Pete Shelley, the singer and guitarist for the trailblazing British punk outfit the Buzzcocks, died Thursday at the age of 63. The cause of death was a heart attack, Shelley’s brother Gary John Mcneish confirmed via Facebook. A spokesperson for the Buzzcocks confirmed Shelley’s death to 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.”
The Buzzcocks stood alongside the Clash and the Sex Pistols as pioneers of British punk. Shelley and Howard Devoto formed the band in 1975, and after Devoto left, Shelley took over as the lead singer and songwriter, his melodic sneer pairing perfectly with the Buzzcocks’ breakneck guitar attack.
The group released their first EP, Spiral Scratch, in 1977, while their debut album, Another Music In a Different Kitchen, arrived the following year and cracked the Top 20 on the British album charts. The group enjoyed some domestic chart success during the late Seventies, with their most prominent single, “Ever Fallen In Love… (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” peaking at Number 12. A revered compilation, Singles Going Steady, was released in 1979.
Though the Buzzcocks cultivated devoted fanbases in the U.K. and the United States, their record sales were ultimately underwhelming. After releasing his first solo record in 1980, Shelley officially left the Buzzcocks in 1981. His second solo effort, Homosapien, was a marked musical departure as he worked extensively with synthesizers and drum machines. Shelley’s lyrics, however, remained brash, funny and frank, and his allusions to his bisexuality infamously earned the Homosapiens title-track and lead single a ban from the BBC over the lyric “homo superior/ in my interior” (the cut nevertheless became a dance club staple).
Shelley eventually reunited with the Buzzcocks in 1989 and the group released their fourth studio album, Trade Test Transmissions, in 1993. Over the next several decades, the band toured regularly and released five more albums, with their latest, The Way, arriving in 2014.
The Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen In Love… (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”
The Buzzcocks – “What Do I Get?”
The Buzzcocks – “Orgasm Addict”