Life With Alternative Television

I always get a bit concerned when a band changes a member. As we all know getting rid of the bass player can be as painful as a divorce who knows what went on behind the scenes, the bad blood, the build-up of tension, the plotting in the back of the tour bus. As we all know The Ramones basically hated each other for decades but stuck together. On the other hand U2 still seem to get along and are one of the few bands who have managed to tolerate a stable line up all their working lives.

 

One of the main problems that punk bands faced were keeping any sort of line up going. Drummers and bass players were the main problems, The Subway Sect never achieved a stable line up while The Clash had to hire professional musician Topper Headon to solve their musical problems. Shifting line ups are a total band headache, in 1977 there simply were not enough drummers who were willing to get their hair cut and hide their Genesis LPs and often those that were would be the ones who were more interested in being in a punk band than learning to play an instrument.

And so it was that Mark Perry found himself with Genesis P-Orridge on drums when he decided to form a band. At this point Perry was a big fish in a very small pond. He had created the first ever punk fanzine ‘sniffing glue’ which was essential reading for the tens of people who could purchase a copy. Perry was typical of the sort of person for whom punk was totally transformational. He was drifting along in a job at a band when he heard the Ramones first LP. So inspired was he by the new noise he decided he would create his own magazine and write about it basically by selling it at gigs.

As soon as his business had reached the stage where he needed to buy a new box of staples he had recruited another lad off his estate Danny Baker to be part of his sales and production team. Baker needs no introduction if you have ever lived in Britain but for foreign readers let’s just say he’s a hilarious/irritating/ amusing/bigmouthed/self-opinionated/entertaining/pain in the arse, writer/broadcaster/celebrity/TV personality, whose career has totally eclipsed that of Perry’s.

Anyway..by 1977 Perry had had enough of writing, things were moving that fast, no one had a career plan, if he had stuck to his guns her would probably be a mainstream journalist by now but Perry decided it was time for him to be a musician. And so he found himself rehearsing at Throbbing Gristle’s studios with TG main man Genesis P .

Helping Perry on the musical side of things was guitarist Alex Fergusson who could at least play a bit and soon they found first of a long line of bass players and the first of a longer line of drummers. There then followed a brief run of what I consider to be extraordinary singles. The first of which ‘My Love lies Limp ‘was initially a free flexi disc with the final edition of Sniffin Glue. This was reggae as played by untutored white musicians which created an almost separate music genre. The lyrics dwelt on Perry’s sexual disgust and indifference, a man whose apathy extended to sex itself. The track was kind or weedy and powerful at the same time the sound of a band leaving themselves emotionally naked but not really caring.

Next release was ‘how much longer/you bastard’ a bit more straight punk but an attack on everyone living their lives as clichés whether hippie straight or punk no one was innocent.

 

For some bizarre reason, perhaps it was economic, these fantastic records were cropping up in second hand bins and I was picking them up for 50p. I managed to miss the next one ‘life after life’ though but the best was to come.’ Action Time Vision’ is a pretty great record whichever way you look at it and was to be Perry’s finest three minutes.

Finally ‘Love lies Limp’ was re-released on a proper vinyl record and best of all it was backed by ‘Life’, a record I’m still tempted to have played at my funeral.

Life’s about as wonderful as a record mart

I don’t like selling albums but I don’t wanna go to work

Life’s about as wonderful as a record mart, I haven’t got any money, that’s why I’m selling albums

 

Life’s about as wonderful as a cold

Life’s about as wonderful as growing old

Life’s about as wonderful as a tramp lying dead in the road

Life’s about as wonderful

 

Life’s about as wonderful as a dole queue

I don’t like standing still with the tramps and layabouts

Life’s about as wonderful as a dole queue

Well I got no choice, that’s why I’m standing in a queue

 

Life’s about as wonderful as a cold

Life’s about as wonderful as growing old

Life’s about as wonderful as a tramp lying dead in the road

Life’s about as wonderful

 

 

Life’s about as wonderful as no electricity, I don’t like acoustics and Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Life’s about as wonderful as no electricity, I make out it’s poetry that’s why I’m screaming at you

 

Life’s about as wonderful as a cold

Life’s about as wonderful as growing old

Life’s about as wonderful as a tramp lying dead in the road

Life’s about as wonderful

 

Life’s about as wonderful

As the tramps lying dead in the road

Do you touch him, do you pass him, do you understand these lines

There’s a doctor lying down in the road

There’s another falling down in the road

There’s the tramps lying dead in the road

Yeah life’s about as wonderful as nothing

 

These were intense times, I don’t know what it was about Perry but he couldn’t keep a stable line up. Worst of all he sacked Fergusson decided he would play guitar himself and embraced the Avant Garde. ATV metamorphosed into The Good Missionaries. ATV did manage an album ‘The Image has Cracked’ which I bought out of loyalty. On the longest track on the record recorded live Perry invites the audience onstage to use the microphone to say anything they want. No one has anything interesting to say, it’s a bit like a portent or the internet. The record also features, perhaps not so strange when you consider Danny Baker and Genesis P-Orridge, a certain Jools Holland genial TV music host on inappropriate piano and synth.

I kind of admire Perry’s habit of shooting himself in the foot whenever it looked like he might be getting too successful. Unfortunately however, instead of totally disappearing up his own arse he has returned to Alternative Television off and on for the rest of his life. I caught the band at a college in Bedford in the 80’s and they were just fine but clearly they weren’t going to change the world. This was the end of Perry’s crazy hyperactivity, ATV have continued in one form or another and released their latest record in 2015.

And it’s possible that one day I might listen to it but I’m in no hurry. In the meantime I’ll dig out the first singles every decade or so and marvel at their beauty.

 

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2 Responses to Life With Alternative Television

  1. Thanks for ‘Life’. Brilliant. Especially poignant (?) as I’m posting on ‘Death Walks Behind You’ this week.

    Liked by 1 person

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