When Sledge and I heard about this gig, we got on line and booked tickets right away. In an interview, Pete Shelley revealed that their promoter had said “If you want to play bigger venues, you need a story” – So, tonight’s story was “BUZZCOCKS – Back to front” – 3 sets by the band – the first as they are now, the second as they were during the ‘hit years’ and the third as their short lived explosive genesis – all 3 featuring Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle.
It was weird going to the Apollo again. I cut my gig going teeth there, starting with the Stranglers in 1979 but hadn’t been there for 27 years (the last time was Dec 1985 to see Rick Mayall with Ben Elton in support!). Walking through the foyer brought back all sorts of nostalgic memories – mainly about dragging my dad out of bed to pick me up as I’d missed the night bus home…..
Inside it seemed much smaller than I remembered it. All the seats were gone from the downstairs thank goodness, so we easily got to the front. From there on in, it was the same as it was 30 years ago. The band blasting your ears, jumping around in a hot sweaty mosh-pit with lots of good natured banter, helping up those who’d fallen as well as some vicious drunk bastards intent on causing everyone around them physical harm – it was ace! There was one enormous guy who I nicknamed ‘the beast’ who just gently bobbed up and down all night with others just bouncing off him in a cartoon style.
Marc Riley was the compare, noting that when the Fall supported the Buzzcocks, they always stayed behind to see the main act as they never disappointed. They didn’t disappoint tonight although the sound was pretty awful – if we didn’t know the songs off by heart they’d have been pretty unrecognisable. Even between songs when Shelley or Diggle talked to the crowd – you couldn’t tell what they were saying. In some ways it didn’t matter.
When the ‘Mark II’ Buzzcocks came on, there was genuine love in the room for John Maher and Steve Garvey…..and what a set list – ‘Fast Cars’ ‘You say you don’t love me’ ‘Promises’ ‘I don’t mind’ ‘Fiction Romance’ ‘Ever fallen in love” …….everything from ‘Orgasm Addict’ to ‘Harmony in my Head’. The best sing-a-long moments we’re ‘Why can’t I touch it’ and ‘Love you more’ – just glorious.
As the evening progressed, Diggle was getting visiably worse for wear (it was funny to see Shelley, Maher and Garvey on the right of the stage raising eyebrows and shaking heads whilst Diggle went off on one during ‘Moving away from the pulsebeat’).
He was with it just enough for bass duty for the final/first incarnation with Howard Devoto as lead singer. The rest of the band came on and started ‘Breakdown’ – then Devoto ran on with the mike in both hands and started singing – it was a joy to see – hilarious! He spoilt it a bit with some stage theatrics but hearing ‘Boredom’ live was worth the wait. Things got a bit chaotic then with missed starts and forgotten lyrics and we were left with Diggle punching the air and shouting about Manchester into his microphone as the sweaty masses dispersed “….Bring back the Smiths an’all!”…..!
Home, and what did I get? The new edition of Mojo had landed on my doorstep and there was a punky version of the Beatles ‘Think for yourself’ on the CD by none other than Pete Shelley, just proving who the real star is……..
Bob the Chiropodist