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The Fall's Paul Hanley On Buzzcocks Book
The Quietus , December 18th, 2023 08:49

House Of All sticksman celebrates the treble with a new book on Buzzcocks just published by Route; here he talks to Francisco Scaramanga about TMF, Buzzcocks and being Manchester Irish

Man of letters and drummer (The Fall, House Of All) Paul Hanley has written a book on Buzzcocks called Sixteen Again. A limited edition hardback is available from publishers Route now and a paperback will be available in April 2024.

Sixteen Again: How Pete Shelley & Buzzcocks Changed Manchester Music (And Me), to give it its full title, mixes together biography, interview, critique and social history to create a full picture of the legendary Manchester group, equally beloved of fans of punk, post punk and indie.

Route – who have also published Hanley's Leave The Capital: A History Of Manchester Music In 13 Recordings and the masterful Have A Bleedin Guess: The Story Of Hex Enduction Hour – have the following to say: "Paul Hanley's obsession with Buzzcocks peaked between the ages of 14 and 16, exactly the age when ‘favourite band’ actually means something important. An essential part of the charm of Buzzcocks to him were their proximity and approachability."

Taking a break from his current duties as one half of the drumming duo who power recent tQ Album Of The Year folk, House Of All, and co-host of the Oh! Brother podcast with kin Steve Hanley, Paul submitted to some quick fire questions about the book, Buzzcocks and OBOGFRS (other bits of general Fall-related stuff).

What really went on there? We only have this excerpt:

Why did you choose Buzzcocks?

Paul Hanley: Well, there’s the cultural significance of them bringing the Sex Pistols to Manchester twice, and kick starting indie music. Then there is the fact that Pete Shelley was a song writing genius who could say more in a three minute pop song than most writers could say in a whole album. But most importantly they were my favourite band between the ages of 14 and 16, which is about the only time in your life when it’s OK to have a favourite band.

What do you think of the Tony McGartland book, Buzzcocks: The Complete History and Pete and Louis Shelley's Ever Fallen In Love: The Lost Buzzcocks Tapes? I think they are the only other Buzzcocks books right?

PH: Yes, apart from Steve Diggle’s book [The Buzzcocks: Harmony In My Head]. I used all three in writing this, unsurprisingly. But there is a definite lack of books about Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks, certainly compared to The Clash and the Sex Pistols, which seems criminal to me. Hopefully this book is different from all the others. I wanted to combine telling the story with getting across just how much Buzzcocks meant to me

Did you perceive of some misconceptions about the band you were keen to tackle?

PH: Yes. There’s this slightly snide dismissal of Pete’s songs as ‘just love songs’ which they’re definitely not.

In that sense is their closest comparison The Undertones? Or can they be compared to anyone else?

PH: There’s definitely a lineage between Buzzcocks and The Undertones in their ability to convey the thrills and spills of youthful yearning over driving melody. I think The Undertones would happily acknowledge an influence. But Undertones aside I think a lot of bands influenced by Buzzcocks kind of missed the point.

Care to elaborate?

PH: Ok. Specifically, bands like Green Day. There’s a big difference between speaking to youth and just being childish.

Do you cover Shelley's solo albums?

PH: Yes. Not in as much detail but Pete’s journey away from Buzzcocks’ sound and then how he got back to it is fascinating.

Did you get to interview everyone you wanted for the book?

PH: Yes pretty much. I deliberately chose not to speak to Steve Diggle as I wanted to avoid getting too close and have it affect the story I wanted to tell. And I couldn’t speak to Pete obviously so it wouldn’t have been fair! I think the story of the Buzzcocks is the story of Steve and Pete; the story of how they maintained that relationship despite being very different characters is pretty key I think.

Were relations between The Fall and The Buzzcocks always cordial?

PH: Buzzcocks and Richard Boon were very supportive of The Fall in the early days, as they were with lots of Manchester acts. I think Mark certainly respected Pete even if he was a bit sniffy about Buzzcocks music.

Was Shelley's bisexuality ever a problem for the band?

PH: No I don’t think they cared. His lyrics were always gender fluid, and his sexuality was never part of the act, it was just who he was. He was years ahead of his time in that respect.

What are the unheralded songs you love that aren't on Singles Going Steady?

PH: 'Money'; 'Who’ll Help Me To Forget?'

You've completely changed in the last few years haven't you? Three books published and an English Literature degree completed since 2017. It's very impressive but are your friends and family surprised by it?

PH: Well I hope they’re not too surprised! They’ve been very supportive. The degree was a dream. I loved it. And I really got the bug for writing. When you’re doing a degree you always have a piece of writing on the go, so I just carried on!

How are you enjoying The House Of All?

PH: The gigs have been great actually. We seem to be going down very well and the footfall is very gratifying. It’s a real shame Pete [Greenway] wasn’t able to join us but Phil [Lewis] has done a great job.

Do you feel at all Irish? Obviously Steve [Hanley] was born in Dublin. How long after his birth did your parents move to Manchester?

Paul: I do feel Irish in many ways. We were a fairly Irish household growing up. But I feel far more Dublinian – if that’s a word – than just generally Irish, in the same way I feel Mancunian rather than English. I think he was about a year old.

Sixteen Again: How Pete Shelley & Buzzcocks Changed Manchester Music (And Me) is available to buy from Route now