Buzzcocks live @ The Zoo, 19.11.09
Buzzcocks were the first band I ever saw – Chelmsford Odeon, 1978.
I was so naive, I thought that the support band Subway Sect were the main band and couldn’t figure out a) why I didn’t recognise any of their songs (I explained that away to myself by surmising that bands live must sound very different to bands recorded) and b) why everyone didn’t leave after they’d finished. I was in the front row, smoking a crafty fag: and yes, I did go out and buy a Subway Sect single the following day (‘Nobody’s Scared’).
For the record, I still believe the first three Buzzcocks albums to be the most perfect run of albums I have ever heard. Even now I can’t bring myself to start describing their music – a genius amalgam of Krautrock, sardonic punk attitude, lovelorn lyrics and unstoppable hooks – for fear of dispelling even a tiniest fraction of the magic.
Every year, without fail, I listen to those three albums (and all the assorted add-ons) time and time again. And every year, without fail, I feel cleansed for doing so, invigorated, far more able to cope with the detritus and flotsam of life than I had been before.
So, Buzzcocks at the Zoo. The drums were the loudest instrument, Pete Shelley’s voice a dismal fifth or sixth. Steve Diggle’s backing vocals were about 25 times louder, when he remembered his lines and wasn’t too busy doing his ONE MOVE (holding his guitar above the audience) yet a-bloody-gain. They played the first two albums in their entirety… ah fuck it.
I don’t want to be nasty here.
They were fucking crap. It was like watching a pub rock band (and no insult to the many great pub rock bands that exist). The two bozos on bass and drums really didn’t help. ‘Sixteen Again’ and ‘Real World’ and (very weirdly) ‘Pulsebeat’ stood out, but that might just have been me desperately clutching at straws. The singles were particularly awful, although nowhere near as bad as Diggle shitting all over ‘Autonomy’.
Maybe it was a bad night, but I doubt it. The public gets what the public wants, as a contemporary of Shelley’s once sang. And what they clearly want are the songs played with no meaning or feeling or passion, with Diggle gurning his way all across them like a soggy-arsed acid casualty.
(Before the band played ‘Nostalgia’, Diggle whispered something in Shelley’s ear. Pete takes the mic, and says, “Steve’s just told me, ‘Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’. And he’s right!” And I just think… ah, for Bangs sake, how many THOUSANDS of times must you have used that intro on stage?)
It hasn’t spoiled my memories and continuing enjoyment, though. This band and their music are inexorably linked with my adult life, right from its very beginnings to the present day, 2009, listening to an alternate version of ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ for the 15th time this week.
And that will not change.