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:-
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:-