Buzzcocks punk anthem inspired by night in at Edinburgh guesthouse

Musicians Steve Diggle (L) and Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks perform onstage during day 2 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field in 2012 in Indio, California. Pic: Karl Walter/Getty Images for Coachella
Musicians Steve Diggle (L) and Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks perform onstage during day 2 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field in 2012 in Indio, California. Pic: Karl Walter/Getty Images for Coachella
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Pete Shelley’s seminal song Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) is known as one of the anthems of the punk Generation, a forlorn cry from the heart packaged into a punchy melody.

But what’s less known is that the inspiration for Buzzcocks biggest single came to him as its lead singer sat watching a 1950s musical in an Edinburgh Guest house on a winter’s night.

Manchester’s punk gods were on their first headline tour in November 1977 when they pitched up at the now long gone Blenheim Guest House on Blenheim Place before their gig the following night at the Clouds - aka the Cavendish Ballroom .

But sex, drugs and rock n roll were apparently not on the menu that night in Edinburgh, and with time to kill the young band settled down in front of The 9pm Hollywood Musical on BBC2: Guys and Dolls.

Shelley, who has just died at the age of 63, would later recount: “We were in the Blenheim Guest House with pints of beer, sitting in the TV room half-watching 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.”

He set down to work the next day and started writing the song while waiting in a van outside the main Post Office on Waterloo Place.

In the years afterwards openly bisexual Shelley shied away from talking about whom he had in mind when he wrote it.

But he did reveal that it was about a male friend called Francis.

In Buzzcocks - The Complete History, author Tony McGartland said the object of Shelley’s affections was Francis Cookson, a musical collaborator who Shelley ended up living with.

The band’s drummer, John Maher, who now lives and works on the Isle of Harris as a photographer, remembers the tour, which also took the young band to Dundee and Falkirk, but is a little hazy on the details of the Blenheim.

“I don’t remember the guest house in particular, but it was the beginning of us getting big and we were staying in lots of them, it would have been basic, two to a room, no en-suite toilets. We had a name for them, ‘Mrs Bogle’s’”.

But the 58-year-old is proud of the song which became a classic, reaching 12 in the charts in 1978, but winning a place in the hearts of millions more.

“If it wasn’t for Pete’s tangled love life he probably wouldn’t have written the great songs he did so I guess we have to thank him for that.

“At the time I never paid much attention to the lyrics of the song. I was more interested in the melody that I had to play to, but looking back now with the benefit of hindsight I can see that he was doing something really different from a lot of what was going on in punk at the time. He was writing great, melodic pop tunes and he really didn’t give a toss, which I suppose is more punk than anything.”