Kurt: How are you still alive?

Picture: Ian Rook
Picture: Ian Rook
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Buzzcock Steve Diggle: I nursed a pint of mild in the Black Dog pub listening to Mozart

Punk legend Steve Diggle is never short of a rock and roll anecdote or poignant musical reminiscence.

Like the episode on Nirvana’s final tour, shortly before Kurt Cobain’s death 20 years ago, when the Buzzcocks provided the opening act for their European dates in the spring of 1994.

“I wanted the vocals on Harmony in my Head to sound raw so I smoked 20 cigarettes before we did it because that’s what John Lennon did when he recorded Twist and Shout.

“I told Kurt this on the bus and he was fascinated,” said the Buzzcocks guitarist and sometime singer.

“Because he was a bit similar vocally, Harmony in My Head had the same rough element he liked in a song.

“That was a great moment, Kurt Cobain telling me that Harmony In My Head, a song I’d written, was one of his favourites.

“When Nirvana played, Kurt wore a Buzzcocks beanie hat on stage.

“I said to him, ‘I’ll see you when we get to London’ and by the time we got back there it was all over the news that he was dead.

“We’d been with him all week and while Kurt was a nice guy he was dealing with a lot of pressure. He seemed a tortured soul.

“I remember Kurt asking how we’d survived all these years. When you’re in a band you need to look after your soul.

“It’s a great experience, a great exploration, but it takes its toll on people in many ways.”

It is four decades, give or take a year or two, since the Buzzcocks’ debut LP Another Music In a Different Kitchen spent three months in the charts and started the group on a marathon run of classic three-chord pop-punk hits, including Ever Fallen In Love, another Diggle-penned tune.

“I think it’s called wearing your heart on your sleeve,” said Diggle, who brings the Buzzcocks to Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre tonight.

“Part of the idea with punk was to write about things you had personal experience of, rather than things you make up.

“They’re songs about relationship issues, not an idealized, romantic vision of love, a more down to earth kind.

“We sing about the human condition, tragedy, comedy and life.

“We don’t sell our fans an illusion – we are not selling soap powder. The everyday is something that everybody goes through and shares.”

He added: “Sometimes I say to Pete Shelley we are like Lennon and McCartney in a kitchen blender.”

Diggle is no stranger to Lancashire, having lived in the village of Belmont for a spell in the 1980s.

“I love Lancashire – I’d go in the Black Dog for a pint and the landlord hated rock music. He had a classical jukebox, so I’d sit in there nursing a pint of mild listening to Mozart and Tchaikovsky.”

Diggle laments the demise of many traditional venues in the north.

“A special gig gives you a glow and is a very precious moment for a musician, and the Grand Theatre is a special place.

“So many pubs and halls have closed, but you could feel the community vibe it has created in Clitheroe, and the excitement and inspiration from the crowd.

“Places like that give me hope and the owners should be proud of making a brilliant rock and roll venue. Long may it reign.”

Buzzcocks play at Clitheroe Grand tomorrow. Call 01200 421599 for details.