Popular music has always asked questions. From The Honeycombs insecure Have I The Right? to the shared novelty honours of Patti Page and Lita Roza asking How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? From Van Morrison’s meaningful Have I Told You Lately? to Tony Christie’s now fairly meaningless (thanks to Peter Kay’s fund raising activities) Is This The Way To Amarillo?
But few have cut to the chase as abruptly and energetically as The Buzzcocks’ September 1978 hit Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t)?
The band had started their recording career in typical punk posturing style with the rapidly radio banned single Orgasm Addict.
But by the time of Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t)? pop pickers were more concerned with the retro sounds of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John whilst punk, with the Sex Pistols well on their way to total burn out, had sunk to the likes of Jilted John’s eponymously comic wimp anthem.
So Pete Shelley’s rapid fire love song was a breath of fresh air – and lyrically it was a cut above its competitors.
“You spurn my natural emotions
You make me feel I’m dirt and I’m hurt
And if I start a commotion
I run the risk of losing you and that’s worse” is quite some way to start a song before kicking into the memorable refrain: “Ever fallen in love with someone
Ever fallen in love, in love with someone
Ever fallen in love, in love with someone
You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with?”.
The second verse is just as confessional:
“I can’t see much of the future
Unless we find out what’s to blame, what a shame
And we won’t be together much longer
Unless we realize that we are the same.”
After that it’s point made – a repeat of verse one a couple of refrain repeats and all’s done and dusted in around three minutes.
But what’s it all about? Writer Pete Shelley has been quoted as saying that the lyrics were inspired by a line from the musical Guys and Dolls:
“I wrote that while we were doing the Orgasm Addict tour. We were up in Edinburgh, stopping at the guest house, watching TV there, and it was the movie musical Guys and Dolls. One of the characters, Adelaide, is saying to Marlon Brando’s character, ‘Wait till you fall in love with someone you shouldn’t have.’ I thought, fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have? Hmm, that’s good.”
The BBC music website states that Shelley told a fanzine that the song was about a friend called Francis. “Ever Fallen In Love is such a universal song that Shelley shied away from talking about whom he had in mind when he wrote it. But he did reveal to the Outpunk fanzine that it was about a friend called Francis. In Buzzcocks – The Complete History, author Tony McGartland said the object of Shelley’s affections was Francis Cookson, who was in The Tiller Boys with Shelley and launched a label called Groovy Records with the singer.
“I lived with Francis for about seven years, and then he went off and got married in Switzerland,” Shelley said.
The singer said he fell in love when the pair started living together. “He was the first – well, the second – person that I actually lived with, so it was difficult at times.”
The Buzzcocks were formed in Bolton in 1976 by singer-songwriter-guitarist Pete Shelley (aka Peter McNeish) and Howard Devito (aka Howard Trafford). They are regarded as a seminal influence on the Manchester music scene, the independent record label movement, punk rock, power pop and pop punk. Devoto and Shelley chose the name “Buzzcocks” after reading the headline, “It’s the Buzz, Cock!”, in a review of the TV series Rock Follies in Time Out magazine.
Devoto left the band in 1977, after which Pete Shelley became the principal singer-songwriter. Shelley died on 6 December 2018, leaving the future of the band uncertain.
The song however has had a life of its own. A cover was released as a charity tribute single to the late DJ John Peel on 21 November 2005. It featured artists including Roger Daltrey (The Who), The Datsuns, The Futureheads, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Peter Hook (New Order), Elton John, El Presidente, Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Pete Shelley and the Soledad Brothers. The single was supported by Peel’s son, Tom Ravenscroft, and proceeds went to Amnesty International.
UK band Fine Young Cannibals had a number nine UK hit (three places higher than The Buzzcocks’ original) with their soulful cover version, recorded for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Something Wild, which was later included on the band’s album The Raw & the Cooked[..
The band Thursday did a cover in 2005, featured on the soundtrack of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland.. A cover by Pete Yorn appeared on the Shrek 2 soundtrack in 2004. Canadian punk rock band Pup performed a version in July 2014 for The A.V. Club’s A.V. Undercover series. More recently in 2011, a cover was made by the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street for their winter season, with a jazzy feel, sung by Amanda Billing, who plays Sarah Potts. It fitted with the storyline of her character being pregnant with her ex-husband TK Samuels’s child and him having moved on with his fiancée. Her version reached no. 24 in New Zealand. French band Nouvelle Vague made a cover of the song for their 2006 album Bande à Part.
The song is still a staple of retro radio playlists – being the acceptable face of punk.
|Punk Rock, punk pop
|Roger Daltey, Elton John, Fine Young Cannibals