Friday, December 21, 2018

"The artist as unheroic hero"

As is so often (sadly) the way, the widespread respect, admiration and love that Pete Shelley commanded has only become abundantly apparent after his death. Over the last fortnight it's been a bittersweet pleasure listening to little else other than Singles Going Steady and Another Music In A Different Kitchen and poring over just some of the pieces published in his memory: appreciations by Alexis Petridis for the Guardian and Simon Reynolds for Pitchfork (the latter's first experience of Buzzcocks live almost exactly mirroring my own); John Robb's personal reflections for Louder Than War; the tributes from contemporaries and fans gathered together by Laura Snapes (including one from Jon Savage, whose 6 Music documentary Queer As Punk in which Shelley is a central figure is unfortunately currently unavailable).

Of those, Reynolds' piece is the best (and also the source of this post's title), but still not as good as listening to the man himself, in conversation with Dave Haslam in Manchester in June. They joked about it being the notoriously reluctant interviewee's last grilling, and I think it was. Over the course of their chat, he slags off Morrissey, expresses disapproval of Steve Diggle's rock star flourishes (albeit smilingly), describes Howard Devoto as "as daft as a brush", claims that he puts his pre-Buzzcocks album Sky Yen on when guests overstay their welcome, recalls drug-fuelled recording sessions with Martin Hannett and pays tribute to punk for its energy, vitality and enduring appeal - all the while remaining characteristically modest and affable, a cheeky grin and a laugh never far away.

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