Whatever Happened To...?

Composed by Richard Boon / Alan Dial / Pete Shelley

Song Review by

"What Ever Happened?" first appeared as a B-side to the Buzzcocks' controversial first single, "Orgasm Addict," which the BBC deemed too profane for the public airways and subsequently the song failed to chart. However, this terse punk nugget received a proper airing as it was included on the band's influential Singles Going Steady compilation as an introductory package for the American market, released in 1979. Along with "Orgasm Addict," the song would provide the template for the Buzzcocks' musical formula, expertly setting irresistible, early Beatles-style melodies to frantically paced, compact two-minute bursts of punk rock. Singer Pete Shelly's shrill yelp would soon become part of the group's trademark sound, though the lyrical content here features a rare political bent where accusations are leveled against the establishment on numerous fronts ranging from crass marketing to the general exploitation of everyday life. To a lurching breakneck pace of buzzing guitars and hyperactive drums, Shelley unleashes a rhetorical torrent of questions, each pre-fixed by the title line "Whatever happened to?" dropping names and images in a ricocheting laundry list of grievances from Chairman Mao, the God above, burning books, the new ages, TV sex, to the personal, you and I. All is boiled down in a scathing bridge section, Shelley singing in tight harmonies, "Your passion is a politically highlighted detail/Come take a look/Won't it sell for retail?" In what would become typical Buzzcock fashion, the song clocks in at a tidy two minutes and 14 seconds, the taught arrangement leaving nary a space for the listener to take a breath.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Another Music in a Different Kitchen 1978 Nettwerk America / Nettwerk 2:14
Singles Going Steady 1979 I.R.S. Records / Capitol 2:14
I Don't Mind the Buzzcocks 1999 EMI Music Distribution 2:14
Inventory 2003 Capitol / EMI Records / EMI 2:13