Steve Diggle

The Secret Public Years: 1981-1989

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AllMusic Review by

Here at last is a chance to peruse just how good Diggle was in the eight years Buzzcocks were broken up, before their reunion. Unfortunately, since these 21 tracks are presented chronologically, the unfamiliar or unconvinced might not be instantly converted. It's not that the first 13 tracks, from '81-'86, aren't of good quality -- they are. But it's the final eight songs that should have led-off here, in establishing Diggle as one of the most important and overlooked artists in all of Britain during the '80s, despite his impressive run as an original Buzzcock hit-tunesmith. Starting off with his two brilliant '87 singles "Pictures in My Mind" and "Last Train to Safety," and continuing on to '88's mouth-opening Exiles EP and the final '89 almost-as-good but not quite "Tomorrow's Sunset," you have the ultimate proof that a fully recommitted Diggle had regained his pen, gotten together a real band, and was putting together punkish mod-pop gems with balls, heart, and instant greatness. "Exiles" and "Pictures in my Mind" alone are better than the solo work of 99% of more famous ex-band types; but since the pre-reunion Diggle was largely regarded as a has-been, they were ignorantly ignored. As for the first 13 tracks, culled from the sporadic singles Flag of Convenience released up until then, plus four previously unreleased songs,three-quarters stand up alright. The three songs from the 1981 pre-Buzzcocks split Steve Diggle EP are actually Buzzcocks without Pete Shelley. "Here Comes the Fire Brigade" is great, the other two good. 1981's misdirected and misunderstood "Life on the Telephone" single, with Maher still on drums, actually sounds better now than it did so close on the heels of the lamented Buzzcocks split, its quieter synth pop a bold experiment that alienated punk fans at the time, but was actually fresh then, and in retrospect, especially the two, way-better B-sides. The comp has a few loser tracks in the middle, but as stated, the last third is the truly vital stuff. An expensive import that justifies the outlay, both for curious Buzzcocks fans old and new.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:54
2 3:45
3 3:56
4 5:24
5 3:24
6 4:48
7 4:54
8 3:54
9 3:49
10 2:49
11 3:26
12 3:27
13 4:10
14 2:42
15 4:20
16 3:04
17 2:06
18 4:16
19 4:14
20 4:06
21 3:35
blue highlight denotes track pick