Sunday, 13 February 2011

T.V. Smith

With Amazon falling through on the Bill Nelson / Be Bop Deluxe biography "Music In Dreamland" I scoured the list of "music" books and plumped for T.V. Smith's "Getting There : Punk Rock Diaries:Volume One". I was never a big "fan" of The Adverts and I have little knowledge of T.V. in his solo career, but the promotional blurb on the Amazon page intrigued so I picked up a copy for a tenner.
I do remember seeing a documentary a few years back on former "punk" musicians who have gone acoustic, unplugged, and I seem to remember T.V. being in that along with Richard Strange, Jake Burns, Pauline Black, Bruce Foxton, Tom Robinson and (inexplicably) Mike Peters (he, ex of The Alarm).
Yesterday whilst washing the dishes I tuned into BBC 6 Music I heard The Alarm track "Blaze Of Glory" and what a big pile of crap that song still is. Embarrassing beyond belief. Then the host of the programme (let's face it, these chaps are not DJ's) waxed lyrical about how great The Alarm were live. I was that incensed I E Mailed the programme to relate a story of how I was drinking in Manchester Poly (1983) and a guy came along and told us to carry on drinking downstairs because The Alarm would soon be on stage. But I didn't want to see The Alarm. Trouble was that there was such a low turn out that those who wanted a quiet pint and a go on the Space Invaders had to drink downstairs because they closed the upstairs bar, therefore you had to watch The Alarm. Or go down the road to The Swinging Sporran, which if memory serves is what we all did. The Alarm made rock music for people with no taste in music. Guns & Roses, Bon Jovi, U2, Bryan Adams...they all do it. People with no taste in music have to like something otherwise they become social pariahs. The host of the BBC 6 Music show proved my point by then waxing lyrical (again) on the brilliance of Gary Moore, Phil Collins and Elton John live.
But, back to T.V. Smith.
As I mentioned I was never a great follower of The Adverts. I had a couple of singles back in the 1970's and in my collection now sits "Television's Over" and the album "A Cast Of Thousands" and the brilliant single "Tomahawk Cruise" by T.V. Smith's Explorers, but I never really "got" The Adverts. Songs were too long with no immediate hook. Complex stuff and not what I was really looking for in 1977. I did see them live once, in 1978 at Lincoln Technical College. They did play Lincoln in 1977 with The Damned but there was so much trouble at that gig that punk gigs in The Drill Hall (Council owned venue) got banned. A shame as I had a ticket for The Jam "In The City" tour a few weeks later. But there was still the Tech' Coll putting on the likes of The Stukas, The Flys, Suburban Studs and Eater and Bishop Grots Teacher Training College who put on Rikki & The Last Days Of Earth. Then The Drill Hall relaxed and we all got to see the mighty Depressions.
But back to T.V. Smith.
The Adverts at the Tech Coll, supported by Chelsea was a weird gig. It was supposed to be The Police and Wayne County + The Electric Chairs, but The Police pulled due to TV commitments so in came The Adverts + Chelsea. This is probably (one of) the most violent gigs I have ever been to. I don't remember much about the gig other than T.V. wearing an "Action Man" on his wrist and leaning forward into the crowd alot. I am certain spitting was still in full force, but I do remember a pair of scissors flying past my ear in to the front of the crowd so I went to the side of the room and sat on a ledge only to find myself sat next to my cousin, Martin. Martin was not a punk and had no interest in the music, he was there for a fight. Oh dear. At the end of the gig word had it that straights from Grimsby had turned up to do battle with the Lincoln punks and then bricks came through the window. A volley of wooden chairs came back at them and it was suddenly every man. woman and child for him(their)self. I bolted out of the venue doors and turned left and ran uphill towards the cathedral. My thought was that I would not be chased uphill, and it worked. The two folk I went with both got kicked about a bit. That was the last punk gig at the Tech Coll. (I did see Dave Coverdale's Whitesnake play their first ever live gig at Lincoln Tech College, supported by Firefly...but I don't like to talk about it).

So, the book. The book is brilliant. Unputdownable. Written like a diary it tells of the exploits of T.V. organising and playing DIY tours across Northern Europe. (1998-2002). He obviously is a very likeable chap. He comes across as a man totally dedicated to his art and his passion for the live arena. I like that. Everything is done as cheaply as possible - unless some larger label is footing the bill (this happens a couple of times when he is supporting Die Toten Hosen). Stories of small venues with no P.A., pulled gigs and playing to 6 people and a tin of beans on a freezing night in North Yorkshire after spending the day travelling are all familiar. Treks across Finland and Germany on a shoestring and trying to stay vegetarian. Avoiding the UMM as T.V. calls them. (Unexpected Meat Moment). Written with pace and humour, it is a must read for anyone who has played live at a "grass roots" level. There's a beautiful entry when T.V. is invited to play a couple of songs at a primary school in Preston because the teacher has been using one of his lyrics as study in his English class. T.V. then gets to judge a poetry competition and gets paid. A packet of Ginger Nut Biscuits. It made me smile with tears.
There is a volume two called "How To Feel Human". That is my next read.

1: The book.
2: T.V. Smith live.

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