In celebration of what would have been Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley’s 65th birthday, we’re looking back at a seminal moment for the band as they returned to Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1978 for a remarkable homecoming.
One of the highlights of the set, and most of their sets from the song’s initial creation was the Buzzcocks’ performance of ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, the teenage heartbreak anthem that proved Shelley was a class above the rest. Lyrically, he was out of everybody’s league.
Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall can boast one particularly brilliant gig as the confirmation of its legend status. When the venue welcomed the then-relatively unknown band the Sex Pistols nobody could have been aware of the impact it would have—inspiring countless, and we mean countless, bands. We have two Bolton Technical College students to thank for it, Howard Trafford and Pete McNeish.
An article in the NME had inspired the two students to make a b-line for London and head to Malcolm McLaren’s location. They borrowed a car and jumped on the motorway down to the capital. They watched the band perform twice and became instantly inspired. They decided the Sex Pistols needed to get to Manchester. And quickly.
The weekend in London would inspire McNeish and Trafford to not only name their own newly-formed band the Buzzcocks but to change their names to Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto. The two students had arranged the gig with the idea that they would support the group, but they wouldn’t be ready in time for the iconic June 4th gig.
They would, however, be ready for the band’s return six weeks later where Devoto and Shelley, along with Steve Diggle and John Maher, took to the stage as the Buzzcocks and began their journey to the pinnacle of British music.
After Devoto left, dissatisfied with the road punk was taking, the group was fronted by Pete Shelley and quickly turned into a powerhouse punk outfit that, amid all the anarchic machismo, stood out as the cultured, cultivated and sensitive side of the genre. Shelley and co. wrote highly powered pop songs that, as well as being charged with energy, were intelligent and carefully constructed. With them, the group soon carved out their own unassailable niche. They were the thinking man’s punk.
When the group returned to the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1978, two years and one day since their first appearance, they were now the headline act. They had whipped around the toilet circuit and were back to claim their throne as King of the Manchester punk scene. It was a title they battled for across the nation as one song would go on to highlight their growing popularity and establish the Buzzcocks as legends.
Of course, the song, we’re talking about is ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You shouldn’t’ve)’. the track shot the Buzzcocks into the mainstream and saw them bag spot son Top of the Pops and take the title of NME’s best track of the year. As the band perform it in June 1978, the crowd are enjoyably incensed by the song.
It has the ability to supercharge any room but here in 1978, with the band at the peak of their powers, it’s a goosebump-inducing moment. So as we pay our respects to the late, great Pete Shelley, let us celebrate his life by revisiting one of his crowning moments as the Buzzcocks perform ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ at their homecoming show.