Television Personalities, Psychedelia, Mods, and the Creation connection.
I first met Daniel Treacy in 1978, when I went to meet him at his mother’s flat on the King’s Road in Chelsea with Nikki Sudden. He had corresponded with my band Swell Maps when he had released his first single “14th Floor” roughly at the same time as we had with “Read About Seymour”. We were exact contemporaries, and we had much in common in terms of our experience with trying to make our way in the wonderful world of music. We loved his songs on the follow-up release, the “Part Time Punks” EP – very witty and satirical.
Daniel seemed very shy, modest and reserved, and I could not quite reconcile this with his admission that he had worked in Led Zeppelin’s office for a while, given their wild reputation. I later discovered other facets to his character: his charm, his angst, his amusing impressions, his hedonism, his witty satirical aspect and his melancholia.
In 1980, the TVP’s made an ill-fated live appearance at Jeanette Cochran Theatre. As I remember it, I arrived while Joe Foster and Mark Sheppard were already on stage jamming, and the atmosphere was tense. I asked Nikki and Epic what was happening and they said that Dan had disappeared. He later claimed that his drink had been spiked with some acid by a foolish well-wisher. I was summoned to the stage to play and to sing, and Nikki also joined in, I recall.
Later, the Maps ended up as label-mates with the Television Personalities on Rough Trade, when RT released the TVP’s “Sense of Belonging” single. He caused some controversy there, because the cover – featuring the bruised face of a battered child – was divisive, and some of the staff wanted to stop it’s release, so Dan left the label in disgust.
As a fan of the TVP’s myself, I would go to some of the gigs and follow their progress, and was digging the first two albums. By 1981, Edward Ball had replaced Joe on bass, and later Mark Flunder took over. Dan had recovered from his pharmaceutical mishap and was in great form. I was persuaded to add some “performance art” elements, go-go dancing, spray painting and sundry tomfoolery to performances at The Venue in Victoria and at The Living Room club that Alan McGee had opened at Manor House.
I had met Alan when he was still a humble clerk at British Rail office in Liverpool Street station. He was happily married, and living soberly and frugally in a comfortable terraced house in Tottenham. He was the only person that I knew who did not indulge in drugs or alcohol; I was impressed! He told me about his plans to start a record label, and he was picking my brains about how Swell Maps had done it; he was a real fan of Dan and the TVPs, and was very proud to have them playing at his club.
In 1982, I helped Alan to record some of his own songs onto 4-track tape on the TEAC recorder that I had installed at my tiny run-down flat at a tenement building in Stoke Newington. One or two of these tunes appeared later re-recorded by Biff Bang Pow or Revolving Paint Dream. He managed to persuade me to help him fold, assemble and sleeve his first Creation single, by The Legend, in his previously orderly front room. In return, I would take my towel with me and have a bath there, since I was living in relatively primitive conditions.
I was amazed to be asked to join the TVP’s as the bass player on the eve of a tour on the continent at the end of 1983, replacing Mark Flunder. Mark had left, exhausted, after a chaotic tour of Italy, which had apparently involved the Mafioso and an extortion racket. By that time, Joe had re-joined switching to 12-string guitar, and David Musker had joined on organ, with Jeffrey Bloom taking over on drums. Despite the TVP’s leaving Rough Trade under a cloud, the “Painted Word” album had been swiftly released on a different label, and was well reviewed; it seemed that some serious action was in prospect, so I gladly agreed. Our new line-up of the band was sounding great!
We had a great tour, despite me injuring myself accidentally on the first night and losing much blood in Biel, Switzerland. We travelled by boat and train, lugging around David’s Farfisa Organ and our guitars from station to station. It was organised by Thomas Zimmerman, who set up his Pastell agency as a college work experience exercise for his degree! We worked with Thomas for any years, bless him. It established us with an enviable cult reputation on the German scene, and we were followed around by a bunch of chic young German mods on their Vespa scooters.
We also supported Dave Gilmour of the Pink Floyd at that cathedral of rock music, the Hammersmith Odeon, promoted by that venerable entrepreneur Harvey Goldsmith. It seemed that they had discovered that Dan had written a song called ”I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives”, a homage to the former leader and visionary of the inspired early version of Pink Floyd. On that basis, we were offered the support slot on Gilmour’s tour. We viewed this as a great opportunity to make a few waves in front of an audience of complacent hippies, who we expected to be ignorant of Syd’s genius. We viewed Gilmour as the stooge who was moved in when while other three treacherously kicked Barrett out of the band, “progressing” to become cynical stadium-rock pseudo-psychedelic charlatans . We played a raucous set, featuring a wild medley of early Floyd numbers, and Dan reciting Syd’s address during a moving rendition of “I know Where Syd Barrett Lives”. We were thrown off the tour for our efforts, and we were told to get lost by a suited thug, one of Goldsmith’s heavies, who tersely handed over our fee.
We featured, among other bands, on Creation’s first ever album, called “Alive in the Living Room”. This was recorded on a cassette machine at various shows at Alan’s club, which switched venues from time to time. The reasons for the move are evident on the recording: Our version of “Three Wishes” was rudely interrupted by a police raid! Soon after, there was a serious row in 1984, and Joe left, taking David with him to start a new band. At first, Joe claimed the name Television Personalities, and there was bizarre stand-off at a London venue, with two versions of the TVP’s glaring at each other from opposite walls! Eventually, he was persuaded that his cause was futile, and he retreated, joining Alan to help him to run the Living Room and Creation Records. He soon made a name for himself as the producer for Creation’s primitive, urgent early records, particularly those of The Jesus and Mary Chain. He also made a great single for Creation under the name Slaughter Joe – “I’ll Follow You Down”. We continued Television Personalities as a trio – Dan, Jeff and myself – for the next nine years.
As a trio, we developed a unique rapport, and evolved an interesting “modus operandi”. We would very rarely hold rehearsal sessions, and new songs might be worked out at sound-checks or based around improvisations. We developed a core of about fifty original songs to draw from in live performances. These would be supplemented with various cover versions – some period pieces from the 1960s, and some from the pop charts of the time, which would sometimes coalesce into a collage-type medley, again unrehearsed and spontaneous. I remember a set list being written a couple of times, but quickly abandoned when actually mounting the stage! The emphasis was on Jeffrey and myself listening carefully to Dan’s introductions on guitar, and joining in with the hope that we’d heard and understood correctly! Sometimes, if unchecked, we would play very long sets – occasionally around three hours; we would never have the problem of running out of material, that was for sure.
Dan set up Dreamworld Records as an antidote to him being messed around by his last two record companies. His first label Whaam! had been liquidated because George Michael had appeared on the pop scene, and wanted a monopoly over the use of the name Wham! Apparently, being an ignorant philistine, George had never been aware of Roy Liechtenstein’s painting “Whaam!”, which had been Daniel’s inspiration. George made a generous out-of-court settlement on the condition that Dan didn’t use the name again, so Dan chose a new one, Dreamworld, and used Mr Michael’s donation of dosh to fund the new label.
Dan released other bands on the label, too. One of them was The Looking Glass, the brainchild of Gordon Dawson and his mate Alvin, who enlisted a percussionist who declined to use a conventional drum-kit, preferring to use a shopping trolley full of toys and curious found objects; they were brilliant!
Gordon went on to play with another fine Dreamworld band: The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, which featured Lorna (aka: Emily), Dan’s partner at the time. Gordon and Alvin also occupied the old Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road in south-east London, and promoted bizarre events there, which the TVPs often played at. That was one crazy scene – it was a frenzied version of what I’d imagine the UFO club was like in 1967, only more hazardous! The people attending were invariably spaced out on speed or psychedelic pharmaceuticals, and wore weird threads; their electricity supply was particularly dodgey, but they always managed to produce marvellous environments and a spooky vibe, using action-panting, mannequins, sinister cine projections and slideshows.
The TVPs released only one single on Dreamworld: “How I Learned to Love the Bomb”, a monster of a track that showed Dan at his most outraged and topical, released as it was at the height of the cold war in 1986 during a tense nuclear face-off between USA and USSR. With typical perversity, Dan decided to release the longer version on 7 inch vinyl, the shorter edit coming out on 12 inch!
We had actually recorded an entire album, “Privilege”, soon after that, but Dreamworld ran out of money. In 1989, Daniel was persuaded by a character called Clive Solomon to release this album on his Fire Records label, on the condition that he could re-release the four previous albums. Was this wise? Was Clive to be trusted? Of this, more later!