Ever Fallen in Love: The Lost Buzzcocks Tapes
Pete Shelley with Louie Shelley
£20.00 UK / $24.99 US
With Ever Fallen in Love, Louie Shelley crafts a lasting tribute to Pete Shelley and to the analogue materials that gave rise to the sounds of Buzzcocks and to music interviews taped across the miles.
While, of course, Louie (no relation to Pete, incidentally) wasn’t actually recording interviews with Pete Shelley on reel-to-reel audiotape, the subtitle of the book conjures the materiality of punk and all its accompanying ephemera. These lost tapes remind us of the stories that can be irretrievable if we don’t record them, and the joys of hearing voices of musicians long gone from another time and space.
Fans of Pete Shelley and “all those who inhabit the Buzzcocks universe,” as Louie writes, will be enamoured with the book. Yet it’s not only for Buzzcocks fans. In a precise and detailed Introduction, Louie provides readers with all the background information anyone could need to appreciate the interviews and their significance within histories of punk and music more broadly. A similarly crafted conclusion frames the interview material across Ever Fallen in Love, serving as a bittersweet endnote to Pete’s story.
For all intents and purposes, this book is the memoir that Pete Shelley never had a chance to write. When Louie and Pete began recording the interviews that make up the bulk of Ever Fallen in Love, nobody knew his life would come to such an unexpected and untimely end. Yet in these interviews — developed through Louie’s astute and thoughtful questions — Pete does get the chance to tell his story, from his early years of listening to the Beatles through Buzzcocks singles and albums to twenty-first century gigs. “We’ve had our ups and downs,” Pete tells Louie at the end, but “people still seem to like us, and that’s what matters at the end of the day.”
The book is constructed almost entirely in interview form as you may have surmised, and it gives readers a rare chance to access all the unedited tapes gathered by a top-rate music journalist. Even if Louie did edit things out, there’s nonetheless a real sense that we’re getting unfettered dibs to Pete Shelley’s thoughts, memories, and reflections. Indeed, Ever Fallen in Love offers an opportunity to immerse ourselves in conversation with the Buzzcocks lead singer over many glorious hours. Through the interview format, the book works similarly to an epistolary novel, allowing the reader to slowly grow into Louie’s role of interviewer and to hear Pete’s responses. No topic of conversation feels off limits, and the narrative brings us through every Buzzcocks single, album, and more. Aside from the early and final chapters, each section centres on a particular Buzzcocks record. The chapters for the band’s albums, Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites, include in-depth and detailed questions to Pete about each song and its origins.
Louie’s footnotes and commentary distinguish the interviews collected here from other works crafted in this form. Throughout the text, she provides fascinating information that’s related but tangential to Pete’s narrative in addition to providing zany, tongue-in-cheek captions for various photos and reproduced items. By the end of Ever Fallen in Love, we feel as though we’ve really gotten to know both Louie and Pete — a testament to the ways in which the best interviews can truly become dialogic.
Although it took awhile for the physical copy of Ever Fallen in Love to reach my home address in the US, Louie insisted I take a look at the material object as opposed to a digital copy, emphasizing that the text was an objet d’art. She couldn’t have been more right. From cover to cover, Ever Fallen in Love reveals a warmth and affection for analogue mediums and the narratives they produce. The endpapers are gorgeous — lusciously saturated semi-gloss cardstock, a rich red on one side and blue on the other. These endpapers mirror the dust jacket colours for Ever Fallen in Love and, of course, the Buzzcocks sleeve single. And the cover image of Pete Shelley, in stark black and white, stands like a monument to the musician. It’s no wonder the design work is so stunning: Louie offers “extra special thanks to Malcolm Garrett, ‘the fifth Buzzcock,’ for graphic design concept and supervision.” With Garrett’s work on the book design, the object functions almost as a final record, straight from the mouth of Pete Shelley to your ears.
Reproduced ephemera abounds across Ever Fallen in Love, from black-and-white copies of zines and letters to full-colour badges, photographs, and album sleeves. I love how the badges are all reproduced faithfully to size, as if offering us a tactile experience in reading the book and feeling the physical objects essential to Buzzcocks fandom. At the bottom of several chapters, there’s a substantial amount of negative space below the text. A number of these pages include a reproduced Buzzcocks badge in the midst of the seemingly empty page, as if placed gently to hold our place. It’s a mark of the great care put into the design of the book and its focus on materiality. In their sheer presence, these moments also serve as reminders of Pete Shelley’s physical absence and the ways in which the interviews preserve his memory in lasting tangible form.
Anyone who loves the Buzzcocks, or, for that matter, anyone interested in engaging with an innovative and inspired textual memorial to a musician who left this world too soon, should pick up a copy of Ever Fallen in Love immediately. Buy the book for yourself, and buy it for your friends, too.