Howard Devoto

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Howard Devoto
Howard devoto.jpg
Background information
Birth nameHoward Andrew Trafford
Also known asHoward Devoto
Born (1952-03-15) 15 March 1952 (age 67)
OriginScunthorpe, Lincolnshire, England
GenresPunk rock, post-punk, synthpop, new wave, electronic
InstrumentsVocals, keyboards, guitars
Years active1976–present
LabelsNew Hormones, Virgin, I.R.S., EMI
Associated actsBuzzcocks, Magazine, Luxuria, ShelleyDevoto, Mansun

Howard Devoto (born Howard Andrew Trafford 15 March 1952[1]) is an English singer and songwriter, who began his career as the frontman for the punk rock band Buzzcocks, but then left to form Magazine, one of the first post-punk bands.[citation needed] After Magazine, he went solo and later formed indie band Luxuria.

His singing has been characterized as a "speak-sing voice that veered between amused croon and panicked yelp."[2]


Born in Scunthorpe,[3][4] Devoto grew up in Nuneaton, Warwickshire[5] and Moortown, Leeds,[6] where he attended Leeds Grammar School and met and befriended future Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon.[7] In 1972, he went to Bolton Institute of Technology (now the University of Bolton) to study psychology, and, later, humanities. During these college years, he met his future bandmates Pete Shelley and Ben Mandelson.


Inspired by the Sex Pistols, Devoto co-formed Buzzcocks with singer/guitarist Pete Shelley in 1976. He left the band in February 1977 after only one record (the Spiral Scratch EP)[4] and a small number of performances to form the band Magazine.[8]


Devoto formed the post-punk band Magazine in 1977.[9] They released several critically acclaimed albums, which met with moderate commercial success, as well as minor hits such as "Shot by Both Sides" and "A Song from Under the Floorboards". Magazine reformed in February 2009, initially performing on a tour of five dates, and subsequently continued playing live and began to record new material. A studio album, No Thyself, was released in October 2011.

Solo years[edit]

After Magazine split in 1981 Devoto spent two years putting together a solo album with former Magazine keyboard player Dave Formula. Jerky Versions of the Dream reached No. 57 in the UK Albums Chart in August 1983,[10] and was reissued in 2007 by Virgin/EMI, featuring several tracks of bonus material.


A collaboration on three songs with Bernard Szajner on the Brute Reason LP was released on Island Records in 1983. This was followed by a rendering of Big Star's "Holocaust" for the loose collective This Mortal Coil. The album It'll End in Tears contained contributions from many of the 4AD label's best artists, Devoto's presence being somewhat atypical.

In 1997, Devoto wrote the lyrics to the Mansun track "Everyone Must Win", which appeared on the Closed for Business EP. A year later he collaborated again with the band, writing lyrics for and singing on "Railings", a B-side for "Being a Girl (Part One)".


One of his next projects was a 1988 collaboration with Liverpool multi-instrumentalist Noko. As Luxuria they released two albums and a music video for the single "Redneck".

Life after popular music[edit]

For most of the 1990s, Devoto was little involved in music, earning his living by working for a photo agency.[11]

In 2001, he teamed up for the first time in twenty-five years with Buzzcocks colleague Pete Shelley and released the much-anticipated Buzzkunst under the name ShelleyDevoto. Reviews were mixed.

In 2002, Devoto had a small part in the movie 24 Hour Party People, a film about Manchester's Factory Records. In his brief cameo appearance, Devoto appears as a janitor cleaning a men's toilet while actor Martin Hancock portrays Devoto having a tryst with the wife of promoter/journalist Tony Wilson. The real-life Devoto breaks the fourth wall by addressing the camera and stating in deadpan, "I definitely don't remember this happening".

In February 2009 Magazine reformed, with former Luxuria partner Noko replacing the deceased John McGeoch on guitar.

On 9 July 2009, Devoto was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bolton for his contribution to music.

Reunion with Buzzcocks[edit]

In November 2011 it was announced he would be returning to the stage with the Buzzcocks for two special shows as part of the Buzzcocks "Back to Front" tour on 25 and 26 May 2012. These took place at the O2 Apollo in Manchester and the O2 Academy in Brixton [12]

Tributes, references and cover songs[edit]

A number of bands continue to be influenced by his work. Momus recorded the tribute song "The Most Important Man Alive" for the Bungalow Records compilation Suite 98 in 1988. Mansun have covered "Shot by Both Sides" live, and it was recorded in their fourth and final album Kleptomania. Also Radiohead and Jarvis Cocker have both covered "Shot by Both Sides". Both Ministry and Peter Murphy have covered Magazine's "The Light Pours Out of Me", whilst Simple Minds, Morrissey and Strange Boutique have covered Magazine's "A Song from Under the Floorboards".


For Magazine and Luxuria, see Discography of Magazine and Discography of Luxuria. This is from his solo career:

Solo discography[edit]



  • 1983: "Rainy Season" - No. 97 UK
  • 1983: "Cold Imagination"

Chronological discography[edit]


  1. ^ "Enciclopedia della musica rock", Cesare Rizzi. HOWARD DEVOTO (HOWARD TRAFFORD) (15 marzo 1952): voce
  2. ^ Dave Simpson (20 October 2011). "Magazine: No Thyself – review | Music". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  3. ^ "Avanti fanzine - Issue no 1 from 1988, interview with Howard Devoto". Archived from the original on 23 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Event Review: An Evening with Buzzcocks, Urbis Manchester 12 Aug 2005". Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  5. ^ Graham Johnston. "Clicks and Klangs". Archived from the original on 1 July 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  6. ^ Dave Simpson (12 December 2008). "Howard Devoto on why it's the right time for a Magazine reunion | Music". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  7. ^ Savage, John. England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond, Pg. 153, St. Martin's Griffin, 2001. ISBN 0-312-28822-0, ISBN 978-0-312-28822-8 "I'd known Howard from Leeds Grammar School (...)", Richard Boon
  8. ^ "Buzzcocks Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  9. ^ "A classic debut single, 'Shot by Both Sides' established Magazine’s post-punk credentials, its stark, uncompromising approach and lyrical despair paving the way for countless gaggles of miserable young men in trenchcoats." Strong, M.C. (2003). The Great Indie Discography. Edinburgh: Canongate. p. 95. ISBN 1-84195-335-0.
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 153. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  11. ^ "PopMatters Music Interview | Howard Devoto: Interview with a Resurfacing Should-Have-Been Musical Legend". Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  12. ^ "Announcement of Back To Front tour". Archived from the original on 3 December 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.

External links[edit]