The Buzzcocks: Still Going Steady
There are few groups who were born in the chaotic early days of the British punk scene that have created a more lasting impact than the Buzzcocks.
The Bolton four-piece continue to defy both expectations and age, and with 2016 marking the 40th anniversary of their first recording and that infamous gig with the Sex Pistols, the band are back with a new tour which makes its way to Scotland next month.
“We didn’t think we would last 40 minutes, never mind 40 years!” laughed guitarist Steve Diggle, when I caught up with him for a chat about the upcoming tour and the lasting legacy of punk.
“Yet here we are getting ready to hit the road once again.
“It was 1976 when we first started out. There was no true definition of punk rock in Britain at the time.
“We had the Ramones in the States, and their first album inspired all of us. We knew that they were there doing their thing, and obviously we had the Velvet Underground and Iggy and the Stooges as well.
“So there were punk bands out there, but not really in the UK.
“I think it was about two days before the Clash had their first show that we made an appearance, and the Sex Pistols had only done two gigs by then.
“We actually became really good friends with the lads from the Pistols.
“We saw them down in London and said, ‘if you come up to Manchester, we could do a show together and we can open for you’.
“And that’s how the Lesser Free Trade Hall gig happened in the summer of ‘76.”
Steve never envisioned that the band would go on to inspire a generation when they took to the stage with Johnny Rotten and Co.
“The thing is, it was meant to be direct and in the moment,” he explained.
“You didn’t know what was going to happen but that was the beauty of it.
“There was no time to wonder whether it was going to become some kind of career or if it was going to last forever – or even what it would mean in years to come.
“It was just like, ‘we’ve got this point to make and now is the time to make it’.
“But looking back at what we’ve achieved throughout our career, it really is amazing. If you listen to the records that we made all those years ago, they still sound fresh.
“The strength of the Buzzcocks as a band was in the songs and I think that’s what’s helped us stand the test of time.”
With another peal of laughter, Steve added: “And at least none of us are dead, even though we came pretty close on many an occasion!”
The band are heading to Scotland as part of their 40th anniversary world tour, and Steve can’t wait.
“We really love playing in Scotland,” he said. “The fans there are so passionate and are always up for a good time.
“When you get up on that stage, something magical and mysterious happens.
“Combine the crowd and the band with the music, it’s like being caught up between God and the Devil – no one knows what’s going to happen.
“It’s like our own world and anything goes.
“In the end, I like to think if there is one thing we’ve achieved as a band it’s that we’ve been very inspirational.
“And that’s what punk was – and still is – all about. It spurns you on and makes you fearless. There have been so many different versions of punk – more variations than the bloody Bible!
“But it still has that common thread of taking a stand. And 40 years later, here we are, still bloody standing!”
∙The Buzzcocks play Aberdeen Lemon Tree (October 13), Inverness Ironworks (Oct 14) and Glasgow O2 Academy (Oct 15).
For tickets, visit www.buzzcocks.com.