Primed, cocked and ready

Legendary British punk band The Buzzcocks rocks Tel Aviv.

Buzzcocks 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Buzzcocks 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Steve Diggle has a special interest in making his first trip to Israel next week to perform with his seminal 1970s punk band The Buzzcocks: He might have a hidden Jewish past.
“There’s a story in my family that my great-grandmother was Jewish, but we’ve never been able to confirm it,” said the 55-year-old guitarist from his London home last month in a thick Mancunian accent. “I’ve always wondered, though.”
Diggle has been preoccupied the last few decades, however, with The Buzzcocks – both in its original incarnation as one of the most influential bands to emerge in the initial wave of punk rock – and now, keeping alive the band’s crisp melodies, inventive guitar lines and biting lyrics about adolescence and love that set it apart from contemporaries like The Sex Pistols and The Clash and provided a blueprint for future generations of rockers ranging from Nirvana and The Smiths to Radiohead, Green Day and their latter-day progeny.
“The music I loved growing up was The Who, the Stones. The first things I remember hearing were Bob Dylan and The Beatles,” said Diggle, who joined the Manchester band formed by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto after meeting them at a 1976 Sex Pistols show and becoming their bass player.
“For me, punk rock brought that passion back to the music, and it created something pertaining to my generation. The progressive bands [in the 1970s] were singing about mushrooms in the sky but nothing pertaining to our lives in any way you can relate to when you’re 20.
Every now and then, it’s time to rip it up and start all over again.”
Following the band’s initial burst of fame in which Shelley and Diggle – who took over guitar duties from the departed Devoto – wrote the bulk of the band’s oeuvre, a nearly decade-long fracture ensued in 1981. However, by the end of the 1980s, the band tested the reunion waters with a new rhythm section and have remained a touring and recording unit ever since.
While their 1970s three-minute punk-pop nuggets like “Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” which was popularized years later by Fine Young Cannibals, are the reason most fans turn out to see them, The Buzzcocks aren’t just a nostalgia act for those longing for safety pinned T-shirts and spike hair. They’ve released five albums since reforming, including the highly acclaimed Flat- Pack Philosophy in 2006.
“At that time, a lot of bands were sounding like The Buzzcocks, so we thought we’ll go back and sound like ourselves. And it was great! We took quite a bit of the classic elements and gave them a modern twist. On the next album we’re talking about doing, we’ll probably go out and try something different again,” Diggle said.
Making their first appearance in Israel at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night (March 15) isn’t a political statement for Diggle, who said he wasn’t aware of any consolidated boycott efforts to lobby the band to cancel.
“I think somebody sent something to me on Facebook about boycotting, but you know, we travel the world, and all I know is that fundamentally, people everywhere are just human beings and when you meet them one on one, they’re all right no matter where you go,” said Diggle.
“We’re making music to help people think and bring them together, that’s our role; we’re not siding with anybody.”
Spoken like a true punk.