The Ramones are the be all and end all of punk rock. Everything that comes after is punk rock mixed with something else. The Clash used ska and reggae. The Sex Pistols were a glorified boy band. Blondie was disco, Television was arty, the New York Dolls were an excellent drag act, the Adverts could barely play, the Specials weren’t even punk. And the Buzzcocks? They were the pop punk progenitors, the beginning of where Green Day and Blink-182 came from. Please don’t hate them for the latter. It really wasn’t their fault. But it’s hard to imagine “All the Small Things” or “Longview” being possible if Pete Shelley hadn’t sang “Orgasm Addict”.
The Buzzcocks are among my eldest daughters favourite bands. They were close to being her first concert if she had bothered to clean up her room. As it is, she listens to Singles Going Steady on pretty much a continuous loop with her Script albums. I’m just proud to pass on such fantastic taste.
It is technically a “compilation album”. But it’s a compilation album that has completely dwarfed all their proper albums. It also is the album most associated with the band in the U.S. Like most punk of the era, it was mostly quick and dirty. The Buzzcocks, though, were less overtly political than the Clash, better musicians than the Sex Pistols, and funnier than all their contemporaries. The Buzzcocks would speed through cheeky songs about masturbation, swearing, love, sex, and whatever completely juvenile boy thing they can think of.
There are moments when I listen to this album where I sit up and go “They really were better than [insert seminal punk band we all love here]”. Mostly it happens when I listen to the genius “Ever Fallen In Love?”. The band’s definitive track, it races along at breakneck speed while Pete Shelley laments love with some very clear lyrics. “If I cause a commotion I run the risk losing you and that’s worse.” Uh, yeah. As he intones over the ferocious guitars and bashed drums “Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with?”, asking the most important question most of us never bother to answer because it forces us to look at how moronic love makes all of us, you realize that Pete Shelley is a genius and you’re glad Howard Devoto left to go be in Magazine instead. “Ever Fallen In Love?” is easily one of my favourite songs.
There is the speedy lament “What Do I Get?”, another valid and universal question ( “I only want a lover like any other, but what do I get?” The answer: you. And you ain’t all that), the paean to self pleasure “Orgasm Addict”, the blunt end of love song “Oh Shit”, the more or less ambiguously asked “Why Can’t I Touch It?”, and Steve Diggle’s love song to the audio world “Harmony in My Head”, a song so great Henry Rollins named his radio show after it.
Why the Buzzcocks are now overlooked while the praises of other punk era bands are exulted, sometimes with extreme disregard for what they really meant in the scheme of thing ( *cough* THESEXPISTOLSARESHIT *cough), distresses me. The Buzzcocks are also the only survivors. They still tour. They still record. They still are awesome. They should be revered by more than just me.
It’s even worse, in a way, because of the extreme success of the now 25 series and on running U.K. panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. While NMtB is easily one of my three favourite TV shows in the history of the medium, the Buzzcocks have now become a punchline in a joke they didn’t write. You type in “The Buzzcocks” into YouTube, you get TV show clips, hilarious as they are. You don’t get brilliant songs like “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” until later on in the list.
But of course, this can be corrected. Go. Find yourself all the Buzzcocks albums you can. Listen to them. Be amazed that they were considered the third tier of British punk rock. And then wonder why the hell the Sex Pistols are treated like goddamned Gods.
Nothing on Never Mind The Bollocks is half as good as “Something Gone Wrong Again”.