photos by Steve Gunn


The Buzzcocks hit Dundee’s Fat Sam’s on Thursday 9th September 2010, over thirty four years since the band’s birth in Bolton.  It’s quite appropriate; Dundee has had a longstanding relationship with punk, having never abandoned it despite the vagaries of fashion over the years. Maybe it’s to do with its sense of being Scotland’s underdog, maybe it’s just its own passion and intellect vying against a status quo it never seems to be able to change. Or maybe it just likes the music. I don’t really know but maybe Pete Shelley should have stuck with his birth name McNeish as the Scots love him. Unusual for a Thursday night, Fat Sam’s is full and it’s not just the old fans either. 

The Buzzcocks now consist of the stalwarts: Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle on vocals and guitar, and the younger Chris Remmington on bass  and Danny Farrant on drums. Still, I dare any young bad with pretensions of punk to compete with Shelley and Diggle’s blistering guitar riffs after coming up to four decades.  They still have audiences in their hands, same sounds as before, frenetic and potent with no dilution. There are the same crazy mannerisms, leaps and Shelley’s unique expressive high-pitched vocal, the same irrepressive energy and little ‘Boredom’ in the pit as the opening song bursts out. ‘How are you doing, Dundee?’ Diggle calls for the volume to go up and throughout the set, Shelley signs for it to go further. Just as ‘Boredom’, their first single, announced punk’s rebellion against the conventions of the 70s, it is a call to arms now with its brave and furious musical minimalism.

It’s not just the forty five year old plus die-hard punks here tonight but a good proportion of the crowd consists of today’s tidy punk: young lads with razor cut hairdos, bomber jackets and clean, sharp jeans, girls in tight t-shirts and leather skirts – sticking out like well-defined cartoon characters from the usual morass of Libertine-leftovers out on the streets.

‘Fast Cars’ with its relentless ‘Fast Cars’ (was in the second episode of 'This is England 86') follows and then the sublime ‘I don’t mind’ which sounds even more contemporary today than it did decades ago. The fourth song is introduced by Diggle:  ‘This next one’s called ‘Autonomy’ – that’s self rule but I don’t need to tell Scotland that!’ yes, there’s the same venom and vigour. You suddenly realise what’s so desperately missing from music today and why so many young people are furiously pogoing at the front like they’ve just discovered the cure for cancer.

Shelley and Diggle exchange grins and they race through a 21 song set (including songs from their latest album  ‘Flat Pack Philosophy’ plus exchanges with the audience, a set including ‘Girl From The Chainstore’, ‘Sick City’, ‘I don’t know what to do’ (except they so obviously do), ‘Love you more’, ‘Noise Annoys’ and ‘Harmony in my Head’. The tight harmonies and melodies are one of the reasons The Buzzcocks still sound so fresh – that and their brutal appropriateness to the current social political climate. When God’s got work to be done, he creates genius. And that genius was obviously punk. I’m suddenly more grateful for it than ever before. It’s become more than a trend of the moment back when my mum was young; it’s actually more relevant in 2010 than it ever was.

We are treated to three encores including the classic ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ which has Dundonians going berserk. Back at the merchandise counter, vinyls, t-shirts and badges of old punk bands are shifting in bucketloads.

The Buzzcocks, more punk than they could have believed at 21, totally lost in the music and the audience, devoid of airbrushing, cosmetic surgery, trendy haircuts or clothes (spotty shirts? Even Mani couldn’t pull that off with Primal Scream but Diggle has carte blanche) own that stage.  Na. They own punk. They can do what they like. They lasted the distance and are more raw than they were at 21, validating every fan over 45 in there as well as part of the new revolution amidst unemployed youth whose previous voice of protest was  a doped-up Pete Docherty. Now it’s : ‘Ah! So this is what it’s about.’