Pete Shelley, co-founder of the great and influential English punk band Buzzcocks, has died, the BBC reports. According to Buzzcocks’ management, Shelley died of a suspected heart attack Thursday at his home in Estonia. He was 63.
Shelley was born Peter Campbell McNeish in Leigh, Lancashire, in the greater Manchester area. He founded Buzzcocks with Howard Devoto, a fellow student at Bolton Institute of Technology, after seeing the Sex Pistols in London together in 1975. By ’76, Buzzcocks were opening for the Sex Pistols in Manchester. By ’77, they’d begun a legendary run of singles later collected on their 1979 compilation Singles Going Steady, one of the essential documents of ’70s punk.
It’s no understatement to call Shelley the inventor of an entire genre. Often writing on his own and sometimes collaborating with bandmate Steve Diggle, he laid the groundwork for what we now understand as pop-punk. Not only did Buzzcocks bring a punchy melodicism to punk, on songs like “Orgasm Addict” they also infused the genre with an adolescent prankster spirit that continues to this day.
Devoto left Buzzcocks early on to form his own group, Magazine, leaving Shelley as the Buzzcocks’ ringleader. After the band broke up in 1981, Shelley embarked on a solo career. His 1981 single “Homosapien” is a post-punk and new wave classic. Buzzcocks reunited in 1989 and have continued releasing music and performing ever since. Their second stint as a band was highlighted by touring with Nirvana and releasing an all-star charity version of signature hit “Ever Fallen In Love” (featuring Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Elton John, David Gilmour, Peter Hook, and others) in tribute to beloved BBC DJ John Peel.
Below, enjoy some of Shelley’s essential music. R.I.P. to one of the greats.