Photo by Andre Csillag

Today RPM would like to remember Peter Campbell McNeish born on 17 April 1955 but sadly passed away on this day twelve months ago of a suspected heart attack.  Can’t place the name? worry not because you will remember him as Pete Shelly one of the singer-songwriters from Buzzcocks and writer of classic punk tunes such as ‘Ever Fallen In Love (with Someone You Shouldn’t ‘ve?).

Shelley formed Buzzcocks with Howard Devoto after they met at the Bolton Institute of Technology in 1975 and after the pair travelled to High Wycombe, to see the Sex Pistols. The band included bassist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher; They went on to make their debut supporting the Sex Pistols in their home town of Manchester.  After the band went onto an indefinate hiatus it was touring or being asked to open for Nirvana around North America that sparked a renewed interest in the band and they never looked back.

McNeish changed his name to Shelley after his favourite romantic poet which shouldn’t come as a surprise with the style of songs and the lyrics Pete wrote throughout his career.  From the debut classic ‘Spiral Scratch’ right through his solo years and up until his untimely passing as a member of the reformed Buzzcocks sadly he missed his bands playing at The Royal Albert Hall  Pete Shelley is sadly missed and has left a giant hole in the hearts of many fans around the globe.

The first three albums are regarded as the classic years where Shelly was thrust into the frontman role ably assisted by Diggle but it was Shelly’s melodies on hits like ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ and ‘What Do I Get?’ the band hit something of a wall in 81 after the release of ‘Singles Going Steady’ and a dispute with their then label.  He went on to have a decent solo career until he and Diggle reformed the band in 89 with the release of ‘Trade Test Transmission’.  there were several new albums from Buzzcocks including ‘The Way’ and ‘Flat Pack Philosophy’. His death was broken to the public through his brother Gary via Facebook.

Shelley had moved to Tallinn in Estonia, in 2012 with his second wife, Greta, an Estonian, he sited the less hectic pace there to that he had spent the last thirty years in London. He died in Estonia of a suspected heart attack on the morning of 6 December 2018. His passing rightly made the national news as he had so much left to give and Buzzcocks were still very capable of delivering devastating live performances with so many hits they tried to pack into their live show they never disappointed.  The band were heralded by the likes of John Peel who was synonymous with playing their singles before they were released and helping turn the public onto Shelley penned classics.

 

Shelley left behind a quite remarkable catalogue of records spanning several decades five solo albums, fourteen singles as for Buzzcocks; there were nine studio albums, five live albums, no less than thirteen compilation albums, ten EP’s and twenty-four singles.  It’s hard to believe looking back that the band never achieved a top ten single in the UK when you consider some of their most memorable releases.

 

Being a big Numaoid in the early days when I saw there were archive recordings of ‘Replicas’ and ‘the Pleasure Principle’ hitting the shelves there was no point ignoring it I just had to get my hands on the set. Coming in an Ampex sort of slipcase and pressed on heavyweight double coloured vinyl ‘Replicas’ Sessions was on.

 

In late 1978, Gary Numan was booked into a small studio in London’s Chinatown with the same musicians that had played on Tubeway Army’s debut album, released a month earlier. Two stereo master tapes were compiled of eleven tracks. A month later they again went to Gooseberry Studio and recorded an additional three tracks, including “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and “Replicas”. At the same time, the band recorded a session for the BBC’s John Peel show, taping alternate versions of three songs from the December recordings. Finally, Numan returned to an upgraded studio, Marthus Music, in February to overdub and remix the Gooseberry recordings into their released versions. Only one alternative outtake still exists (“Down In The Park”) which is included in this release.

Spread out over two discs most of this release has been issued before on CD in the Replicas Redux set but that’s a minor quibble if your one of the uber-nerds who are picky about that sort of thing.  Me, I’m not so fussy and to hear the original mixes of these songs gives me goosebumps.  I loved the Tubeway Army post-punk synth fallout and remember it like it was yesterday.  the synth stabs on ‘Down In The Park’ are exceptional and that tinny hi-hat on ‘Do You Need The Service’ with the treated electric guitar. The crispness of these recordings is amazing.  Numan was a pioneer and should be well proud of these recordings mixing the synths with more conventional musical instruments is brilliant.

 

I can remember my father sticking his head around the bedroom door wondering what the fuck we were listening to and knowing the lyrics to ‘The Crazies’ within the first couple of days of hearing it is still funny. Wondering how they managed to create the sounds on ‘Me I Disconnect From You’ is kinda funny looking back but even now its a real rush hearing it back. listening to how ‘Are Friends Electric’ grew into the beast it became on the proper release is interesting.  The Peel versions on the second LP show how bloody good those engineers working at the Beeb really were and they always managed to turn even the most primitive punk rock into some inspiring wall of sound.

If there is to be a complaint about this collection is the lack of some written booklet about the process we are listening to.  It would have been great to have a song by song memoir if such a thing exists. but that’s just the uber nerd in me again. Oh and don’t be put off by the repetitive song titles because these are very different in many ways even to the casual listener.

The Pleasure Principle.

Pretty much as you are.  Numan was no longer a weird post punk outsider he’d had hits and ‘Cars’ put him front and centre on TOTP as well as swap shop where kids would back off and parents would wonder what was going on. As for the early recordings on offer, over the hour and a bit of music again spread out over two coloured records kicks off with a great guitar, Bass and drum led ‘Cars’.

Before the single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” came out, Numan had a band consisting of a drummer and keyboard player and had demoed an album’s worth of songs and this was in  1979. They also recorded a session for John Peel the day after the single hit #1 on the UK charts. Rather than calling it Tubeway Army, the session was credited to just Gary Numan and the group name abandoned at the peak of its success. As before, rather than promote the current album, Numan chose to record four new songs. While the album Replicas hit #1, Numan was busy recording the follow-up.

From the surviving tapes, there were six separate out-takes and these have been included. The discs have been sequenced with the stronger, second demo but all tracks are in the order of the tapes. ‘Complex’ sounds like it could have been written and recorded yesterday so fresh sounding it is. I loved this album when it came out but there were some songs that didn’t stand the test of time so well even though I haven’t played them in ten years at least so playing ‘M.E’ here with fresh ears as it was had me wondering why I wasn’t so keen to play this album. ‘Tracks’ is the sound of a worn tape at play much like a spooled C90 you used to splice with sellotape when it got jammed not that I ever indulged in home taping because that was killing music!

‘Cars’ Demo 1 is weird and must be a buzz for Numan to playback knowing what it morphed into.  there are a bunch of the remastered in ’09 tracks that sound like 80s B movie soundtrack songs and have little interest to me I’ll be honest.  the second record is wrapped up as ‘Replicas’ with some Peel session tracks that just sizzle.  ‘Cars’ is brilliant from the wobbling synth to the punchy snare to the “da da da da boom boom!” and the splash of the cymbal makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up remembering what it was like travelling to Hammersmith Odeon to see Numan and wondering what the fuck I was watching.

 

If you were ever a Numanoid or played any of those singles then you really do need these records – trust me just get em!

Buy Replicas Here

Author: Dom Daley

Today we remember a couple of people who deserve to be remembered first up is the one and only Wayne from Auf Weidersein Pet but we know him from being the lead vocalist from Heavy Metal Kids who brought us the classics ‘Shes No Angel’ and ‘Delirious’.  Gary left us on this day in 1985 after an overdose of Morphine and Alcohol.

Gary was an accomplished actor plying his trade at the old vic as well as working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and he got minor roles in Quadrophenia and Breaking Glass but it was as Wayne and performing with the Heavy Metal Kids and his recordings with Casino Steel from the Boys that really brought Gary to prominence.  In a strange twist of fate he was considered for the role of Nasty Nick in Eastenders a role that went to John Altman who later went on to front The Heavy Metal Kids after Gary.

Holton also turned down the chance to front AC/DC after the passing of Bon Scott but turned it down. Instead, he went on to front Holton / Steel who managed three albums together.  Holton left behind a string of failed relationships but he did have a son in the mid-80s.

He lived his short life to the full and experienced all the Rock and Roll cliches of the time wine, women and drugs.  Holton managed to quit Heroin and come out the other side making some memorable records and his music has been covered by some of our favourite artists His ashes are laid to rest in the small Welsh town of Welshpool.

 

It’s easy to see why people like Angus and Malcolm were attracted to him to replace Bon because Gary oozed Rock and Roll and had the looks to match his distinctive vocal style. He was a very underrated frontman and his singing was maybe overshadowed by his acting but we won’t forget Gary Holton.  Rest In Peace sir.

Another who deserves to be mentioned today is none other than broadcaster John Peel OBE.  His story is well known and his record collection was as big as the national library.  His knowledge of alternative and underground music was vast and he was also the go-to guy for championing new bands coming through many of whom became his friends and went on to big things in the industry.

 

Born just outside Liverpool Peel is forever linked with BBC late-night Radio and punk and notably The Undertones and ‘Teenage Kicks’ Up until his sudden death Peel was the longest-serving DJ on the BBC and was something of an institution doing things his own way and given pretty much carte blanche on his show. He was a massive fan of The Fall and in the 80s you hadn’t made it until you were on a Peel Sessions record released on Strange Fruit records.  The list of bands who queued up to lay down a session for John Peel is endless.

 

He has a train named after him, a stage at Glastonbury, part of the BBC is now the Peel Wing. He also sat on set with The Faces and mimed the Mandolin whilst the band played ‘Maggie May’. John is very much missed on the radio.  Why not blast out ‘Teenage Kicks’ in his honour.  After his heart attack whilst working abroad, John was only 65 and it’s now been fifteen years since his passing.  rest in peace John and yup “Teenage Dreams So Hard To Beat”. but every time we hear that one we’re reminded of you.