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Music

Budgie bassist Burke Shelley has died aged 71

Founder and bassist of the band Budgie, Blake Shelley, has died at the age of 71. 

His daughter, Ela Shelley, confirmed the sad news via Facebook in a message that read: “It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my father, John Burke Shelley. He passed away this evening in his sleep at Heath Hospital in Cardiff, his birth town. He was 71 years old”.

A Cardiff native, in his early life, Burke Shelley found himself inspired by The Beatles and notably the absurdist wordplay of John Lennon. This would become a style that he would incorporate into his own songwriting when he first acquired a bass at around 16-years-old. 

Along with drummer Ray Phillips and guitarists Kevin Newton and Brian Goddard, he formed Budgie in 1967 and decided to pursue a music career with the band full time. While Newton and Goddard would leave the band, Tony Bourge would soon replace them and become a key member for over ten years. 

Over the course of their career, Burke Shelley ensured that the band had cult hits with tracks like ‘Breadfan’, ‘Crash Course in Brain Surgery’ and ‘Guts’ among others.

Their style was often referred to as a sort of unique middle ground between the proto heavy metal stylings of Black Sabbath and the uber progressive ways of Rush. This melding of sound and Shelley’s own literary songwriting crafted them a beloved niche in the British music scene and beyond.

Tributes have poured in for the cult hero, including the following from the actor Mark Benton, who writes: “Goodbye Burke Shelley. When I was young I made my Mam embroider the Budgie logo on my denim jacket they were my favourite. Parents, In for the Kill, Pyramids.”

As of yet, no cause of death has been announced.