kirwan, David Essex (Out In the Street), Gentle Giant (Three Friends, Octopus), Groundhogs (Hogwash), Fleetwood Mac, Osibisa, Premiata Forneria Marconi (L’Isola Di Niente), Roderick Falconer (New Nation), Snafu, Stone the Crows, Tonton Macoute, and Zzebra.
On the weekend of October 1–2, 1977, the Buzzcocks partook in a multi-act benefit show for the Electric Circus, which faced impending closure. The event featured sets by Mancunian upstarts The Fall, John Cooper-Clarke, The Prefects, The Worst, The Negatives (an ad hoc group with Boon on sax and NME writer Paul Morley on vocals), and Warsaw, a prototype of Joy Division. The Buzzcocks performed “What Do I Get?”, which Granada TV taped for Series 2, Show 1 of the music program So It Goes, presented by Mancunian impresario Tony Wilson, an attendee of the June ’76 Lesser Free Trade event.
On November 7, 1977, The Buzzcocks released “Orgasm Addict,” their first non-album single. The b-side, “Whatever Happened To?” The single was engineered by Alan Winstanley, a UA soundman and frequent Rushent collaborator who later formed a studio partnership with Clive Langer, the creative force behind Deaf School.
“Orgasm Addict” came in a yellow picture sleeve designed by Assorted Images, the firm of Malcolm Garrett. It features an image collage by artist Linda Sterling (front) and a monochrome blue group photo by Kevin Cummins (back). The image shows a nude female upside down with superimposed grinning lips (breast area) and a clothing iron in place of a head. Garrett, an ongoing Buzzcocks designer, establishes recurring motifs in the band’s package, including rotated title text (90 degrees, all capitalized) and a slanted logo with Z’s below and above the rag line.
On this and subsequent singles, the sleeve color scheme is mirrored on the record labels with a boxed, sideways logo. French copies were inadvertently pressed with the wrong master. Both sides appear on the 1978 Italian UA comp Punk Off! with tracks by labelmates 999, Dr. Feelgood, Maniacs, The Stranglers, and Celia & the Mutations (a French singer backed by Feelgood and Stranglers members).
1978: Singles, First Two Albums
In 1978, The Buzzcocks released two albums in the span of six months and five singles, including three non-album a- and b-sides. They mimed four songs on the BBC music program Top of the Pops; two thrice aired for a total of eight airings.
Meanwhile, Shelley wrote the liner notes for Cannibalism, a fourteen-track UA comp of the recently disbanded German Krautrock band Can. An avowed fan since their 1972 release Tago Mago, Shelley reveals that he “used to play ‘Halleluwah’ in the bath and the [twenty minute] ‘Yoo Doo Right’ in the dark at neighbor-hating levels.” Regarding the comp, he says his only criticism is “the amount of material left off.” In the last paragraph, Shelley cites Can guitarist Michael Karoli, along with Marc Bolan, as the reason he took up guitar.
Shelley also plays on four tracks (“Teenage Werewolf,” “Readers Wives,” “Post War Glamour Girl,” “Strange Bedfellows”) on the 1978 CBS release Disquise in Love, the debut album by Mancunian punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Hannett plays bass on the album, which also features drummer Paul Burgess (10cc) and guitarist Bill Nelson (Be-Bop Deluxe).
Elsewhere, Garvey partook in The Teardrops, a Mancunian punk band with castoffs of The Fall. He plays on their debut 12″ In and Out of Fashion, released on local-press Bent Records.
“What Do I Get?”
On January 20, 1978, The Buzzcocks released “What Do I Get?” their second non-album single. The b-side, “Oh Shit,” Both sides were cut during the September TW sessions that yielded the prior single. This marked their final release of new material recorded with Garth Smith.
UK copies came in a Garrett sleeve with a diagonal split-color scheme (olive, lime) with contrasting text. Germany copies retain the signature logo (red) and show the Buzzcocks (Smith lineup) reclined against a torn b&w backdrop. Dutch copies have a mid-’77 pic with the band lined side-to-side (Garth far right) under bold, alternate fonts. Belgian copies show the band pictured outside a window immediately after Garvey’s arrival.
Another Music In a Different Kitchen
The Buzzcocks released their first album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, on March 19, 1978, on United Artists.
Sessions took place in the winter of 1977–78 at Olympic Studios, London. Martin Rushent produced this album in succession with titles by Eddie & the Hot Rods (Life On the Line), The Stranglers (No More Heroes), Trickster (Find the Lady), and Generation X (self-titled). AMIaDK and its followup were engineered by Rushent assistant Douglas Bennett, who also worked on recent albums by The O Band and Racing Cars (Weekend Rendezvous).
Another Music in a Different Kitchen is housed a grey cover with a huddled shot of the black-clad band by Jill Furmanovsky, whose earlier visuals include photography for Al Stewart (Past, Present and Future), Bad Company, Climax Blues Band, Unicorn, and Wishbone Ash. Since the arrival of punk, she’d done sleeves on Miles Copeland’s Illegal and Step-Forward labels for Alternative TV, John Cale, and Squeeze. Different Kitchen sports black and orange typeface with rotated text. The LP labels have inverted variations of the gray–orange scheme. Early copies came in a carrier bag.
“I Don’t Mind” appeared as the album’s single, backed with “Autonomy.” UK copies came in an espresso-colored sleeve with off-white text: a theme matched on the boxed-logo labels. German copies have a recent b&w group pic on a white background with black and green text.
Another Music in a Different Kitchen reached No. 15 on the UK Albums Chart. Internationally, the album appeared in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, and Sweden. In Australia and New Zealand, AMiaDK appeared on Wizard Records in the label’s ZL catalog sequence along with local issues of albums by 999, the Sex Pistols, and Public Image Limited. Different Kitchen did not appear in the United States or Canada.
The Buzzcocks mimed “I Don’t Mind” for the April 27, 1978, broadcast of Top of the Pops, where they aired between segments by Raydio and the Patti Smith Group.
“Love You More”
Garrett’s sleeve design shows a pink–purple cubicle layout with one occupancy (a character at a desk). On the back sleeve, each cubicle is occupied by an individual and a set of speakers. The design is similar in all territories with minor color variations, namely the Dutch pressing (white–red). Concurrently, Assorted did sleeve designs for singles by the Yachts and a reformed Red Crayola, both on Radar Records.
The Buzzcocks mimed “Love You More” for the July 6 broadcast of TotP, where their segment aired ahead of Marshall Hain, A Taste of Honey, and the Electric Light Orchestra. In contrast to the mannered crowds and lip-synced TotP segments, the Buzzcocks performed both sides of this single live before a pogo-dancing audience on Revolver, a new wave music program that aired for eight episodes on ATV with comedic host Peter Cook.
Love Bites is housed in an embossed white cover on which the logo faintly protrudes above the encircled group pic. The disheveled foursome are photographed on front by one Chris Gabria. Artist Robin Utracik did the monochrome blue paintings of each member on the inner-sleeve. Inversions of the blue–red on white scheme are replicated on the LP labels. In contract to Different Kitchen, where Garrett utilizes thin, formal, sans serif all-caps, the text on Love Bites is thick, cursive, lower case and apparently hand-written.
“Ever Fallen In Love” appeared as the album’s single, backed with “Just Lust.” The title comes from a line in the 1955 Frank Sinatra musical Guys and Dolls, in which mobster Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) gets pestered by his fiance of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), who rhetorically asks “Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have? Just wait till it happens to you.”
“Ever Fallen In Love” is housed in a sleeve credited to Advanced Images (aka Assorted Images). It shows a red–blue in-lined heart on a pastel-blue background with cursive, lower-case typeface, similar to the Love Bites cover. A promo press exists with the graphics set to an off-white textured sleeve. Dutch copies were housed in an alternate sleeve with non-Garrett fonts and an incongruous, gold-tinted pic of the pre-Garvey lineup.
“Ever Fallen In Love” reached No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart. The Buzzcocks mime the song on the September 21 episode of TotP, which re-aired the clip on the October 5 and 19 broadcasts.
Love Bites reached No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart. “Sixteen Again” appears on The Vinyl Solution – JEM Import Sampler No. 9, a US Jem Records promo sampler with cuts by , Good Rats, Ultravox (“Slow Motion”), Coventry punks The Flys, and the Canadian bands , Hellfield, and
The b-side, “Lipstick,” has an ascending sequencing of notes heard earlier in “Shot By Both Sides,” an earlier Devoto–Shelley number that Howard recorded with Magazine.
“Promises” has a black Garrett sleeve with a color scheme of purple (ring and logo) and lime (square and titles). The labels on both sides are purple with black logo boxes. French copies show the band clad in geometric new wave tops and mod haircuts with a red logo and blue backdrop.
Weeks before this release, the Buzzcocks performed both sides, along with “Sixteen Again” and the unreleased “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” at Maida Vale, Studio 4, for the October 23 broadcast of The John Peel Show.
“Promises” reached No. 20 on the UK Singles Chart. The Buzzcocks mimed the song for the November 16 broadcast of TotP, which aired them between Three Degrees and Elton John. ToTP re-aired “Promises” on Nov. 30 (between Heatwave and Leo Sayer) and December 14 (between Hot Chocolate and Elkie Brooks).
1979: Singles, Compilation, Third Album
In July 1979, the Buzzcocks released their eighth single in twenty months. The American new wave label I.R.S. chronicled the group’s tally with a compilation for the US market. In September, the Buzzcocks released their third studio album in eighteen months.
With three albums and twelve non-album songs to their credit since signing with UA, the Buzzcocks amassed four album’s worth of output in the 22-month period between November 1977 and September 1979.
“Everybody’s Happy Nowadays”
The b-side, “Why Can’t I Touch It?” (6:33).
The single appeared in a text sleeve with the title two-tone displayed in two-tone children’s font (red and orange). The logo is varying shades of green on all but two UK pressings (both blue). I.R.S. issued the single stateside with crimson title text. The back sleeve has a trapezoidal group pic with the members standing around a seated, disheveled Shelley, whose hair had grown to pre-punk length at the time of this shoot.
“Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” reached the UK Top 30. The Buzzcocks mimed it for the March 8 episode of TotP, which aired the song between a post-Lydon Pistols hit sung by Sid Vicious (“Something Else”) and a number by reggae artist Dennis Brown (“Money In My Pocket”). TotP re-aired all three songs on its March 22 broadcast.
“Harmony In My Head”
On July 13, 1979, The Buzzcocks released “Harmony In My Head,” their sixth non-album single and eighth overall. Diggle wrote and sung the song, which he sings in a gruff voice reminiscent of the early Burnel-sung Stranglers numbers (“London Lady,” “Something Better Change”). To muster the voice, Diggle smoked a pack of cigarettes just prior to the sessions. He drew lyrical inspiration from Irish novelist James Joyce, a modernist bard noted for his interior monologues.
The b-side, “Something’s Gone Wrong Again,” is a psych-tinged Shelley number with phased vocals. Winstanley returned for this single, which he engineered in succession with 1979 titles by Amii Stewart, Joe Jackson, The Stranglers (The Raven), Trickster (Back to Zero), and Deaf School spinoffs The Planets (Goon Hilly Down) and Clive Langer & the Boxes.
The picture sleeve depicts the outline of a human profile with brain static, credited to Garrett’s ‘Adversitive Images’, which pressed the image in red and blue versions.
Singles Going Steady
In September 1979, I.R.S. issued Singles Going Steady, a compilation of the first ten Buzzcocks singles. Side one contains each a-side the band released between “Orgasm Addict” and “Harmony In My Head.” Likewise, side two contains the respective b-sides. Of the compilation’s sixteen songs, twelve were unavailable on album until this release.
Given the recent status and brief timespan of its contents, Singles Going Steady is often considered a standard album. Though intended as a primer for North American listeners, the compilation’s popularity as an import prompted its 1981 UK release on Liberty.
A Different Kind of Tension
The Buzzcocks released their third studio album, A Different Kind of Tension, on September 21, 1979, on United Artists. The sides are subtitled The Rose On the Chocolate Box (one) and The Thorn Beneath the Rose (two).
On Chocolate Box, Shelley wrote the opener, “Paradise,” and both sides of the album’s one single: “You Say You Don’t Love Me” and “Raison D’etre.” Diggle contributed three numbers: “Sitting Round at Home,” “You Know You Can’t Help It,” and “Mad Mad Judy.”
Shelley wrote the entirety of Thorn Beneath, which evolves from direct pop-punk (“I Don’t Know What to Do with My Life”) to the lumbering “Money,” a heavy, fractious number that cuts to the bassline pressure drop of “Hollow Inside.” The title-track is a pounding, urgent set up for “I Believe,” an epic of circular affirmations that culminate in a single negation (“There is no love in this world anymore!”)
Sessions took place in the summer of 1979 at Eden Studios, London. Shelley and Diggle are both credited with lead electric guitar, respectively in the left-hand and right-hand channels. Rushent produced and engineered the album in succession with titles by Dr. Feelgood, Ian Gomm, Stranglers bassist JJ Burnel (Euroman Cometh), and French rockers Telephone. The assistant engineer, Nick Froome, also worked on the album English Garden by Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club.
A Different Kind of Tension sports Garrett’s most elaborate cover art for the band. It shows a silhouetted performance pic (by
) encased in a tilted triangle against a yellow backdrop with purple bars and titular panels and an orange logo with matching round overlays (one for each member). The back cover shows the four orange spheres (tilted) on yellow amid purple bars, small type, and a two-column, three-row group of spheres. The inner-sleeve uses pink and teal text and shapes against a yellow backdrop with lyrics and a triangle packed with assorted member pics. The frontal imagery reflects on the yellow–orange triangle scheme of the LP labels. This time, Garrett lists his firm as .
“You Say You Don’t Love Me” appeared as the album’s single, backed with “Raison D’etre.” The single has a lime sleeve with crimson overlay and blue checkers and line-crossed circles. The back has the a-side’s lyrics in blue text on a spearmint circle lined with crimson solar flares. The logo-box record labels use the blue–green scheme. For this single, Garrett names his firm .
A Different Kind of Tension reached the UK Top 30. In 1980, I.R.S. issued the album in the US, where it charted on the Billboard 200.
1980: Three Singles
In 1980, Maher played on the Hannett-produced singular album by Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls, a Penetration spinoff. He also appeared on a one-off single by The Things: “Pieces of You” (b/w “Lost Love”).
Meanwhile, Shelley and partner Francis Cookman launched Groovy Records, an experimental label that issued three albums, including Sky Yen (Shelley’s March 1974 oscillator recording) and £3.33, an album of lo-fi industrial noise credited to Free Agents. The third Groovy release, Hangahar, is an avant-garde drone recording with multi-tracked wordless female vocals. It consists of two side-length tracks titled “Soundtrack of the Film Hangahar,” recorded in 1979 at Smile Studios, Whalley Range, with participation from Shelley and Factory Records staffer Lindsay Reade.
The Free Agents yielded a side project, The Tiller Boys, whose 1980 post-punk EP, Big Noise From the Jungle, reactivated Boon’s New Hormones label, which issued multiple shortplayers by Linda Sterling’s Ludus. Shelley plays on Big Noise alongside Mancunian musician Eric Random, a Durutti Column auxiliary player who later appeared on titles by Cabaret Voltaire and the Diagram Brothers.
Elsewhere, Garvey teamed with Fall drummer Karl Burns on a single as Bok Bok, “Come Back To Me” (b/w “Misfit”), issued on Bok Bok Records and distributed by Rough Trade.
In the latter half of 1980, the Buzzcocks issued two Hannett-produced singles and a third overseen by Rushent, all recorded at Advision Studios, London, and respectively labeled Part’s 1, 2, and 3.
Part 1. “Are Everything”
On August 26, 1980, the Buzzcocks released “Are Everything,” their seventh non-album single and tenth overall. It’s a Shelley number with uncredited viola by classical producer . The b-side, “Why She’s a Girl From the Chainstore,” is a Diggle tune with uncredited cello by Georgie Born, a late-period Henry Cow member who also played on recent albums by the Art Bears, National Health (Of Queues and Cures), and Stormy Six.
“Are Everything” is housed in a sleeve with an orange–yellow–blue on gray scheme. It shows a saturated, paint-blotched collage of newspaper clips and stock photos. The back sleeve has a monochrome overhead shot of the mod-attired quartet on a scrap-heap, photographed by Chalkie Davies, who also has visual credits on 1978–80 titles by The Boomtown Rats (A Tonic for the Troops), Gary Moore, Judie Tzuke (Sports Car), The Pretenders (self-titled), The Specials (self-titled), Thin Lizzy, and Zaine Griff.
The single sides are signified by a triangle (side a) and a square (side b). These shapes carry over to the record labels. On UA copies, the labels have b&w boxed logos. In the US, I.R.S. pressed the single with gray–orange labels with rainbow-circle trim on which the company’s full name (International Record Syndicate) is spelled out in Memphis-style font.
Part 2. “Strange Thing”
On October 13, 1980, The Buzzcocks released “Strange Thing,” their eighth non-album single and eleventh overall. This Shelley a-side credits cellist Born, who also plays on 1980–81 titles by Bruford (Gradually Going Tornado), Lindsay Cooper, and The Raincoats. The Diggle b-side, “Air Waves Dream,” features saxophonist and worldclass trumpeter Henry Lowther, whose resume covered jazz (Michael Gibbs, Mike Westbrook, Norma Winstone), rock (Jack Bruce, Locomotive, Simpson’s Pure Oxygen), and in-between (Colosseum, Coley, Egg).
“Strange Thing” came in a pale blue sleeve with orange–white text and a blurred, tight-knit group shot by Adrian Boot, whose imagery also appears on 1980 albums by Bob Marley & the Wailers, Def Leppard, The Police (Zenyatta Mondatta), and Roy Harper. The back sleeve shows another paint-impressed, cut-and-paste collage piece.
On the sleeve and labels, the single sides are signified by a circle (side a) and three squiggly lines (side b). Hannett produced Part’s 1 and 2 in succession with 1980 singles by the A Certain Ratio, Psychedelic Furs, Section 25, and U2; plus the second album by Joy Division (Closer) and the third by Magazine (The Correct Use of Soap).
Part 3. “Running Free”
On November 24, 1980, The Buzzcocks released “Running Free,” their ninth non-album single and twelfth overall. The b-side, “What Do You Know,” has a three-piece brass section: Leslie Condon, Peter King (tenor sax), and Stan Robinson (alto sax). King played on seventies recordings by Clifford T. Ward, RAH Band, and Caravan (For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night). Robinson once played in the Don Rendell–Ian Carr Quintet. This time, Diggle wrote the a-side and Shelley penned the flip.
The single is housed in a dark green sleeve with light green lines and blue–white text. Boot captured the modish band outside a building on the sideways, blue-streaked photo. The back sleeve shows another paint-impressed collage. On this release, Garrett identified his firm as
. The side signifies this time are a cross (side a) and a star (side b).
Parts 1, 2, 3
In North America, I.R.S. combined the three singles onto a 12″ EP titled Parts 1, 2, 3 (variably identified as Parts 1–3 and Parts One, Two, Three). The Canadian cover incorporates design elements from the three 7″ picture sleeves with roaming text, cross-lines and song shapes (triangle, square, circle, etc.) against a green backdrop with Boot’s blurred Buzzcocks photo and the three collages.
The American cover has art that wraps around the front and back of a single sleeve with large yellow letters over a triptych of green (1, back), orange (2, spine-split), and blue (3, front). This cover uses the three group photos and lists each song title next to its corresponding shape. The collages don’t appear on this cover, which uses vertical and horizontal text.
Split, Separate Work
Pete Shelley disbanded the Buzzcocks in early 1981. Later that year, he launched his solo career with Homosapien, an electropop album that spawned an international club hit with the title track. He continued in this vein with the 1983 release XL·1, which spawned another club hit with “Telephone Operator.” Both albums appeared domestically on Genetic Records and abroad on Island (Europe) and Arista (US). In 1986, he reappeared on Mercury with Heaven & The Sea. Its lead-off single, “On Your Own,” has a semi-animated clip that aired recurrently on MTV’s underground video program 120 Minutes.
Diggle and Maher co-founded the new wave band Flag of Convenience, which debuted with the 1982 PVC–Sire single “Life On the Telephone” (b/w “The Other Man’s Sin”). In 1984, they self-released a nine-song cassette album, The Big Secret. Several singles followed on self-press M.C.M. Records, culminating with the 1987 album Northwest Skyline, recorded after Maher’s departure.
In late 1989, the Buzzcocks reconvened with their classic lineup (Shelley, Diggle, Maher, Garvey) and toured both sides of the Atlantic.
- Spiral Scratch (1977, EP)
- Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1977)
- Love Bites (1978)
- Singles Going Steady (1979 — recorded 1977–79)
- A Different Kind of Tension (1979)
- Parts 1–3 (1981, EP)
- Discogs: Buzzcocks
- English Albums: B (page 7)
- 45worlds: Buzzcocks
- 45cat: Buzzcocks
- Rock Tour Database: White Riot tour ’77
- Buzzcocks: The Complete History by Tony McGartland
- Top of the Pops: 1978 Episode Guide
- Pet’s Gallery: Eastwood Pete Shelley Guitar
- 1988: The New Wave, Punk Rock Explosion by Caroline Coon.
Omnibus Press. London/New York/Sydney/Cologne. 1977.
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