An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!
This piece is a modified version of what I wrote for This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio when Pete Shelly passed away in late 2018, repurposed as a chapter for my forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). Ultimately, however, the Buzzcocks chapter didn’t quite fit in with my plans for the book. It be that way sometimes. Nonetheless, the chapter is presented here for your enjoyment.
THE BUZZCOCKS: “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”
Single, United Artists Records [U.K], 1978
Singles Going Steady was my introduction to the music of The Buzzcocks. Although it was really just a compilation of the group’s singles, it was the first Buzzcocks album released in America. I cherished it from that day forward. “Ever Fallen In Love?” “What Do I Get?” “I Don’t Mind.” “Orgasm Addict.” “Love You More.” “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays.” “Harmony In My Head.” “Promises.” Classics, all of ’em. And that was just Side One!
I’m sure I read about the band before that visit to the record shop, but I can’t remember whether or not I’d heard any of the songs before snapping up my copy of Singles Going Steady. Either way, I knew: My music. My kind of record. My kind of band. Music firmly rooted in the example of the 1960s British Invasion, music that couldn’t have existed without British punk (and American Ramones) making it possible.
Other than Steve Diggle’s “Harmony In My Head,” all of those amazing tracks on Side One of Singles Going Steady were written or co-written by Pete Shelley. Shelley and Diggle were inspired by The Sex Pistols, but informed by a working knowledge of hooks and harmonies, the power of pop, the sheer thrill of what a 45 rpm record could do when played loud, when played on the radio. Some called The Buzzcocks the punk Beatles. To me, another touchstone seemed closer to the mark: The Buzzcocks reminded me of The Kinks.
I can’t explain exactly why. Maybe it was a vague similarity in the quirky nature of the lead vocals. Maybe it was the shrugging off of any pretense of perfection, the casual embrace of its own ragged glory. For whatever reason: God save The Buzzcocks. Now and always, God save The Buzzcocks.
Although The Buzzcocks’ “What Do I Get” has shown up (incongruously) in American advertising–one still awaits the day when “Orgasm Addict” will appear in a TV commercial for ED drugs–the group’s signature tune has to be “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” (shortened to just “Ever Fallen I Love?” for the American LP). The song’s lyrics reflect a same-sex relationship, though the notion of falling in love with someone we shouldn’t have transcends the specifics of sexuality and gender politics. Few of us have been fortunate enough to avoid that trap entirely, to never find ourselves ensnared with a boy or a girl who ain’t nothin’ but trouble, however that trouble manifests its ornery self. The Buzzcocks’ recording is convincing and commanding, making what may be a really bad romance sound really good, at least on the stereo. Where it’s safe!
Ever fallen in love? With a guy or gal who just isn’t right for you, or perhaps with a style of music that will mark you permanently out with the in crowd? Testify, brothers and sisters. The pundits said punk wasn’t built to last. Pete Shelley passed away suddenly in December of 2018. The music outlasts us. It will outlive us all. It’s okay to fall in love with that.