I’ve mentioned the past couple of Sundays how Paul Haig’s solo output would go to catch a few folk out, thanks to the music being far removed from the sounds associated with his former band, Josef K.

In a similar vein, the former frontman of Buzzcocks stunned many, fans and critics alike, when he released his debut solo single in September 1981:-

mp3 : Pete Shelley – Homosapien

I’m certain that I would have first heard this played at a night in the Strathclyde University Student Union on the basis that it had been banned by the BBC. I do recall, vaguely it has to be admitted, one of the weekly music papers having a real go at the record and its singer, accusing him of betraying his punk roots by sliding over onto the dance floor and jumping on the bandwagon of what the writer thought would be a short-lived craze for electronic music. Long live rock’n’roll and all that….

Did I take an instant liking to the track? Truth be told, not really as I wanted Pete Shelley to somehow create MkII of his former band. But, as I grew increasingly familiar with the song, I came to the realisation that it was an absolute belter of a new-era dance track, with as catchy a hook via the synths as had been managed previously with the guitars. Indeed, it is a close cousin to the new pop-savvy sounds that were being released by The Human League, which is no coincidence when you consider that Martin Rushent was could be found in the producer’s chair in both instances.

Few people knew that Pete Shelley was in fact revisiting his first love, having dabbled unsuccessfully in electronic music before meeting Howard Devoto at college and forming one of the most important punk/new wave bands to emerge out of the UK. It was something he had kept quiet about all the time his band becoming a success; in much the same way, he’d previously stayed schtum about his bisexuality, but the release of Homosapien, with its far from subtle references (e.g. ‘Homo Superior, in my interior) provided him with a perfect opportunity to be open about things.

It was a far less tolerant world back then, and there was a sense of a substantial number of fans moving towards disowning Pete Shelley. The excuse given was the shift in music, but there were other unsaid things at play…..

The debut album, also entitled Homospaien, was largely panned on its release, but it is one which has been somewhat reevaluated over time with many now acknowledging that, while not perhaps as instantly accessible as those of the big-hitting and chart-friendly acts such as Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, OMD and Ultravox, it certainly was a decent stab at things.

Here’s the b-side to the original release of the debut single….again it’s a bit different from the Buzzcocks without being aimed squarely at the disco floor:-

mp3 : Pete Shelley – Keats’ Song


10 thoughts on “THIS WAS BOLD AND BRAVE

  1. Can’t remember if I ever heard the b-side or anything else off the LP, but this song was MASSIVE in the NYC clubs. It came out a month after I moved to the city and I remember dancing to it the rest of the year.
    Echorich, was there anything more ubiquitous in the city in 1981? Maybe ‘Shoot You Down’ by APB?

  2. Always loved this and didn’t know it was banned on radio one . Can only think I heard it on local radios weekly “futurist” chart which introduced me to loads of great new stuff in between the adverts for local carpet shops

  3. Hi, great record ! Regarding sexuality, Pete Shelley wore a Campaign for Homosexuality Equality badge in punk days.

  4. This was a major event when it dropped in ’81. I was not a huge Buzzcocks fan, though I certainly liked them, but my tastes went much more in the synthetic direction at the time, so this pushed all of my 1981 buttons! The juxtaposition of Rushent’s Roland Microcomposer and the chugging acoustic rhythm guitars was singular to me at the time. No one else was making a sound like this. I had gotten the US edition of the LP which featured a lot of track juggling, but came out on top if only for including the crucial B-side to “I Don’t Know What it Is,” the incomparable “Witness The Change.” To this day it’s the finest Pete Shelley track I’ve ever heard. Has anyone ever heard “Homosapien II” from 1989? I only found out about it in recent years.

  5. It is just a great dance record especially the 12 inch (also Janis Long’s favourite record ever). I can’t recall where I heard it first, probably around the re-relaease in 1982 when I was still at school. Telephone Operator from XL1 was a great single too.

  6. I had long forgotten just how good Homosapien is, so thanks for the reminder. Could be used to soundtrack any decent TV documentary on an LGBT subject to good effect, I reckon.

  7. JTFL is on point! Homosapien owned NYC dancefloors from Peppermint Lounge to Privates, it would fill the dancefloors.
    But I have always held that Homosapien wasn’t that far off of the later Buzzcocks releases. Are Everything, while produced by the other Martin – Hannett, was certainly more dancefloor friendly than Punk frantic and included some keyboards. I have to agree that listening to the album now, you can hear the hand of Martin Rushent experimenting with sounds that would inform Human League’s Dare a year later.

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