Running for nearly two decades on the BBC, the anarchic music panel show Never Mind The Buzzcocks provided plenty of watercooler moments. As it’s set to return to screens on Sky next week, what better time to count down the show’s 50 greatest moments from over its 28 (!) series.
Words by Gary Ryan
Lemmy walks off the set
The Ordinary Boys‘ Preston wasn’t the first Buzzcocks guest to storm off the show (more on that later). The Motörhead titan walked off in 1998 after taking umbrage at original host Mark Lamarr’s attitude towards Bucks Fizz (a band he deemed “very like Oasis”) member Jay Aston in the Identity Parade round. The moment was never broadcast, however, as it happened during retakes.
Lorraine Kelly spanks Noel Fielding
When the daytime doyenne guest-hosted in 2011 she spanked “naughty” team captain Noel Fielding (with a force that suggested somebody had mentioned Esther McVey to her), waxed Phill Jupitus’ legs and suffered a bra-related wardrobe malfunction.
Davina McCall embarrasses Simon Amstell
Guest team captain Davina McCall turned the tables on host Simon by unearthing archive footage of him as a gawky 12-year old appearing on daytime TV in a bow-tie impersonating Dame Edna Everage. Amstell squirmed like he was discovering new places to cringe in.
Simon Amstell, dressed as a rabbit
Simon developed a reputation for having a machete-mouth, so the conceit of this 2008 episode was that it was repackaged as a family-friendly program with him dressed as a fwuffy bunny. That still didn’t stop him from rinsing Lisa Maffia, who looked like she wished myxomatosis on him.
Simon’s gasp-inducing Courtney Love gag
One of the more famous yet unedifying Buzzcocks moments. Talking about his friendship with Courtney Love, Noel Fielding said she’d crush Simon “like a Twiglet”. The host responded, “or kill me and make it look like suicide,” as an on-screen disclaimer noted: “Simon Amstell is definitely wrong.”
Frosty Alison Goldfrapp tries to guess songs from dancing
During the 2003 Christmas special, Alison tried to guess her way through the intros round by watching Phil and DJ Sammy humming and throwing shapes on a Dance Dance Revolution mat. She looked like she was getting through it by imagining new and inventive ways to torture her agent.
Charli XCX brings her dad
The pop colossus appeared on a 2014 episode and pointed out her dad in the audience, as the cameras zoomed in on Mr XCX. “Is this the first time we’ve got the parents in? Because it’s giving the whole thing a bit of a nativity edge,” commented Phil.
Mark’s never-ending list of Morrissey’s hates
Mark reads out an increasingly bizarre list of arch-chucklepuss Moz’s supposed hates throughout the show, starting with Elton John and taking in “jokes about Wagon Wheels”, Blu Tack, loft lagging, Glade PlugIns, the Honey Monster and the Beaulieu Motor Museum.
Matty Healy’s potato waffle game
Buzzcocks was running on fumes during its final Rhod Gilbert-helmed season, but it could still attract decent guests like The 1975’s charisma-geyser Healy, who took over with his tour bus game that involved listing random foodstuffs. Wholesome fun, although it could’ve done with a better pay-off.
Johnny Borrell forgetting he dated Jack Whitehall’s sister
Jack Whitehall wasn’t the greatest guest host to be flown up the Buzzcocks flagpole in 2013, but the moment when Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell forgot he’d dated his sister for three months (during which time he told her he’d written a song about her) was pleasingly awkward.
Amelia Lily and John Cooper Clarke
Truly a surreal moment as The Bard of Salford bonded with the X-Factor alumnus over a shared penchant for guinea pigs. Amelia revealed she once had 28 of the critters, while JCC told her of his love of a miniature guinea pig city. “The town hall caught fire once. You could see the flames from 4ft away,” he deadpans.
Martha Reeves tries to get thru it
Part of the joy of the Intros Round was seeing big stars mimic songs they’d never usually touch. Combinations don’t get odder than a brilliantly game Motown legend Martha Reeves performing Daniel Bedingfield’s ‘Gotta Get Thru This’, which is like watching Leonardo da Vinci use an Etch-a-Sketch.
Sir Terry Wogan guest hosts
When the late Sir Terry took the reins in 2010, it was reportedly the only time there was a standing ovation in the studio. Take that, James Corden and Jeremy Clarkson.
“Give Us A Intro”
In tribute to Lionel Blair’s ancient charades-based TV show Give Us a Clue, the Intros Round was changed to have Lionel and Bill Bailey mime song titles like Depeche Mode’s ‘A Question of Lust’ to an increasingly-frustrated Tommy Scott from Britpoppers Space.
Jedward: “Shut up”
When the “simpleton Bros”, as Noel dubbed them (before swapping places with Phill as he couldn’t cope), both appeared on the same team, they were so hilariously hyperactive that the Next Lines Round was altered to include songs with the message “shut up”.
Whenever Boy George was booked
Whenever Boy George turned up in an outlandish hat and face-full of make-up like a fashion-forward Babadook, you knew it would be a good episode. He always provided Mark with a witty sparring partner and carpet-bombed quips.
The extra who had a recurring role on the Buzzcocks Identity Parade, where guests would have to identify pop stars from yesteryear.
Slash getting Guns N’ Roses’ lyrics wrong
One of the pleasures of Buzzcocks was watching artists get their own lyrics wrong in the Next Lines Round, and Slash arguing about the correct words to ‘Paradise City’ was one of the most memorable. Earlier, watching him air-guitar intros (“We were in key”, he protests) to veteran DJ Tony Blackburn proved genius.
Stephen Fry and a spaced-out Matt Shultz
Bromances didn’t come any more unlikely than Stephen Fry and Cage The Elephant’s Matt Shultz, on the same team in 2008, especially when Matt looked higher than Stephen’s IQ.
The 100th show
Pub quiz trivia time: in this landmark episode, singer-songwriter John Otway became the first person to graduate from the Identity Parade to panellist while a former panellist, 911 singer Jimmy Constable, was relegated to the Identity Parade. Such is the brutal world of pop.
Mark attacked Bill Bailey with his answer card after he responded to the Next Lines Round with only “badger”, “burrow” or “weasel”.
Lee Ryan doesn’t turn up
When Lee Ryan from Blue (who had previously acted as Simon’s spittoon) pulled out at the last minute, Simon hinted that dependable Dappy would be his 11th-hour replacement. “The reason why Lee Ryan’s not here… is because he’s an awful bastard,” he adds, never one to have a fence-mark etched on his arse.
Richard Fleeshman owns Simon
Few guests ever toppled Simon from his Iron Throne, but when he got a fact wrong about Richard Fleeshman, the ex-Coronation Street actor/pop star shot back: “Do your research. Lamarr would have done it.” Amstell was left uncharacteristically speechless.
John Barrowman and Simon’s “gay-off”
After Barrowman snapped his arm at Simon (“Talk to the hand ‘cause the wrist is pissed!’), the host joked that the actor had “out-gayed him”. Barrowman then challenged him to a “gay-off”, prompting Simon’s brilliant comeback. “I haven’t even told my mum yet!” he joked, hiding his face in mock-shame.
Brian McFadden thinking Mark Lamarr resembles a duck
In 1999, Westlife’s Brian McFadden got up off his seat (and there wasn’t even a key-change!) for the Intros Round and, bafflingly, decided that Mark Lamarr resembled a “greasy duck”. Mocking for the remainder of the show ensues, with Phill noting: “I don’t recall saying to you before the show, ‘Watch out for Lamarr, he can be a bit of a duck’.”
Mark Hoppus slays
Some Buzzcocks guests would have to scrape the frost off their personality, but the Blink-182 man dominated the show when he appeared in 2012, playing off comedian Sarah Millican and charming guest host Kathy Burke.
Ed Sheeran revealing he passes out during sex
After guest host Richard Ayoade made a sexual innuendo joke about going at it all night, Ed Sheeran said: “I usually pass out about the second time.” The TMI-dump continued as Richard advised him to “just have a coffee.” “But then I’d need a wee half-way through,” Ed replied. Your retinas may never fully recover.
The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman: “I invented Live 8”
The Cribs hero launched into a baffling anecdote about finding Bob Geldof’s number in a recording studio and texting him: “Three words mate: Live Aid 2.” Lo and behold, six months later, Live 8 happened, Jarman says. “It’s nice to know you made a bit of a difference, that’s all,” he noted. After guest host Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs started the joke: ‘Bob Geldof organised Live 8 last year….’, Ryan heckled: ‘Bollocks!’”
“They ply you with drink in a mug, which is why I ended up calling Dido a ‘cunt'”
So H from Steps revealed to NME the secret of his Dido-dissing Buzzcocks appearance in 2011. He fared better than bandmate Lisa Scott-Lee, who admitted to being so pissed she’d forgotten she’d appeared in 1999.
Tipsy Bonnie Tyler
Cue the (three-sheets-to-the) wind machines! Less a ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and more a Blackout Affecting Her Liver, the red wine-fortified Welsh growler enlivened proceedings with her eccentric personality. After she botched a terrible joke, Simon quipped: “Should we pump your stomach?”
Mark Lamarr vs Chris Moyles
After Chris Moyles appeared on an episode (and was as funny as watching the post-mortem of a loved one) he was involved in a public feud with Mark, who opened the next episode with an “apology” to the DJ that culminated in: “Never Mind The Buzzcocks, the show that says ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’, whereas ‘DIE YOU OILY PIG IN A DUNCE HAT!’ rolls off the tongue quite nicely.”
Simon obliterates Does It Offend You Yeah?’s James Rushent
When Rushent of 00s dance-punkers Does It Offend You yeah? poked the bear by complaining “can we answer straight away and get done with the jokes?”, Simon probably heard Mortal Kombat’s “finish him!” in his head. Asked if he didn’t like jokes, James snarked: “I like funny jokes.” “I like famous bands,” replied Amstell. “Funny enough for ya?”
Josh Groban: “Don’t buy my music”
Looking directly into the camera, the pop-opera star made a spoof appeal not to buy his music for mother’s day. “Sons and daughters of England, I urge you not to purchase my record,” he pleaded. “Do something nice. Make a card, buy a puppy for her, chocolates. There are really so many things that you can do to make your mother happy than [buy] a Josh Groban CD. So please, from Josh Groban, stay away.”
Frankie Boyle’s evisceration of everybody as guest host
From the moment comedian Frankie Boyle introduced Michelle Williams (“as a member of Destiny’s Child, she’s one of the most famous and beautiful women’s in the world… friend”) and she reacted in shock (“What did I sign up for?!!”), it set the lowered tone for his two guest-host spots as everybody was verbally hazed.
Lily Allen’s points meltdown
An endearingly competitive Lily had a meltdown when Simon frittered points-gaining time away by hugging her. “You have 100,000 friends on Myspace, but are they real friends you can touch? Everyone loves you here – you don’t need points, you can just be you.”
Amy Winehouse: “I’d rather have cat AIDS”
This wasn’t Amy’s first appearance on Buzzcocks, but it’s the one that caught the public’s imagination. At parts it’s a difficult re-watch because of Simon’s references to her addictions (“this isn’t a pop quiz anymore, it’s an intervention”), but one highlight was when Winehouse revealed that she was off to collaborate with Pete Doherty. Simon suggested she should team-up with Katie Melua instead, to which she scoffed: “I’d rather have cat AIDS, thank you.”
“My name is, Uh, my name is – Wikka-Wikka – Ron”
Both Russell and Ron Mael from pop geniuses Sparks appeared on Phill’s team in 2003, with pencil-moustached Ron – staying in defiantly expressionless character throughout – proving a particular delight as he held his hand up to answer questions and flaunted precise comic timing. “Is there somewhere I could go to learn to be more outgoing and bubbly?” he asked, stone-faced. “I think, for you, a library,” responded Mark.
Adele and Mark Ronson’s banter
When Adele joined guest team captain Mark Ronson (dressed entirely in tweed like he’s escaped from one of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s haunted paintings), she was predictably riotous. Following Simon’s jokes about Mark’s sister Sam’s relationship with Lindsay Lohan, he diplomatically said: “I think Lindsay Lohan is a really talented actress,” to which Adele expostulated “What?!” like someone had suggested the moon is made out of Play-Doh. “I like her, but she’s not an actress,” she added, torching Lohan’s IMDB page.
Kelly Rowland gets biblical
After Simon shaded Kelly Osbourne in a joke, the former Destiny’s Child member, thinking the jib was aimed at her, hurled her glass of water over the host, adding: “The power of Christ compels you!” Simon, quick-witted as ever, retorted in mock-outrage: “But I’m a Jew!” Biblically funny.
Simon ripping Noel Fielding’s whimsical comedy
Simon went for the jugular about Noel’s surrealist humour. “You just say funny words and it works, does it? You just throw out weird words? Hippopotamus and juggling? Is that whappens? Anyone can do that – I’ve got fact-based jokes!”. When Noel countered with, “Don’t make me… cut the stuffing out of your pillow”, he retorted with: “With a pair of scissors made of glitter?” (Noel’s flustered reply: “No. With a motorbike made out of jealousy.”)
“JAVINE THE SLAAAAAAG”
Jamelia’s appearances were all TV gold, but her read of ‘Real Things’ pop star Javine Hylton (who had an affair with Alesha Dixon’s ex-husband Harvey) may be her best-remembered. When Simon quoted her remarks at her (“she’s a relationship-ruiner. Javine is a slag”), a cackling Jamelia doubled-down: “No, she really is a slag though.” It became a running joke, with her answering a Next Lines question with: “JAVINE THE SLAAAAAAG”. An unfiltered moment that would mean she’d have to handle her social media accounts with oven gloves were it to happen now.
Jamelia shames an ex in the Identity Parade
Revenge is rarely as delicious as when Jamelia recognised an ex who tried to sell a kiss-and-tell on her (Maxell D of hip-hoppers Pay As You Go Cartel) in the Identity Parade in 2009. “I find it quite funny because I’m here and he’s in the line-up,” she said.
James Blunt’s silver-spoon ragga
The ‘You’re Beautiful’ singer is so middle-class, his mother probably lactated soya milk. So when he guest-hosted, riding in on a tank, it was hilarious to see him read Sean Paul’s lyrics like “virgin dem waan gimme an mi haffi tooky tooky” in the Next Lines Round. “You make ragga sound like [Radio 4’s] The Shipping Forecast,” observed Phill, correctly.
Dappy enters in a dramatic fashion…
The N-Dubz member made numerous appearances on the show to the point where, in 2009, substitute-teacher host Martin Freeman hailed him as a “true legend” as he entered the set descending from the ceiling Mission Impossible-style subsumed in billowing smoke.
…then awkwardly confuses Martha Wainwright with Cerys Matthews
In the same episode, Dappy caused Phil Jupitus to storm off in faux-outrage when he insulted an overweight Identity Parade actor, leaving a genuinely concerned Dappy to ask: “Has he done a Preston?” But the crowing moment of awkwardness was when he praised his “inspiration” Martha Wainwright and sung ‘Road Rage’ in a Welsh accent at her – only for it be pointed out that he’d confused her with Catatonia’s Cerys Matthews. More cringe-worthy than anything Freeman experienced in The Office.
Mug-Hating Criminal Huey Morgan
Fun Lovin’ Criminal Huey had been a Never Mind The Buzzcocks mainstay for years, but saw the red mist descend during a Rizzle Kicks guest-hosted 2011 episode as he smashed his mug during the Next Lines Round and walked off set as the credits rolled. He looked a fool and you felt sorry for the poor mug… and the shattered cup, too.
Pete Burns out-savaging Mark Lamarr
The late Dead Or Alive frontman Pete Burns took on the whole panel (“We’re hardly on here for our sparkling intellect, are we?”) and bickered with host Mark, who looked invigorated to have a foil. During one point, Sean Hughes jokingly swapped places with the cameraman rather than endure another second next to the caustic Scouse legend.
Coolio’s Xmas Crack-er
The 2002 Christmas special saw Coolio on a panel with Rainbow’s Geoffrey Hayes as he rapped a festive ditty called ‘Cracked Out Christmas’ (“Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen / They’s hittin’ the pipe, they in bad condition!”), sung with a choir, tried to light a child’s plastic toy saxophone like a crack spoon and asked the bagpipers: “Can you smoke weed outta those?”
Preston storms out and is replaced by an audience member
Arguably the show’s most memorable moment, the Ordinary Boy flounced off after Simon – somewhat cruelly – regaled him with passages from his then-spouse Chantelle Houghton’s autobiography. The singer was ably replaced by audience member – and part-doppelgänger – Ed Seymour.
Donny Tourette smokes a cigarette
Stop! He’s already dead! Towers Of London frontman Donny Tourette became one of Simon’s easiest targets when he donned sunglasses (“That’ll tell Thatcher!), caressed the host’s nipples and lit up a fag: “Donny is smoking now! What is he going to do next? A cigarette! That you can legally buy in shops!”
‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ will return this month on Sky Max and streaming service NOW