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Pete Shelley

Background information
Birth name Peter Campbell McNeish
Born 17 April 1955 (1955-04-17) (age 54)
Origin Leigh, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Genres Punk rock, Pop punk, New Wave, Power pop
Occupations Musician, Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Years active 1975–present
Labels I.R.S., Cooking Vinyl, Island
Associated acts Jets Of Air, Buzzcocks, The Tiller Boys, Howard Devoto, Steve Diggle, ShelleyDevoto
Notable instruments
Starway, Gibson Marauder
This musician is not to be confused with the 1970s singer Peter Shelley.

Pete Shelley (born Peter Campbell McNeish, 17 April 1955 in Leigh, Lancashire) is an English singer, songwriter and guitarist, best-known as the leader of Buzzcocks. His stage name is a combination of his real first name and the name he would have been given had he been born female.



Shelley was born to Margaret and John McNeish at 48 Milton Street, Leigh. Margaret was a ex-mill worker in the town, whilst John was a fitter at the nearby Astley Green Colliery. He has a brother, Gary, who is three years younger than Shelley.[1]


Buzzcocks were formed by Shelley and Howard Devoto after the two met at Bolton Institute of Technology (now the University of Bolton) in 1975 and subsequently travelled to London to see The Sex Pistols. Buzzcocks debuted in 1976 in Manchester, opening for the Sex Pistols.

In 1977, Buzzcocks released their first EP, Spiral Scratch, on their own independent label, New Hormones. When Devoto left the group shortly afterwards, Shelley took over as lead vocalist and chief songwriter. The band went on to create such quintessential punk/new wave singles of the period as "Orgasm Addict", "What Do I Get?", and "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" along with three LPs: Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978), Love Bites (1978), and A Different Kind of Tension (1979). Difficulties with their record company and a dispute with Virgin Publishing over the UK release of their greatest hits record, Singles Going Steady, brought Buzzcocks to a halt in 1981.

Solo career

Shelley's debut album Sky Yen was recorded in 1974 but remained unheard until March 1980 when it was released on 12" vinyl on Shelley's own label, Groovy Records. It was recorded as one continuous piece of music with a purpose-built oscillator and was notable for its use of layered electronics and playback speed manipulation to achieve its experimental feel. Rooted in electronic music, it has garnered comparisons to krautrock.[2] Also released on Groovy Records was the soundtrack LP Hangahar by Sally Timms and Lindsay Lee, which included Shelley as a musician, and an album by artists Eric Random, Barry Adamson and Francis Cookson under the name "Free Agents." After these releases, Groovy Records never released another album.

In 1981, Shelley released his first solo single, the song "Homosapien". On this recording he returned to his original interests in electronic music and shifted emphasis from guitar to synthesizer. The song was banned by the BBC for "explicit reference to gay sex", which didn't stop it from becoming enormously popular in dance clubs in Europe and North America. At this time, Pete Shelley also talked about his bisexuality,[3] which had been implicit in many of the Buzzcocks songs he had written but now came to attention due to "Homosapien" and the BBC ban. The next year saw the controversial single followed by an LP of the same name.

Shelley released his second LP XL1 in 1983 on Genetic Records. In addition to the minor hit "Telephone Operator," the album included a computer program for the ZX Spectrum which featured lyrics and graphics which displayed in time with the music, an innovative precursor to the visuals of today's media players. XL1 was produced by Martin Rushent and Shelley.

June 1986 saw Shelley release the darker, edgier Heaven and the Sea, an album that drew comparisons to Love and Rockets, Gary Numan and late period Ultravox. In 1987 he followed the album with a new song, "Do Anything", for the film Some Kind of Wonderful.

In 1989 Shelley recorded a new version of "Homosapien" entitled "Homosapien II." The single featured four mixes of the new recording.

Shelley has also played with various other musicians during his career, including The Invisible Girls, who backed punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Shelley also formed bands called The Tiller Boys, and Zip. He briefly reunited with Howard Devoto to make the LP Buzzkunst, released in 2002.

He also appeared on the 2005 debut EP by the Los Angeles band The Adored (who toured extensively with Buzzcocks the following year.)

A substantially sped-up club remix of "Telephone Operator" is a standard offering on the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game.

Recently Pete has been working on producing, he has just produced a single by upcoming band called Redtrack.

Buzzcocks reform

In 1989, Buzzcocks reunited, and released a new full length recording, Trade Test Transmissions in 1993. They continue to tour and record, their most recent release being the CD Flat-Pack Philosophy in 2006. They toured with bands such as The Adored, The Strays, Lola Ray, and [Images][1].

In 2005, Shelley re-recorded "Ever Fallen in Love" with an all-star group, including Roger Daltrey, David Gilmour, Peter Hook, Elton John, Robert Plant and several contemporary bands, as a tribute to John Peel. Proceeds went to Amnesty International. Shelley also performed the song live, with several of the aforementioned, at the 2005 UK Music Hall of Fame [2].

References in popular culture

  • "Pete Shelley" is also the title of a short story by Patrick Marber contained in Speaking With the Angel, a short story collection edited by Nick Hornby. In the story, the narrator loses his virginity while listening to a Buzzcocks song.
  • Professional wrestler Patrick Martin adapted Shelley's surname into his ring name in homage to the Buzzcocks' frontman.
  • Nashville, Tennessee singer/songwriter Tommy Womack has two cats, named Pete and Shelley.
  • Shelley was featured on the cover of the album Morbid Florist by Anal Cunt.
  • "The Pete Shelley" is the name of a vegetarian hot dog at the Chicago restaurant Hot Doug's.



  • Sky Yen (1980) Groovy Records
  • Hangahar (1980) Groovy Records
  • Reprint Snatch Tapes
  • Homosapien (1981) Genetic-Island/Arista
  • XL1 (1983) Island/Arista (UK #42)[4]
  • Heaven and the Sea (1986) Mercury
  • Some Kind of Wonderful


  • "Homosapien" (1981) Genetic-Island/Arista
  • "I Don't Know What It Is" (1981) Genetic-Island/Arista
  • "Qu'est-Ce Que C'est Que Ça" (1982)[5]
  • "Homosapien" (1982) Genetic-Island/Arista
  • "Telephone Operator" (1983) Island/Arista (UK #66)[4]
  • "Millions Of People (No One Like You)" (1983) (UK #94)
  • "Never Again" (1984) Immaculate
  • "Waiting For Love" (1986) Mercury
  • "On Your Own" (1986) Mercury
  • "Blue Eyes" (1986) Mercury
  • "I Surrender" (1986) Mercury
  • "Your Love" (1988)
  • "Homosapien. Pete Shelley Vs. Power, Wonder and Love" (1989) Immaculate
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