“Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” — The Buzzcocks
Having briefly mentioned the Buzzcocks in my last article about Peggy Lee…not a combination you see very often…I thought it was about time to rediscover the Buzzcocks’ most famous hit record.
“Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” is a genius title for a pop song, because just about everybody has had that experience…something I’ve elevated to an art form, personally…but it’s ambiguous enough that it can mean something different to everyone who hears it. No matter what your precise circumstances are, the song’s title speaks to you.
The song itself had an unusual starting point for a punk anthem. It came from a line Marlon Brando spoke in the 1955 movie, ‘Guys And Dolls’ which Pete Shelley watched in a hotel room while on tour. I’m prepared to be contradicted on this point, but I’m pretty sure this was the only punk song which took its inspiration from Marlon Brando…
The other interesting aspect of “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” which never appeared in the press when it was released back in 1978 was that it was written by lead singer Pete Shelley about his feelings for another man.
Of course, the world was a different place then. Although many places are more tolerant today than they used to be, 1978 was a dangerous time to publicly express your feelings for someone of the same sex. At the very least, you were likely to be ostracised by your friends and family. Often, your fate was much worse.
Thankfully, at least some parts of the world have moved on since then.
But that’s the great thing about art…in all its forms, but especially, around here, music and songwriting. In your art you can make all sorts of allusions, hide references to aspects of your life you can’t mention publicly “in plain sight”, but in such a way that you’ve got what they call in spy novels “constructive deniability”.
Because people draw their own interpretations from the words you use, you can easily say “no, that’s not what I meant”…even if it’s exactly what you meant…and nobody can prove otherwise. It’s that slightly subversive aspect of art that I enjoy more than any other, I think.
And Pete Shelley wrote “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” in such a way that it could have been about any romantic relationship whatsoever…
You spurn my natural emotions
You make me feel like dirt and I’m hurt
And if I start a commotion
I risk losing you and that’s worse
I really like that opening line… ‘spurn’ is a slightly old-fashioned word to use in the opening line of a song that launched into the bright neon punk sound of 1978, but it’s a brilliant word which really lends itself to being sneered into the microphone by Pete Shelley.
And ‘spurn’ carries so much more emotion than “you said no”…
Pete Shelley then takes us into the dilemma anyone who’s had their approach turned down will be familiar with…how much do you really care?
If all you had in mind was a casual fling, probably not very much. You’d just move on to try your luck elsewhere.
But the clue to Pete Shelley’s true feelings…based on his natural emotions, let’s not forget…and his hopes that something would work out in the longer term, is his realisation that losing this person from his life completely would be far worse than not being considered worthy of a romantic relationship by someone he was attracted to.
That’s what makes this song…often called a punk anthem…into something more than its contemporaries. Whilst it is an anthem from the punk era, it’s so much more than that.
Which probably explains why “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” has lasted so long in the consciousness of the British public. It sounds like a punk song…albeit at the pop end of the spectrum…but it’s actually quite a traditional love song, wrapped up in punk outergarments.
That’s another reason I enjoy the art of songwriting so much. Not everything really means what it initially appears to mean. It gives you the opportunity to think and to make your own meanings.
That’s why the second verse plays an important part in the story…given the context of Pete Shelley’s expression of love for another man at a time that wouldn’t have been acceptable, even in the anarchic world of punk bands of the late 1970s…
I can’t see much of a future
Unless we find out what’s to blame, what a shame
And we won’t be together much longer
Unless we realise that we’re the same
Look, Pete Shelley is saying, I know you’ve got the same feelings that I have, but you’re still in denial. We’re just the same, you and I, and I know you feel about me the way I feel about you, so why don’t you just accept it?
Punk music journal of reference, NME, made “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” their song of the year for 1978.
And I’ve always wondered whether they did that just because this is a very catchy song with some great hooks…which indeed it is…or whether the writers at NME knew what the song was really about and this was their own way of showing support, as well as being a bit subversive in their selection of the song of the year, knowing that most of their readers wouldn’t pick up on the real message hidden within Pete Shelley’s masterpiece.
I’d like to think it was the latter…
You can just take “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” as a truly great love song, the theme of which will be as relevant 100 years from now as it was 40 years ago when the Buzzcocks first appeared on Top of the Pops.
Or you can take it as a song that, in a very unexpected way, provides a commentary on how badly human beings sometimes treat their fellow men and women, just on the basis that “they’re not like us”.
The late Pete Shelley wrote a song that works on so many levels, as well as being a great tune which he and the rest of the Buzzcocks deliver with all the edgy energy of a late 1970s punk band.
In the final analysis, that’s why “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” has lasted the test of time and remains one of the few punk anthems you still hear relatively frequently on the radio today.
With a brief intro from BBC Radio 1’s star DJ at the time, Peter Powell…what ever happened to him?…here’s The Buzzcocks appearing on the BBC’s biggest TV music show…Top of the Pops...
Even if you don’t think you’re a punk fan, don’t spurn this song…or its message…
The video is below, but if you prefer you can listen to the track on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/5YUJMvTg4AWHKjqQidTsGK
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