Weekend Concert: the Buzzcocks, Auf Wedersehen, 1981

The old guard was the Who (two week ago’s concert).

Punk’s vanguard was the Sex Pistols (Americans could argue for the Ramones & the New York Dolls, but Britain had far and away the more vibrant movement and the Pistols were its undisputed leader and last week’s

This week our concert band is a member of punk’s rearguard: the Buzzcocks. This 1981 concert was the band’s last till they reformed in 1989.

It’s amazing to me now that such a good band would have failed. However, the punk & new wave movement spawned more bands than could be supported and many good ones fell by the wayside and others never got the recognition they probably deserved (XTC and Husker Du come to mind).

The strength of the Buzzcocks is in their heavy guitar sound set against Pete Shelley’s tremulous voice. 
Shelley’s quirky lyrics are reminiscent of Ray Davies and the Kinks – they just come out faster and louder.

The sound in this video is very good and the band’s performance is crisp and energetic.


Comments | 6

  • some corrections on the Pistols notes from an expert

    I ran my concert blurb about the Sex Pistols by my resident, family punk expert to see how I’d done.

    My “paper” came back with all kinds of red marks and clarifications which I thought I’d share. The first part in quotes is about last week’s Sex Pistols at Winterland concert:

    “First, that show is the last of the Pistols career and ends with Johnny Rotten giving the legendary closing “Ah ha ha ha ha! Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Good night!”. They’d been on a tour across the south that was set up by McLaren. The tour manager was a heavy whose job was to physically intimidate the band members so that they would stay in line – he kept them locked on the bus as they drove from stop to stop and would punch them if they tried to get out to stretch when the bus stopped for gas. They played in places that had never heard of punk and where the crowds bottled them off the stage. Winterland was the only show in the tour where the crowd had any sympathy with them. This was all McLaren’s brilliant idea to take the band where people “needed to hear them”, despite the fact that he’d never been to most of the places himself. No wonder they were demoralized and dispirited.

    It’s worth mentioning that the WInterland show was opened by two superb San Francisco punk bands fronted by women – the Avengers and the Nuns. While in town Cook and Jones found time to produce a four track ep with the Avengers on which they also play, netting that same fat sound that makes the Pistols records so powerful. Jones subsequently stole the Avengers track “Second To None” and renamed it “1-2-3” in a version for the subsequent Cook’n’Jones band the Professionals. Not that this kind of theft was anything new to Jones – a few years earlier he had stolen the Jam’s “In The City” to make “Holidays In The Sun” for the Pistols.”

    Below are some corrections to my notes.
    The first few lines are mine, then the “expert’s” corrections in quotes:

    What this concert does have is Johnny Rotten constantly prodding the audience, telling them what suckers they are. Making them question the whole concert experience.
    Do you feel you’re being used – because you are. That was a mantra of the Sex Pistols.

    “I think this is kind of the simplistic line about the Pistols, and maybe some of it was created by things they said themselves. But I think it’s worth re-thinking. First of all, the Pistols should be thought of as the band with Glen Matlock and not Sid Vicious, since Matlock was a key song writing contributor and really could play bass very well. Listen to the first three singles – Anarchy In The UK, God Save the Queen and Pretty Vacant, where Matlock plays, and you’ll hear some superb melodic playing. On most of the rest of Bollocks, Jones plays bass, and although he’s competent, he just plays the same licks that he plays on guitar, whereas Matlock plays across the guitar. The idea that the Pistols – prior to Matlock’s departure – couldn’t play was and is crazy. Not only was Cook a competent drummer, he pioneered a unique style that no one has ever duplicated. Jones was less unique, having copied the New York Dolls Johnny Thunders, but one could argue that by the time they recorded he had surpassed his teacher. But these three guys were mainly interested in being in a normal rock and roll band (before Rotten joined they covered the Foundations “Build Me Up Buttercup” for heaven’s sake!). The whole Anarchy thing was nothing to them, but when they found it sold records they got behind it. What 18 year old kid wouldn’t?

    It was Rotten who had different motivations from the standard rock singer. As a youth of Irish descent in London, he’d been treated like dirt growing up and he was justifiably bitter about it. He had no respect for authority because authority had never shown any respect for him. He was the guy who wanted to change things, and shake up the music world. Prior to the Pistols he liked traditional rock like Alice Cooper, but he also liked progressive bands like Hawkwind and even Krautrock like Can. Having to fight an arch-manipulator like the cartoonish McLaren every step of the way when you yourself are trying to make a real artistic statement (something that people who don’t understand the Pistols might find laughable, but which is pretty well borne out by the rest of his musical career) has got to be an incredible drag. So in a lot of ways, at the end of the show when Rotten asks “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”, I think it’s more than half likely that the target of the question of himself.”

  • Great show

    Thanks for this one… great performance.

    I recall friends being into the Buzzcocks and all sorts of punk or new wave bands, but at that time I was busy starting my exploration of funky music, and generally ignored many of the now-legendary bands.

    When I saw this week’s show was the Buzzcocks, my first thought was that I didn’t know any of their music – just their name. After watching, though, I realize at least a few of their songs were familiar. They must have slipped into my consciousness at some point.

    At the time, groups like this seemed almost scary – a “strange” name, playing “punk” music was threatening to the status quo (top 10 songs of 1981 included Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie, Lady by Kenny Rogers, and Keep on Loving You by REO Speedwagon…). This sort of stuff was very different.

    Of course, now it sounds rather mainstream. It’s certainly doesn’t feel “dangerous” or even that rebellious now.

  • Awesome post. I love the

    Awesome post. I love the Buzzcocks.

    And Husker Du are one of the most criminally underrated bands of all time. Yes they are still highly acclaimed in the underground but that band should have been bigger than REM.

    New Day Rising is a masterpiece. In fact, I love and own everything Husker Du ever did.

    Keep these great music posts coming!!

    • Weekend Concert Series

      Another reminder that we are taking volunteers willing to do a month of Weekend Concerts. I’ve done a bunch, annikee took a month and will be back again (April, right?), Paul’s got this month…. I’ve got a few more up my sleeve.

      Anyone can participate, and any genres are welcome and encouraged. The goal is to help us all see great shows.

      Re; Buzzcocks. Why did they split in ’81 after this show? They seem to be getting along OK on stage, and no one seems especially wasted or annoying. Any reason given for them stopping at this point?

      • When April Comes

        Yeah, I’m in for April unless someone has a pressing need to jump in. 🙂 It gets addictive once you find all these great concerts. It becomes an issue of what to pick amogst all the great music.

        I also really liked Husker Du and still wonder why they weren’t at the top.

        The Buzzcocks were talented, as the concert shows. Though I still think of The Who and Motorhead as the first punks, there were countless bands that came out of the punk fashion. Punk was the great democratizer in rock. Anyone who could play three chords and drum a 4/4 could punk out but it took a certain sensibility to do it right. Still does.

    • Husker Du

      I kind of missed out on Husker Du (which means, “do you remember?” in Norwegian), but I am a huge fan of Sugar, a subsequent Bob Mould band.

      I really need to go back and get into Husker Du.

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