In 1976, two students at the Bolton Institute of Technology, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, were struggling to get their band together. The pair had seen the Sex Pistols in London early in the year and, intoxicated by the seemingly endless possibilities of punk, arranged for the Pistols to play the Lesser Trade Hall in Manchester in early June 1976.
It was to be a legendary gig, whose tiny audience included future members of Joy Division/New Order, Morrissey, Mark E Smith of the Fall and journalist Paul Morley, and of course the Buzzcocks. Exciting times. Shelley and Devoto had hoped to support the Sex Pistols but couldn't recruit a band in time. Instead, support came from the (still largely unknown) prog rock outfit Solstice.
Joy Division (then 'Warsaw') went out and bought guitars the very next day. Pete and Howard kicked themselves and probably each other and managed to get themselves together for a second Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall around six weeks later, this time playing to a full house.
Later in 1976, Buzzcocks recorded their debut EP, 'Spiral Scratch', produced by Martin Hannett, and, just as it was getting good, Howard Devoto left to form Magazine. After frontman Devoto left, and before splitting in 1981, Shelley's distinctive vocal took over and the Buzzcocks put out three influential LPs that need no further acclaim or analysis here.
Shelley reformed the band in the late eighties to tour and record new material, putting out another five albums. Next year, 34 years after he left, Howard Devoto will be joining the Buzzcocks on stage at the end of two special gigs where he will play with the band on all four tracks from 1977's 'Spiral Scratch'.
The two very special 'Back to Front' shows with Howard Devoto take place at the Manchester Apollo on 25th May and then the Brixton Academy the following night.
We will have tickets available when they go on sale at 9AM on Friday 2nd December, priced £24 for Manchester and £25 for London.
The Buzzcocks continue to tour in the meantime, without Devoto, with upcoming gigs throughout December. We have tickets available now from £18.