The punk pioneer has died, aged 63

Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley has died of a suspected heart attack, aged 63.

The band’s official Twitter account confirmed the news last night (December 6). Shelley died in Estonia where he had been living since 2012 with his Estonian-Canadian wife Greta.

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Shelley (né McNeish) formed Buzzcocks with Howard Devoto (né Trafford) in Bolton in 1975. They organised Sex Pistols’ seminal gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976 and supported them when the Pistols returned to play the same venue a month later.

Buzzcocks’ self-released debut EP, Spiral Scratch, helped kickstart a DIY revolution. Devoto left the band soon afterwards, with guitarist Shelley stepping forward as frontman. He wrote the majority of the band’s indelible punk-pop singles, including “What Do I Get?”, “I Don’t Mind”, “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” and UK No. 12 hit “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”.

Buzzcocks split in 1981 with Shelley launching a solo career that took his songwriting in a more electronic direction on singles such as “Homosapien”, banned by the BBC for its “explicit reference to gay sex”. Buzzcocks reformed in 1989, recording six more albums to add to the three they made in the late-70s, and touring with the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Peter Hook, who played his first gig with Warsaw (soon to become Joy Division) supporting Buzzcocks, called Shelley “a true gent… He helped us so much at the start of our career out of a sheer love for all things punk. Without Pete & the Buzzcocks I would probably still be working at the docks.”

Pete Wylie wrote: “He should be remembered forever for the guitar solo in ‘Boredom’ alone. How utterly sad. And that Starway guitar was the punkrockest thing ever! Night night pretty Pete.”

“Pete Shelley wrote perfect three minute pop songs,” wrote The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess. “The soundtrack to being a teenager. You’ll be missed Pete but you’ll be remembered for a long long time for your brilliant music.”

R.E.M.’s Mike Mills wrote: “Damn. Pete Shelley gone. The Buzzcocks were and are a favorite of mine, and I was fortunate to be able to hang with Pete a few times and tell him so.”

Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament wrote that “playing shows with the Buzzcocks was one of the highlights of my life. I listened to Singles and Tension as much as any records I’ve owned. Thank you Pete for all the great words and music.”

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