Sometime during November 1977, the band watched the musical Guys and Dolls in the TV lounge of a guesthouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the dialogue "Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have" from the film which inspired the song. The following day Shelley wrote the lyrics of the song, in a van outside a post office, with the music following soon after. In an interview, Shelley said that the song was about a man named Francis that he lived with for about seven years.
The music and lyrics, as well as the singing, belong to Pete Shelley. The song uses the verse-chorusformal pattern and is in the key of E major. Both the verse and the chorus start with C# minor chords (sixth degree in E major), which "give [the song] a distinctly downbeat, edgy feel." The minor chords and the B-major-to-D-major move in the chorus are unusual for a 1970s punk song, yet they contribute to its ear-catching nature, along with the vocal melody. The verses feature a guitarriff and a double stroketom-tom drum pattern over the E chord. The vocal melody ranges from G#3 to baritone F#4 in the verses and chorus; in the ending, Shelley hits a tenor G4 and then a G#4.
The lyrics consist of two verses (of which one is repeated) and a chorus. According to music critic Mark Deming, "the lyrics owe less to adolescent self-pity than the more adult realization of how much being in love can hurt – and how little one can really do about it."
The song was ranked at No. 1 among "Tracks of the Year" for 1978 by NME. Critic Ned Raggett describes the song as a "deservedly well-known masterpiece." Mark Deming notes, "Pete Shelley's basic formula in the Buzzcocks was to marry the speed and emotional urgency of punk with the hooky melodies and boy/girl thematics of classic pop/rock. When he applied this thinking to that most classic of pop themes, unrequited teenage love, he crafted one of his most indelible songs, 'Ever Fallen in Love?'"
In 2011, a cover was made by the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street for their winter season, with a jazzy feel, sung by Amanda Billing, who plays Sarah Potts. It fit with the storyline of her character being pregnant with her ex-husband TK Samuels' child and him having moved on with his financee. Her version reached no. 24 in New Zealand.
^Hart, Mickey; Bresnick, Paul (2004). Da Capo Best Music Writing 2004: The Year's Finest Writing on Rock, Hip-hop, Jazz, Pop, Country, and More. Da Capo Press. p. 181. ISBN978-0-3068-1380-1. 1978: Buzzcocks: "Ever Fallen in Love."
Opting to leave the state-smashing to the Sex Pistols and the Clash, the Buzzcocks instead discovered how effective punk rock was for gnashing out your personal problems.