Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Anyone can play guitar - and release a record

When we focused on Manchester in Episode 10 of Sounding Bored, as part of our semi-regular Music Cities series, Buzzcocks received only scant attention - largely for the pivotal role of founding members Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto in setting up the Sex Pistols' legendary gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976. We knew we'd done them a bit of an injustice - the consequence of having so much to squeeze into the usual hour-and-a-bit - but the Spiral Scratch EP really ought to have merited a mention, given its widely recognised status as, if not the first indie record, then at least the first to make its independent release a deliberate statement of defiance.

To help make up for our omission, here's the Quietus' Patrick Clarke talking to Shelley and bandmate Steve Diggle plus manager Richard Boon about the landmark release, recently reissued by Domino to mark its 40th anniversary. Buzzcocks' label New Hormones, Clarke argues, "offered a demystification of the notion that records were some kind of mysteriously produced artefact; this was a hitherto unseen demonstration that 'anyone' could do it".

Not that the band set out with any such expectations or grand plan - "we had no vision for the future because we didn't really think there was going to be one", says Shelley. On the contrary, the EP was initially "a stroke of necessity" rather than "a stroke of genius", merely a desperate attempt to document a short-lived phenomenon before it vanished. Fortunately, punk didn't die the almost instant death that looked to be on the cards when the band went into the studio, its longevity and legacy in both musical terms and culture more generally cemented by records like Spiral Scratch.

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