Tribute to Pete Shelley (1955-2018)

The world has lost one of punk rock's most influential figures - Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks, who passed last Thursday 6th December, aged 63. We reflect on his legacy, and Eastwood CEO Mike Robinson shares his thoughts about one of his heroes.

Pete Shelley

To say Pete Shelley was an inspiration would be an understatement. For many of us, our teenage years - well, our whole lives really - wouldn't have been the same without the music he made in the Buzzcocks. 

"A true gentleman and on a very short list of punk pioneers." - Eastwood Guitars CEO Mike Robinson on Pete Shelley

Eastwood Guitars CEO Mike Robinson, a longtime Buzzcocks fan, had this to say, upon hearing the news of Pete Shelley's passing:

"If your record collection does not contain Buzzcocks "Singles Going Steady" LP, it should. If it does, you understand the huge loss I'm feeling today. I had the privilege of knowing Pete Shelley, he was a true gentleman and on a very short list of punk pioneers. Together with Steve Diggle and the Buzzcocks they invented an entire genre of music referred to as Pop-Punk.
"Next year I'll be 60 years old and it's safe to say that his music - and those he inspired - has taken up the vast majority of my life's soundtrack.
"Pete was the master of three minute musical nuggets - filled with perfect hooks and harmony -all of which, like his life, were over far too soon."

Making Rock'n'Roll History

Even before forming the Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley (then still using his real name, Peter McNeish) and his Bolton Technical College friend Howard Trafford (soon-to-be renamed Devoto) were responsible for unleashing one of the most crucial moments in British music, ever: the Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976, attended by future members of seminal bands such as Joy Division, The Fall and The Smiths. It was Ground Zero for a new wave of music that changed not just rock'n'roll, but attitudes, style and people's lives forever - and Pete Shelley had an important role in it:

In February 1976, inspired by an article on British music paper NME, Shelley and Devoto drove a borrowed car to London, to track down the Sex Pistols and their manager, Malcolm McLaren, to invite them to play in Manchester.

Free Trade Hall ticket

Even though they booked themselves to support the Pistols at the historic gig, the Buzzcocks felt they were not ready yet and pulled out of the bill - but went on to support the band six weeks later, when the Sex Pistols returned for a second Manchester gig.

Pete Shelley at seminal Buzzcocks gig

A few months later, inspired by the Sex Pistols energy and sound, the Buzzcocks released the Spiral Scratch EP, the first independent punk record, essentially the birth of "indie music".

The Buzzcocks debut album Another Music in a Different Kitchen, as well as follow ups Love Bites and A Different Kind of Tension helped to establish the Buzzcocks as one of the most important bands of the Punk era. Pete Shelley's songs - melodic, full of energy and lyricism -  set the template for much of the rock music that was to come - and the Buzzcocks were a huge influence in early 90's Grunge music. Kurt Cobain was a big fan of the band, and a reformed Buzzcocks supported Nirvana on their last ever tour.

Kurt Cobain and Pete Shelley

The Buzzcocks' last album, The Way, was released in 2014, followed by a 40th anniversary tour in 2016, which was to be the band's - and Shelley's - last. But Pete Shelley's contribution to rock'n'roll lives on, and we will be forever grateful for the music he's given us. Rest in peace, Pete! (17 April 1955 - 6 December 2018)

Pete Shelley & Eastwood Guitars

Mike Robinson talking to Pete Shelley

Eastwood CEO Mike Robinson has always been a massive fan of the Buzzcocks, and when visiting Britain in 2007, Mike took the opportunity to meet his hero Pete Shelley, and finalise plans for one of Eastwood's first ever signature models - the Pete Shelley Signature Starway (Limited-Edition, now discontinued.):

Eastwood Pete Shelley Signature Starway

The guitar was, of course, inspired by the iconic broken Starway used by Shelley in the early days of the Buzzcocks, including during the recording of their debut Spiral Scratch EP.

Pete Shelley playing his original Starway

The always friendly Shelley was also kind enough to personally hand-sign each of the 88 Starway guitars we made - making each one of them a real treat for all the Buzzcocks fans who were lucky enough to get one!

Pete Shelley signing an Eastwood P{ete Shelley Signature Starway

At the time, we also had the chance to interview him, and he told Mike some great stories - including how he came about the Starway guitar... and how it got broken!

Everyone who ever met him will tell you he was a warm, funny and charming person. There's a saying that you shouldn't meet your heroes because they'll disappoint you, but in the case of Pete Shelley this saying was definitely wrong - and we can say it was a real privilege for us to have collaborated with this true punk rock legend.


6 comments

  • I was absolutely gutted by Pete’s passing. A great songwriter, no just in punk but a great songwriter — period. He will be missed.

    Richard Hutton
  • Mike, we are devasted to lose Pete, I’ll miss his dry sense of humour, his generosity, his jokes! Steve still plays the guitar you shipped me for him. We’re all just trying to get our heads & hearts around loosing an icon, a friend, an inspiration…x
    Justin Herring
  • “Buzzcocks”kinda an original name methinks…(grin)

    -dB
  • Sad to see him go. He was one of the greats. Those songs. All those great songs. And the band doesn’t get enough credit for the interplay between the two guitars during their original phase. Buzzcocks were one of those bands that rewarded headphone listening.

    Dale Houston
  • A true punk pioneer and visionary.
    Thanks for sharing this interview- a lovely insight

    Richard Wilson

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