Desert Island Discs: “Singles Going Steady” by Buzzcocks (1979)Posted: May 8, 2012
Power pop (which regular readers know is my all-time favorite style of music) evolved slightly differently in the UK than it did in the US. Not surprisingly since the UK is where it was born and named. Where stateside power pop is heavier on the jangle, Brit power pop was more on the “power” side of the equation. More influenced by punk, but undoubtedly pop. And so it is with today’s Desert Island Disc, 1979’s “Singles Going Steady” by Buzzcocks.
Formed in Manchester, England, in 1975, the Buzzcocks were one of the most influential bands to emerge in the initial wave of punk rock. With their crisp melodies, driving guitars, and guitarist Pete Shelley’s biting lyrics, the Buzzcocks were one of the best, most influential punk bands. The Buzzcocks were inspired by the Sex Pistols’ energy, yet they didn’t copy the Pistols’ angry political stance. Instead, they brought that intense, brilliant energy to the three-minute pop song. Shelley’s alternately funny and anguished lyrics about adolescence and love were some of the best and smartest of his era; similarly, the Buzzcocks’ melodies and hooks were concise and memorable. Over the years, their powerful punk-pop has proven enormously influential, with echoes of their music being apparent in everyone from Hüsker Dü to Nirvana. – Steven Thomas Erlewine
Okay, first, the name “Buzzcocks” has cost the band some airplay. It shouldn’t. A “buzz” is of course a rush of excitement. And “cock” is a Manchester colloquialism for “mate” or “dude” or “buddy.” Band founders Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto read a magazine article about the Manchester music scene that bore the headline, “It’s the buzz, cocks!” Hence the name. You don’t have to be embarrassed to say it aloud anymore.
Buzzcocks are most often thought of as a punk band, like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Certainly they deserve to be in that club, but like their US contemporaries The Ramones they were gifted at crafting hooky, fast pop songs. Most of the selections on “Singles Going Steady” are well under three minutes, some under two minutes. Near the end of the CD a handful of songs stray into four-to-six-minute territory, but overall the songs are fast, punchy, clever, and harmonic.
Their best-known song is “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’tve)?” I think it’s the highlight of the album. Impossible not to sing along with. It’s been covered several times and appeared on several movie and TV soundtracks.
“Scrubs” featured it memorably in the story arc where JD and Elliott were courting.
“I Don’t Mind”
“What Do I Get?”
If there are any songs I skip past, it will be the two longer ones at the end. But the other songs more than make up for it, and unequivocally qualify this as a Desert Island Disc. Check it out.