Pete Shelley’s seminal song Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone you Shouldn’t’ve) is revered as an anthem of the punk generation, a forlorn cry from the heart of unrequited emotion tightly packaged into a punchy melody.
But what’s less well 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 while sipping beer with bandmates.
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 – where they were to be supported by the Prefects and the Skids.
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 died on Thursday 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 while the band’s driver posted a parcel.
Shelley shied away from talking about whom he had in mind when he wrote the song. But he later revealed to the Outpunk fanzine 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, who was in The Tiller Boys with Shelley and launched a label called Groovy Records with the singer.
The band’s drummer, John Maher, who now lives and works on the Isle of Harris as a photographer and specialist drag racing car mechanic, remembers the tour, which also took the 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 we were staying in lots of them.”
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.
“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, 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.”
Andy Watters, boss of Vinyl Villains independent record shop on Edinburgh’s Elm Row, said: “I’ll be honest I wasn’t aware of the fact the song was written literally round the corner from here until someone came in earlier and told me.
“Edinburgh doesn’t have that many claims to rock music fame so it should definitely be recorded in some way, a blue plaque or something like that.”