The band were formed in 1976 by original vocalist Howard Devoto and guitarist Pete Shelley who were soon joined by Steve Diggle on bass and John Maher on drums. After making their live debut supporting the Sex Pistols at their second gig in Manchester, they made their recorded debut with the Spiral Scratch which was released in early 1977 and was produced by Martin Hannett who would later work with other Manchester bands such as Joy Division and the Happy Mondays. Later that year, after recording their debut single “Orgasm Addict,” Devoto left the band and went on to form Magazine, after which Shelley took over on vocals. Diggle then moved to guitar and Steve Garvey joined the band as the new bass player.
Over the course of their original career they produced three full-length albums before splitting up in 1981, after which Shelley embarked on a solo career and the other members also played with several other bands.
They reformed in 1989, initially with the line-up that recorded their three studio albums. However, Maher left in 1992 where he was briefly replaced by Smiths drummer Mike Joyce. Over the following years, the band was largely Shelley and Diggle with a long list of other musicians. The classic line-up reformed for a number of shows in 2012, one of which included the British Rebellion festival.
Shelley died in 2018. However, the band are still active with Diggle now handling vocal duties.
# 10 – Between Heaven and Hell
Kicking off this Buzzcocks Songs list is a latter-day track from 2006’s Flat Pack Philosophy, of which it is the closing number. Whilst the album did not make much of an impact on the musical world as whole beyond the Buzzcock’s core punk fanbase, it was still a decent effort and this track is a prime example of how the band can still make strong records after several decades together. Following its release drummer Phillip Barker left, having played with the band since 1993.
# 9 – I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life
This track is taken from the third album A Different Kind of Tension released in 1979. It was the band’s third album and last of their original time together before they reformed a decade later. The album did not make as much of an impact as its two predecessors and they decided to split up a couple of years later in 1981. This track is a standout on the album, with the lyrics expressing a feeling of frustration, possibly hinting at the band’s uncertainty of their future.
# 8 – You Say You Don’t Love Me
This track is another from A Different kind of Tension. Much like the Ramones, who the Buzzcocks could very much be considered to be the British equivalent to, the Buzzcocks were never one of the angry bands of punk who wanted to smash the establishment such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Instead, much of their lyrical content was focused on heartbreak and youthful angst, which this excellent track is a prime example of.
# 7 – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
This 1979 single is another classic example of how the Buzzcocks proved that punk could be melodic and song-oriented rather than always being thrashy and noisy. The track uses the classic sixties surf influence that was a very essential part of the band’s early sound. It is essentially a pumped-up version of the Beach Boys, with its lyrics taking a sarcastic look at the idea of people being content with what is put in front of them.
# 6 – Boredom
Kicking off this list we have an early track with Devoto on vocals taken from their debut release Spiral Scratch released in 1977. It was one of the earliest British punk releases and it was reissued in 1979 where it reached number 31 on the UK Charts. Forty years later it reached the top of the physical charts when it was reissued for its fortieth anniversary. This is the most well-known track from it.
# 5 – Orgasm Addict
Kicking off the second half of this list is another Devoto song, which as previously stated, was their debut single released in 1977. This song was not commercially successful which is probably largely in part to it being banned by the BBC upon its release. This was due to its lyrical content which I will not go into too much detail about with this site being content-restricted. Let us just say it is about something that people do in private! Shelley often expressed his embarrassment about the song over the years, nevertheless it is a classic piece of raw early punk.
# 4 – I Don’t Mind
Here is another single that was included on the band’s full-length debut Another Music in a Different Kitchen released in 1978 where it reached number fifty-five on the charts. Here we have Shelley taking over on vocals after Devoto’s departure and already there is a clear difference in both production and melody from the more raw sounding material that he recorded with the band. The track is another that has a sixties Beach Boys-esque vibe to it, with a surf guitar sound and the use of vocal harmonies in the chorus.
# 3 – What Do I get?
This single was the band’s first entry into the charts where it reached number thirty-seven upon its release in 1978. Many years later, the song would be used in a McDonalds tv commercial, which did not go down well with many members of the punk community, many of whom are known to not be big fans of the multinational fast food corporation. However, do not let that controversial money-making move hinder the fact that this is another crucial and classic punk song.
# 2 – Harmony in my head
Up next is a single from 1979 which features Diggle on vocals. Diggle claimed to have smoked twenty cigarettes before the recording in order to achieve the gruff vocal style that he exhibits on this track. Upon its release, it reached number thirty-two on the UK charts. By this point, the band had evolved as songwriters and musicians with this track, containing a strong use of melody, particularly on the anthemic singalong chorus.
# 1 – Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t)
At the top spot is the group’s most famous and high charting song which reached number twelve in the UK. The songs’ title was taken from a line in the film Guys and Dolls starring Marlon Brando. The lyrics are reportedly about a friend who Shelley used to live with and supposedly had romantic feelings for. Shelley was often believed to be gay at the time. However, he later married a woman who he had a son with. The song has left and long-lasting legacy as one of the greatest pop punk tracks of all time.