When British punk rock exploded in a wave of anger and a gob of spit in 1976, three bands led the way: the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Buzzcocks. Of those bands, only the Buzzcocks are still together. The Buzzcocks will perform June 22 with Pearl Jam. And the Buzzcocks aren’t coasting on their past glory; they’re creating new music with the same energy and vitality that powered them in the 1970s. Their new, self-titled album is being called a return to glorious form and they’re opening several dates on Pearl Jam’s U.S. tour, including Sunday’s Indianapolis date. Guitarist Steve Diggle has been with the Buzzcocks since the beginning and sees the Pearl Jam dates as a way to get their music in front of a new audience. “It might be good to reach out to people who’ve never heard Buzzcocks,” he said in a phone interview. “We were on the last Nirvana tour and we found that people who liked Nirvana liked the Buzzcocks. Hopefully Pearl Jam fans will like us, too.” He’s encouraged by the trend towards garage rock and punk as well. “It seemed like a few years ago, music was primarily dance-based. The fact that kids are getting back to guitars, it’s more of an organic thing,” he said. “People are writing lyrics about their environment now. It’s a good thing. It’s a good time for guitar music.” The Buzzcocks’ first gig was opening for the Sex Pistols in Manchester, a time Diggle remembers vividly. “Before that, the music scene was dead. It was barren in Manchester,” he said. “When we did that Sex Pistols gig, suddenly journalists came, and as well as writing about the Sex Pistols, they said there was a band in Manchester. The punk scene came from that. A few clubs would let punks in, but a lot of clubs wouldn’t. From that, people started writing fanzines and getting involved. There was a lot of audience participation in those days. And the political climate was being questioned. It was music that seemed relevant. “Before that, it was like Yes singing about mushrooms in the sky. And we came back to the three-minute song and smashed a few guitars and it created a scene in Manchester. We didn’t know if we were witnessing history or whether it’d last three weeks.” But he sees the present as being equally as vibrant as the old days, at least for his band. “It’s still really good now, because the audience is two-thirds young kids and about a third of the people who were our fans years ago. It’s going from generation to generation.” In the early 1980s, the Buzzcocks broke up for almost a decade. Diggle attributed it to simple fatigue. “We did about five years solid of touring and recording and got burned out for a while,” he said. “It had sort of run its course at that moment. It’s like a Saturday night every night with no Sunday off. We thought there was no point in doing it when it was like that. We decided to take a break and the break became the split. We thought we’d never get back together.” But in 1989, the group got back together and has continued recording. It hasn’t always been easy, though, because they faced pressure at one point to become more commercial. “When you’re signed to certain record labels, they try to change your sound and your look so you can be commercially viable,” he said. “But we’ve always stuck to our guns and made the moves we wanted to make, which is a tougher road, really.” Asked if he feels slighted that the Clash and Pistols get more attention from rock historians, Diggle laughed and said it didn’t matter. “I suppose they had a slightly more flamboyant image. But people know inside themselves about the Buzzcocks,” he said. “It’s like an internal thing. But people know about the Buzzcocks around the world and people are discovering us every day.” Diggle, as well as the rest of the music world, was shocked when Joe Strummer died last December. For Diggle, who’d known him for 25 years, it was an especially hard blow. “I dedicate a song, ‘Autonomy,’ to him every night because he said he liked that song once,” he said. “We started with them and the Pistols, and there was a closeness there. His assistant gave me one of his picks that he used a few days before he died and I carry that around with me on this tour. “He was the backbone of punk rock,” Diggle said. “We were on the White Riot tour with them. I still can’t believe he’s gone.” For more information on the band, visit www.buzzcocks.com. Tickets for their Sunday night show with Pearl Jam are available by calling 239-5151.

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