There’s always something rather wonderful about a band that isn’t from London. Perhaps it’s just me but surely there’s a certain romance in a band from Swindon (XTC) or Andover (the Troggs) or even Bournemouth (um.. Al Stewart). There must be something about being away from the mainstream that makes and artist think differently, would Robert Fripp be the same person if he came from Croydon rather than Dorset? Surely our geography makes us what we are.It’s with the same rose tinted spectacles that I imagine Tim Smith and Gaye Black leaving the sleepy/gloomy Devon seaside town of Bideford Devon to make their dreams come true in the big city. Bideford’s other musical claim to fame is that someone from Cradle of Filth owns a guitar shop there, nuff said.
Smith was already a name in Bideford but so was the local butcher. Smith had had a band and written songs, he was a band man with a plan man. Black was quite shy but so in love with Smith she even allowed him to teach her how to play bass.
And so The Advert were born, with the addition of a proper guitarist Howard Pickup and a bloke who had stuck his head into the rehearsal rooms and saw a drum kit, Laurie Driver, the band was born which would quickly become the fourth biggest punk band in London (and possibly the biggest in Bideford).
The band had two big assets, firstly Tim, now TV, Smith could write proper songs with good lyrics and interesting chords. The second single had lyrics having a transplant of mass murderer Gary Gilmour’s eyes, that’s different. ‘Bored Teenagers’ boosts some musical syncopation just like Yes might do, Yes, of course would never write about being a bored teenager or boast about being one chord wonders though. Smith was clever and a little bit funny.
The other thing about The Adverts of course was Gaye, a woman playing bass!!!. In post Pussy Riot days this is not a big deal but in 1977 it was a complete mindfuck. Gaye certainly looked cool, she inspired a lot of women to get involved in music and an awful lot more women to wear black leather jackets. By contrast Smith and Pickup seemed content to dig out their old school uniforms and needed Gaye’s cool to stop them looking like an AC/DC tribute act.
The band hit the ground running, playing new punk club The Roxy every night they could, they soon had a huge following with the new breed punks who had missed out on the golden age of the Clash and the Pistols. Record label Stiff signed them at once and they went on tour supporting the Dammed. I remember that tour well because it really pissed off the musos quoting something along the line of ‘The Dammed can now play three chords, the Adverts can only play one, hear all four at..’(at this point venue is inserted probably Friars Aylesbury or West Runton Pavilion).
‘Gary Gilmour’s Eyes’ is, of course the standout single but the band were more than that, Their first LP ‘Crossing the Rd Sea With the Adverts’ is pretty good by any standards although at one point Gaye does appear to nick the bass riff to ‘Floyd’s ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’.
It’s been forgotten in the mist of time but there was definitely a feeling around that The Adverts were a punk band too far. We were prepared to tolerate the Ramones, the Pistols, even the Clash but for a while it seemed The Adverts were the scapegoats and we had to show that we had some evaluation process and not just accept anything that sounded punk. The problem, as ever, was the drummer but Gaye didn’t help, her playing plods a bit and the rhythm section effectively stopped the band from being too radio friendly.
The original band ended when they wised up and go rid of Laurie Driver who had got peeved a the amount of media attention Gaye had been getting. Seeing as he was appearing on Top of the Pops just a few weeks after fancying a bash at the drums it seems a bit churlish to complain that his genius had not been fully recognised but that was 1978 for you. For the next LP ‘Cast of Thousands’ Smith introduced Keyboards which at the time I thought was a terrible mistake although it sounds a lot better now. Howard Pickup disappeared and never saw the band again (he died in 1997), there were new drummers and guitarists and eventually Gaye was out.
Like any sensible person Gaye Advert was bored with the mindlessness of touring and, according to her, being cold all the time. A shy person who had become a media punk, she had been drinking heavily and with relief fell into a normal job working for the council. It served her well, like half of the public sector workers of Britain she was made redundant and presumably now she’s passed 60 she’s got her government pension.
TV was made of sterner stuff, fronting follow up bands for a while until he realised he could sing, write songs and play guitar all on his own. So these days he leaves the flat that he still shares with Gaye and catches a train to somewhere else and plays to a few people in a room above a pub. For TV Smith there is no pension plan beyond what he can create with his hands and his imagination.
I don’t usually feature contemporary material but let’s have a listen to what TV Smith is doing today, it is rather good, he’s still a protest singer.