Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Alternative TV - 1978 - Vibing Up The Senile Man

Alternative TV
Vibing Up The Senile Man

01. Release The Natives 4:01
02. Serpentine Gallery 2:23
03. Poor Association 1:48
04. The Radio Story 7:47
05. Facing Up To The Facts 4:07
06. The Good Missionary 7:16
07. Graves Of Deluxe Green 2:57
08. Smile In The Day 8:20

09. Vibing Up The Senile Man 0:58
10. Action Time Lemon 3:24
11. Going Around In Circles 1:24
12. Fellow Sufferer 10:57
13. Splitting In Two 7:47
14. Another Coke / The Body 6:39
15. The Force Is Blind 4:25
16. Fellow Sufferer In Dub 5:19

Bass – Dennis Burns (tracks: 10 to 16)
Drums – Chris Bennett (3) (tracks: 10 to 13), Henry (tracks: 14 to 16)
Engineer, Producer [Assistant], Other [Vibing] – Wally Brill
Featuring [Twangs, Crash, Bang, Wallop!], Vocals – Here & Now (tracks: 10 to 13)
Flute – Glyn Collins (tracks: 14 to 16)
Guitar – Mick Linehan (tracks: 1, 6, 10 to 13)
Guitar, Vocals – Mark Perry (tracks: 10 to 16)
Percussion – Genesis P-Orridge (tracks: 1 to 2, 7), Mark Perry (tracks: 14 to 16)
Recorder, Vocals – Gillian Hanna (tracks: 14 to 16)

Tracks 1 to 9 Recorded at Pathway Sound Studios.
Tracks 10 to 13 recorded live at the Albany Empire and Stonehenge Festival, 1976, published before on Alternative TV / Here And Now* - What You See... Is What You Are
Tracks 14 to 16 recorded live at Manchester University, May 5th 1979

It was the old, old story. Bored bank clerk falls in love with punk rock, writes a few pages about it, Xeroxes a fanzine, sells it at gigs, creates a monster, starts a new fashion. The first issue of Sniffin' Glue featured the Ramones and Blue Öyster Cult; the Punk Reviews page hit the Flamin' Groovies and the Stranglers, and the intro hinted at treats to follow: the Nazz, Roogalator, the Raspberries, and the Count Bishops. There really wasn't much punk around in those days.

The magazine grew with the scene it championed, and for a year, it ruled the British fanzine roost. But the bank clerk, Mark Perry, was sick of writing -- he wanted to step out and be written about himself. His last band, the New Beatles, had done nothing; his next, Alternative TV, could scarcely do any worse.

Featuring Perry on vocals, ex-Generation X drummer John Towe, Mickey Smith (bass), and former Nobodies guitarist Alex Fergusson, the band formed in March 1977, rehearsing at Throbbing Gristle's studios in Hackney -- both "Love Lies Limp" and "Alternative to NATO" were written and recorded there -- and on May 6, 1977, ATV made their live debut in Nottingham.

The first lineup splintered almost immediately. Smith was replaced by New Beatle Tyrone Thomas, and on June 5 ATV opened for Wayne County's Electric Chairs in Brighton. Six gigs later, Towe quit, but not before ATV released their first single, "Love Lies Limp," as a free flexidisc with the final, August 1977 issue of Sniffin' Glue.

Towe was replaced by Chris Bennett, and in this form the band continued to gig, at the same time as preparing the ground for their debut album. They are caught rehearsing in The Punk Rock Movie, the cinéma vérité documentary of punk's first savage summer; more exposure came in December, when the "How Much Longer" single appeared on Perry's own Deptford Fun City wing of Miles Copeland's Illegal setup. The Image Has Cracked, the group's live and studio debut album, appeared the following spring.

Singles "Action Time Vision" and "Life After Life" followed, together with the archive Towe-era "Life," but ATV were changing first, as Perry rocketed on toward the Throbbing Gristle sound which by now captivated him (the official bootleg Live at the Rat '77, incidentally, was recorded by Genesis P-Orridge).

By the time of Vibing Up the Senile Man (Part One), the second ATV album, and its accompanying single, "The Force Is Blind," only Perry remained from the original band; only bassist Dennis Burns remained from any of those who had followed. And, of ATV's original, punk-era press disciples, even Sounds found the album unlistenable.
Unperturbed, Perry took the new album out on the road, but an end of sorts was in sight. In March 1979, on-stage at Chelmsford, ATV called it a day. Side one of the valedictory Scars on Sunday album preserves highlights from this final show; side two introduces the Good Missionaries, the band that would pick up exactly where ATV left off, only without the encumbrance of such an historically resonant name.

But of course it wasn't the end really. The first ATV reunion, with Fergusson back on board, occurred as early as 1981; another kept Perry amused through the second half of the decade and, in 1999, Perry celebrated the release of his 20th album, under the born-yet-again name of Alternative TV.

On the second album of Alternative TV, Mark Perry and friends did to punk exactly what the movement had intended for the establishment. About-facing punk and turning it on its ear would be a difficult task in 1980, and while Alternative TV's peers headed down new wave paths or into commercialism, the authors of the quintessential "You Bastard" single (regarded by many, John Peel included, as a classic) and, of course, The Image Has Cracked LP, which remains on a par with the first Sex Pistols or Clash albums for genre-defining punk, who would have expected a follow-up as avant-garde abstraction that challenges P.I.L's Second Edition for absolute left-field swing? With Genesis P-Orridge in the ranks, Vibing Up the Senile Man became closer to free improvisation and avant-garde jazz without a punk anthem in sight, and a dub edge to some of the tracks of the double LP suggest that Alternative TV had similar modernist aspirations to John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols project. Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa spring to mind as much as Pere Ubu and the Red Krayola, who were similarly exploring the avant-garde liberties of post-punk and disappointing the punks and record industry alike. What Vibing Up the Senile Man represents two decades later is a door opening on multi-faceted post-rock music -- which draws on avant-garde, noise, and jazz and arguably makes more sense in the context of year 2000 as a musical treasure much more than in 1980, when it seemed simply a spit in the eye to the industry that codified punk.

1 comment:

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