Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Buzzcocks - Strange Thing/Airwaves Dream

The Buzzcocks
Strange Thing/Airwaves Dream


Released 1980 on United Artists
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 23/02/2007ce


Heading into 1979 it was pretty clear that The Buzzcocks were in a rut. Their second long player "Love Bites" (1978) was spotty at best, even their once vibrant 45's were starting to sound kinda samey. It appeared a change of direction was in order, and the group answered that order magnificently.
Their first single of 1979 "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" b/w "Why Can't I Touch It?" was a real step forward, the A-Side sounding a bit like Wire at their most energetic (the song is now being used in a commercial in the USA for AARP), "Why Can't I Touch It?" was even better, on this one the group jumped head first into psychedelia.
Their next single "Harmony In My Head" b/w "Something's Gone Wrong Again" was spectacular, the A Side of this one was a Steve Diggle sung track that is absolutely vicious and to my ears anyway their finest single to date.
1979 also saw the release of their superb third, and what would prove to be their final album "A Different Kind Of Tension." This album was miles ahead of their earlier albums, and it showed a real sense of growth and maturity. Gone missing were the snappy 2 minute pop songs, to be replaced by material shrouded in mystery and confusion. Peter Shelley's "I Believe" was awe inspiring.
As 1980 finally arrived The Buzzcocks decided to issue a trilogy of 45's that all contained double A sides, one side to be sung by Steve Diggle and one side to be sung by Peter Shelley, sort of in the pattern of The Beatles 45's.
The first installment "Are Everything" b/w "Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore" was excellent, the A-side carrying a melody that sounded similar to The Association's "Windy." The second 45 in the series was THE ONE! This single knocked me for a loop when I first heard it, I couldn't believe how far the group had come in such a short time. "Strange Thing" b/w "Airwaves Dream" was in my opinion the finest single of The Buzzcocks career. "Strange Thing" is a disturbing, claustrophobic number that sounds like Peter Shelley is going off the rails (Shelley would later admit to heavy LSD use while recording the song, and others in the singles trilogy.) Musically the group are firing on all cylinders, their playing sounds like The Jam at their most potent with traces of Krautrock.
On the other side Steve Diggles' "Airwaves Dream" is also fantastic, this one sounds like a dead ringer for Joy Division's first album, this song sounds a million miles away from The Buzzcocks circa 1978. I can't say enough about how powerful the entire group sounds on this recording.
While I'm here I should also mention part 3 of the series "What Do You Know" b/w "Running Free" because it also fantastic. Shelley's "What Do You Know" is a mesmerizing number driven by a wailing saxophone and an insane vocal from Shelley. "Running Free" is a superb mid tempo, somewhat sad Steve Diggle song with backup vocals from Shelley.
I bought this 45 the week John Lennon was shot and I attended a Jack Bruce concert in New York City just a few days after the murder. I still remember driving around New York City with a tape of these 3 singles going, the city was like a ghost town, people looked like zombies, I guess I'll always associate these final Buzzcocks recordings with Lennon's death.
Sadly The Buzzcocks disbanded shortly after Part 3, it seemed senseless to me at the time, as the group were clearly at a creative peak. Of course they would reform years later, but were never as inspiring as they were on these final 3 singles.


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