Punk history

The man at the heart of punk: the late Pete Shelley recalls his Buzzcocks years

Manchester, in the words of the artist Linder Sterling, is a ‘tiny little world’. Nearly three million people live in its sprawl, but its centre is compact. Like-minded Mancunians have always found one another easily. Cultural life is febrile, which partly explains how, in the pre-digital late-20th century, England’s third city produced such startling bands: Joy Division, the Fall, New Order, the Smiths, the Happy Mondays and Tony Wilson’s era-defining Factory record label — and Buzzcocks, less celebrated, but without whom Manchester’s creative energy would have failed to detonate. Pete Shelley was Buzzcocks’s charismatic co-founder and chief songwriter, whose sharp lyrics and bratty vocals shaped much of British punk. He