Wednesday, 14 August 2019



 TV SMITH – frontman of legendary New Wave 
 “One Chord Wonders” THE ADVERTS, plays 
 a solo gig in Leeds, throwing his past and 
 present incarnations into detailed perspective… 


Is this the end of Punk as we know it? Or just new shapes for the nineties?

Tonight at the Leeds ‘Duchess Of York’ TV Smith wreaks angst with ‘what if my teenage clothes, will never again fit?’ thrashed out to stark ‘three-chord-wonder’ acoustics. He’s a hunched-up figure on a nervous twitch of spindle-legs that operate as if independent from his body. But nothing about tonight would fool you into thinking this voice of righteous vengeance once spread chaos and mayhem from ‘Top Of The Pops’ to the ‘Live At The Roxy’ album and beyond. That this TV was once Advert-ised, frontman on the cutting edge of the New Wave. Tonight he’s solo, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Billy Bragg comparisons come easy, but aren’t too helpful.

Ignoring yells from unreformed Punks for his Adverts hit “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” he opens with one-time ‘New Musical Express’ Single Of The Week “Third Term”. Ignoring shouts for Ads-hit “No Time To Be Twenty-One” he sings “Luxury In Exile”. But no, this New Age TV is just the New Age stuck in a microwave oven for fifteen seconds, and though his teenage Adverts leathers no longer fit quite so stylishly, TV Smith is still not about to grow up gracefully.

Not tonight, not yet awhile.

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‘It’s the latest thing to be nowhere, 
you can blend into the wallpaper, 
but you know we’re always there anyway, 
without the New Wave, 
what about the New Wave? 
did you think it would change things?’ 
(“Safety In Numbers” by TV Smith) 

TV (Tim) and girlfriend Gaye form the ramshackle Adverts in early 1977. And it’s everything a garage-band is supposed to be. The Punk counter-culture is individualistic, aggressively self-centred, and it had odious table manners. Its soundtrack is no hardcore dancefloor, nor interminably improvised guitar solos that extend like knicker elastic. Punk is based on a style Big-Bang – a Bhopal, a Chernobyl, a Challenger Shuttle, with a cult fall-out that soon becomes a global menagerie. It was ‘just a chance to break out of the terrible rut music was in’ says TV (to ‘Vox’, November 1991), ‘an opportunity for youth to get out and DO something.’

He’d been drawn to London from his native Okehampton by the lure of the Punk detonation. And early Adverts are four strutters from the gutter led by an insectoid with a death-throes twitch. Gaye is their visual focal point – but if she’s not a Siouxsie or a Polly Styrene she’s certainly a Honey Lantree (Honeycombs) or a Megan Davies (Applejacks) for the New Wave. Hers is a withdrawn vamp-sexual quality quintessentially captured by her close-up mug-shot on the sleeve of their debut single. ‘The first female Punk star’, while on stage she chews gum with sullen bored charisma, her eyes dark – but luminous.

‘NME’ journalist Chris Salewicz writes up an early ‘Vortex’ gig – an ‘unpleasant amphetamine aggression in the air’ with the band flaunting a ‘fine sense of unhealthy neurosis’ and TV himself ‘so frail, so fragile and vulnerable that you sometimes wonder if he’ll make it through the set’ (13 August 1977). In the sweat, vomit and gob of early ‘Roxy’ dates the Adverts totally epitomise the cult of “One Chord Wonders”, with Howard ‘Pickup’ Boak (guitar) and Laurie ‘Driver’ Muscat (drums) as foil to Gaye Black’s bass and Tim ‘TV’ Smith’s guitar/vocals. London is a city in a state of youth revolt. A city that stinks and shines at one and the same time. But there’s no pain without gain, no action without reaction, no revolution without counter-revolution. On 21 June TV and Gaye are physically attacked by rampaging Punk-baiting Teds in Hammersmith, while a month later (22 July) they sign to Anchor Records.

From its drum-thump intro, “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”, their second 45rpm vinyl, is – to ‘NME’ ‘easily the most macabre hit single of ‘77’ – ‘Gary didn’t need his eyes to see, Gary and his eyes have parted company.’ It’s a Horror Movie. A true-life drama ripped from the tabloids based around the American mass-killer who demands his right to be executed by firing squad, yelling ‘LET’S DO IT!’ at the levelled guns. The single reaches no.18, and TV is on TV – the distance between playing live at the ‘Roxy’ to miming a chart hit on ‘Top Of The Pops’ measured in weeks. But – according to ‘NME’s ‘Book Of Modern Music’ ‘they fail to capitalise on the hit, due largely to their own technical inadequacy.’ At the time, Tim seems to agree, ‘the Adverts were formed by accident. Everything that happens to us is an accident. The Adverts work as a flawed community.’ And Pickup’s creativity is equally ragged, ‘…you can’t write guitar solos, they have to be stumbled over.’

Yet more fine singles follow, both “Safety In Numbers” and “No Time To Be Twenty-One” (‘life’s short, don’t make a mess of it’) snare and perfectly encapsulate the explosively abrasive roar of the time, ‘we’ll be your untouchables, we’ll be your outcasts’. They tour with the Damned, the posters say ‘THE ADVERTS CAN PLAY ONE CHORD. THE DAMNED CAN PLAY THREE. COME AND SEE ALL FOUR’. The Ads become the first Punks to play Hippie Graveyard ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ on BBC2-TV, with “Bored Teenagers”. They tour Europe and appear in German television documentary ‘Punk In London’, and TV-movie ‘Brennede Langweile’, both produced by Wolfgang Buld. They play north, and beyond – including Wakefield’s ‘Unity Hall’ where I see them for the first time. Visually, in and out of the flesh, they are shattering. The screeching play-in and heavy riffing, the skronking guitar betrayed by the defensive self-deprecating lyrics of “One Chord Wonders” suddenly more naked than you’d expected, ‘I wonder what we’ll play for you tonight? Something heavy or something light, something to set your soul alight, I wonder how we’ll answer when you say ‘We don’t like you – go away, come back when you’ve learned to play…’.’

But, swept up on the New Wave, ‘hope it’s not a passing phase’ – they’re soon stranded by it.

Subsequent vinyl shows TV Smith’s development as a writer outpacing the band’s capacity to keep up. Beyond the regulation Punk minimalism of ‘I don’t care, I don’t care’ TV’s lyrics always hang together as a narrative of wordplay and longform character study, and with the Adverts, the words begin to speak louder than the action. An album for the specially formed Bright label showcases his ‘witty, engaging songs, but again suffers from those inbred musical shortcomings.’ Even so – ‘Summer Salt’ fanzine no.3 deems ‘Crossing The Red Sea’ ‘the best New Wave LP so far, very much superior to ‘Bollox’, ‘The Clash’ et al.’ Perhaps that’s estimating too high, but it IS a chain reaction of everyday stories of politics, power, pain and perversity on a fuel of anger and a barrage of broken riffs. Then original member Laurie Driver is replaced by ex-Generation X drummer John Towe – and then by Rod Latter. The band’s momentum slows. And TV is already thinking beyond the collective restrictions. He’s writing with Kid Strange of Doctors Of Madness, collaborating on the B-side “Back From The Dead”. The respect is mutual. Strange says that ‘TV is the only New Wave songwriter who can string two sentences together and still remember what the first one was’ (‘NME’, 12 November 1977).

Keyboardist Tim Cross joins for the 1979 album ‘Cast Of Thousands’, with its scope broadening into a more experimental direction, but by now it’s too late. Latter and Howard Pickup quit, replaced by Paul and Rick Martinez (guitar and drums) – TV’s lyric ‘birds of a feather, drop dead together’ (“I Surrender”) sounds almost like an Adverts epitaph. The last gig the group play together is at Slough College 27 October 1979. Then Mike Dempsey – book publisher and Adverts manager, dies in what is described as a ‘home accident’ 6 December 1981. From a detached nineties perspective – to ‘Vox’, the Adverts were ‘interesting, but ultimately less than influential.’ While more personally, Steve Lamacq remembers buying ‘Crossing The Red Sea’ ‘as a wide-eyed thirteen-year-old’ and finds it ‘still an absorbing, agitated, but sussed album’ (‘NME’, 31 March 1990).

TV goes on to record with Nick Griffiths, producer of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, for sessions that would become his ‘Last Words Of The Great Explorer’. His lyrics emphasise ‘you can’t please everyone, you have to have fun’ (“Have Fun”) in a way that reads like a personal manifesto. The reaction is, initially, far from sympathetic. The album is dismissed as ‘determinedly dull and criminally uninteresting’ (‘Melody Maker’, 13 June 1981). Equally, the single “Tomahawk Cruise” is ‘widescreen production, weeping synthesisers’ while ‘thundering drums prop up TV’s multi-tracked vocals.’ The Adverts are dead. But Tim Smith is a going concern. He’s exploring the art of splendid solitude. Brought up on the nihilist epiphany of Punk, some music journalists refuse to accept that their heroes are capable of evolution. It will take time and perseverance for TV Smith to return to critical favour.

More perceptively, Waterboy Mike Scott writes in his ‘Jungleland’ fanzine ‘TV Smith knows about disappointment and degradation, about hope and effort, about pain and passion. He knows his faults and his limitations and his successes and ambitions. Enigmatic in black… he walks straight, searching out honesty and justice with an acoustic guitar and a band called the great explorers.’

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Tonight at the ‘Duchess Of York’ MC Richard Mason calls TV Smith ‘the finest lyricist in England’. Perhaps he’s not too wrong. Tim retunes into a song called “Atlantic Tunnel”. Harry Harrison once wrote a Science Fiction novel about that, but then again – Gary Gilmore’s cornea eye-transplant horror-show was Cyberpunk before its time. And TV’s “Atlantic Tunnel” is a huge churning spitting ‘Desolation Row’ of sinister simile and grievous metaphorical harm with lines about ‘smashing through the bedrock and culture shock’ in a high full-frontal whine, then rhyming ‘dinosaurs’ with ‘ocean floors’ in a moment of manic inspiration…

The end of Punk as we know it? Hardly, but instead there’s continuity. Conceding that ‘one way or another, you’re defeating your ideals’, he yet emerges with his political integrity intact. “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” from his 1992 solo album, leads into an over-prescription of Legal Drugs – in “Ship In A Bottle”, and an exploding smash-and-grab essay on teenage homelessness (“Gather Your Things And Go”), while – if the excellent “Tomahawk Cruise” he wades into the Belgrano-Falklands mess, his “News Hounds” does the same for the Gulf War. Old Waves and New Age merge and microwave into each other. Who needs teenage clothes with a set as confrontational as this?

Perhaps these ARE new shapes for the nineties?


29 April 1977 – ‘One Chord Wonders’ c/w ‘Quickstep’ (Stiff BUY 17) produced by Larry Wallis of the Pink Fairies

June 1977 – ‘THE ROXY: LONDON WC2 (JANUARY-APRIL 1977)’ (EMI/Harvest SHSP 4069, reissued on Harvest January 1987) features Adverts ‘Bored Teenagers’ alongside live material by Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, Eater, Johnny Moped, Slaughter And The Dogs

19 August 1977 – ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ c/w ‘Bored Teenagers’ (Anchor ANC 1043) produced by Larry Wallis. ‘It’s the sickest and cleverest record to come out of the New Wave’ (says ‘Sounds). Enters ‘NME’ chart at no.18, 3 September 1977 and rises to no.16, 17 September. Reissued July 1983 (on Bright Records Bulb 1) it enters ‘NME’ Indie chart 16 July 1983 for eight weeks peaking at no.9. Reissued again March 1990 to coincide with ‘Gary Gilmore’ HBO TV bio-pic ‘Shot In The Heart’

28 October 1977 – ‘Safety In Numbers’ c/w ‘We Who Wait’ (Anchor ANC 1047) produced by Miles of ‘NME’

17 February 1978 – ‘CROSSING THE RED SEA WITH THE ADVERTS’ (Bright BRL 2001, reissued in August 1981 with bonus track ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ as Butt ALSO 002, then reissued in December 1988 as Bright BUL2 and CD CDBUL2, and in March 1990 on Link Records). Produced by John Leckie. ‘A hasty statement that captures an exciting time’ (‘Trouser Press’). Reaches no.38 in 1978. Features TV Smith (guitar/ vocals and all songs), Gaye Advert (bass), Laurie Driver (drums), Howard Pickup (guitar). Includes side one: ‘One Chord Wonders’, ‘Bored Teenagers’, ‘New Church’, ‘On The Roof’ (‘blank-faced, was this what our elders taught? Dim the lights and live like story-book’), ‘Newboys’ ‘Bombsite Boy’. Side two: ‘No Time To Be Twenty-One’, ‘Safety In Numbers’, ‘Drowning Men’, ‘On Wheels’, ‘The Great British Mistake’

20 January 1978 – ‘No Time To Be Twenty-One’ c/w ‘New Day Dawning’ (Bright BR1) On BBC chart from 25 February, up from 43 to 42, peaks at 38. ‘…the Adverts definitely come of age, settling down and hinting at future consistency’ (‘NME’ review). Tony Blackburn introduces them for their ‘Top Of The Pops’ slot

November 1978 – ‘HEROES AND COWARDS’ (Stiff Seez 0) compilation includes ‘One Chord Wonders’ and ‘Quickstep’, plus ‘IT’S WHERE YOUR WORLD BEGINS’ (RCA UK1) with ‘Television’s Over’

10 November 1978 – ‘Television’s Over’ c/w ‘Back From The Dead’ (RCA PB 5128) produced by Tom Newman

February 1979 – ‘TWENTY OF ANOTHER KIND’ (Polydor POLS 1006) with ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ plus previous singles by Jam, 999, Skids, Generation X and others, plus ‘GEEF VOOR: NEW WAVE’ (Ariola) Dutch hits compilation which includes ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’

1 June 1979 – ‘My Place’ c/w ‘New Church (Live)’ (RCA PB 5160) ‘…as simple and as effective a song as ever. Their sound has a lonely desperation now – no more communal stomping, but TV Smith is still master of the minimal chorus chant’ (review in ‘Melody Maker’ 23 June)

September 1979 – ‘Cut-Ups’ anti-vivisection solo GAYE ADVERT single written by TV Smith

12 October 1979 – ‘CAST OF THOUSANDS’ (RCA PL 25246) musicians are Gaye Advert (bass), TV Smith (guitar/vocals), Tim Cross (piano, synthesiser), Rod Latter (drums), Howard Pickup (guitar). Produced by Tom Newman. With ‘Cast Of Thousands’ (featured Richard Strange on synthesiser), ‘The Adverts’, ‘My Place’, ‘Male Assault’, ‘Television’s Over (New Version)’, ‘Fate Of Criminals’, ‘Love Song’, ‘I Surrender’, ‘I Looked At The Sun’, ‘I Will Walk You Home’ (with Tom Newman on synthesiser)

19 October 1979 – ‘Cast Of Thousands’ c/w ‘I Will Walk You Home’ (RCA PB 5191) ‘rape, runaway wives, other people’s lives, births deaths loonie left, murder, divorce, suicide political intrigues, hospital cases, British weapons to foreign places, earthquake, flood, bodies in the mud, poison, crowds, a cast of thousands…’

November 1980 – ‘Tomahawk Cruise’ c/w ‘See Europe’ (Big Beat Records NS 64, reissued February 1981 on Chiswick CHIS 140) as by TV SMITH AND THE EXPLORERS, issued in a Ralph Steadman sleeve. ‘…a slightly hysterical, clean-cut and well-received flop’ (‘NME’, 9 May 1981)

April 1981 – ‘The Servant’ c/w ‘Looking Down On London’ (CBS Kaleidoscope KRLA 1162) by TV SMITH AND THE EXPLORERS

June 1981 – ‘THE LAST WORDS OF THE GREAT EXPLORERS’ (Kaleidoscope KRL 85087) by TV SMITH AND THE EXPLORERS. Musicians are Dave Sinclair (drums), Erik Russell (guitar), Mel Wesson (keyboards), Colin Stoner (bass). Produced by Nick Griffiths. Sleeve by Edward Bell. With ‘The Easy Way’, ‘Have Fun’, ‘The Servant’, ‘Perfect Life’ with free single ‘Walk In A Straight Line’ c/w ‘World Of My Own’

June 1981 – ‘Have Fun’ c/w ‘Imagination’ (Kaleidoscope KRLA 1359)

October 1981 – ‘The Perfect Life’ c/w ‘Imagination (New Edit)’ (Kaleidoscope KRLA 1590) by TV SMITH AND THE EXPLORERS

March 1983 – ‘War Fever’ c/w ‘Lies’ (Expulsion OUT2) TV SMITH solo

May 1983 – ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes (US mix)’ c/w ‘We Who Wait’ + ‘New Day Dawning’ (Bright Bulb 1) by THE ADVERTS

June 1983 – ‘CHANNEL FIVE’ (Expulsion EXIT 4) as by TV SMITH – originally titled ‘Surprise Surprise’. Musicians include Tim Cross (keyboards), Tim Renwick (guitar). With ‘War Fever’, ‘On Your Video’, ‘Burning Rain’, ‘Dominator’, ‘The Suit’, ‘Cracking Up’

December 1983 – ‘GRIME OF THE CENTURY’ (Anagram KILO 1) six-LP set of compilations includes ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’

May 1985 – ‘Coming Round’ c/w ‘Woodpecker’ (Production House PH1) by TV SMITH AND TIM CROSS

September 1987 – ‘MINDLESS SLAUGHTER’ (Anhrefn 010) Animal Rights compilation features ‘Lies’ (re-recorded) and ‘New Ways Are Best’ by CHEAP (featuring TV SMITH) with other tracks by The Three Johns, Membranes, Conflict etc

October 1987 – ‘THE ADVERTS: THE PEEL SESSIONS’ (Strange Fruit SFPS 34) Twelve-inch EP recorded 25 April 1977, makes ‘NME’ Indie Chart for one week at no.23 on 7 November 1987. Tracks are ‘Quickstep’, ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’, ‘One Chord Wonders’, ‘New Boys’, Bored Teenagers’

November 1988 – ‘TAKING THIS PLACE APART’ (LP TTPA3) includes live ‘Luxury In Exile’

March 1990 – ‘Third Term’ c/w ‘Buried By The Machine’ (Deltic) as by CHEAP ‘…spot-on in a head-shaking earth-quaking way, TV… venting his wrath on Fatch (Mrs Thatcher) with his customary lyrical guile’ (review in ‘NME’ 3 March). Cheap did a ‘John Peel Session’ for BBC, but an album – ‘RIP… EVERYTHING MUST GO’ was shelved until 1993

February 1991 – ‘LIVE AT THE ROXY’ (Receiver LP/CD) by THE ADVERTS, full live set includes ‘Bored Teenagers’, ‘One Chord Wonders’, ‘Safety In Numbers’, ‘Great British Mistake’, ‘On Wheels’, ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’. Also Live LP ‘LIVE AND LOUD!!’ (1992, Link Records)

July 1992 – ‘MARCH OF THE GIANTS’ (Cooking Vinyl LP/CD) with ‘Freeworld’, ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’ etc. Further solo albums followed, including ‘IMMORTAL RICH’ (1995, Humbug Records), ‘GENERATION Y’ (1999, Cherry Red), ‘NOT A BAD DAY’ (2003, TVS), ‘MISINFORMATION OVERLOAD’ (2006, Boss Tuneage), ‘IN THE ARMS OF MY ENEMY’ (2008, Boss Tuneage), ‘COMING IN TO LAND’ (2011, Boss Tuneage), ‘I DELETE’ (2011, TVS) and ‘LAND OF THE OVERDOSE’ (2018)

1997 – ‘THE WONDERS DON’T CARE: THE COMPLETE RADIO RECORDINGS’ (Burning Airlines LP) – title lifted from the ‘One Chord Wonders’ lyric, and ‘THE PUNK SINGLES COLLECTION’ (Anagram Records) followed by ‘THE BEST OF THE ADVERTS’ (1998, Anagram Records)

2003 – ‘THE ADVERTS: ANTHOLOGY’ (The Devil’s Own Jukebox CD)

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