Television Personalities

TrackAlbum / EP / Single
Part Time PunksWhere's Bill Grundy Now? EP
I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives...And Don't the Kids Just Love It
If I Could Write PoetryMummy Your Not Watching Me
Three WishesWhaam! Records WHAAM 4
Magnificent DreamsMummy Your Not Watching Me
Someone To Share My Life WithThe Painted Word
Sad Mona LisaPrivilege
Strangely BeautifulThe Strangely Beautiful EP
The Day The Dolphins Leave The SeaFire Records BLAZE 44049
The Dream InspiresOverground Records Over 27

 

Television Personalities photo 1

Television Personalities (1980) l to r: Joe Foster, Mark ‘Empire’ Sheppard, Dan Treacy

 

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Television Personalities photo 3

Television Personalities (1981) l to r: Dan Treacy, Ed Ball, Mark Sheppard

 

Contributor: Wally Salem

To say that the Television Personalities are one of my favourite bands would be a huge understatement. Who am I kidding; they have had a significant impact on my life. They have made me smile, made me wonder, made me sad, made me angry, made me appreciate life and inspired me and influenced my music collection in a significant way. I’m often overheard saying that everything somehow ties back to the Television Personalities (in seven degrees of separation or many times in only two or three). They are a band whose importance is now only starting to be recognized, appreciated.

It’s quite possible that 20% or more of my record collection can be directly linked to the TVP’s (and possibly yours too) whether it was because it was a band that had a start, or a release on one of Dan Treacy’s or Edward Ball’s record label Whaam! Records: like The Pastels (who have an extensive story of their own and several record labels like 53rd & 3rd and Geographic), The Marine Girls (later Everything But The Girl), The Times, The Direct Hits (This Happy Breed, Colin Swan, Direct Tapes, Blaamm! Records), The Mixers (with links to The Golden Dawn on Sarah Records as well as The Catalysts and The Void), The Laughing Apple (later Biff Bang Pow), The Revolving Paint Dream (with links to Primal Scream), 1,000 Mexicans, Jed Dmochowski (The Vip’s, The Tranquilizers), The Page Boys etc.; or

maybe they had a start on Dan’s follow up Label, Dreamworld Records: like The Mighty Lemon Drops, One Thousand Violins (later The Dylans), Go! Service, Bluetrain (and many other bands that followed with links to Jo & Danny), A Riot Of Colour, Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, The Looking Glass; or

maybe it was a former TVP member who went on to join another band like Mark Shepherd as Empire who seems to have played in most of my favourite bands from that era (like Nikki Sudden, The Barracudas, Robyn Hitchcock, not to mention becoming a famous TV and film star), or Dave Musker with the Jasmine Minks, or Mark Flunder, who later went on to the McTells and Sportique, or Jowe Head (ex-Swell Maps, Soundtracks & Head, The Palookas) who had an extensive career before and after the TVP’s releasing recordings on the Topplers label and many others; or maybe an ex-TVP member who started their own label, like Edward Ball with ArtPop! Or Joe Foster, who started many labels (Kaleidoscope Sound, RevOla, Poppydisc) and educated you in the sounds of the 60s as well as producing almost every band you can think of.

Television Personalities photo 2

Dan Treacy with Alan McGee (right)

Alan McGee founder of Creation Records started out in the early days by having songs by his band The Laughing Apple released on Whaam! Records. The Laughing Apple later became Biff Bang Pow! Alan also played with a future Primal Scream member (Andrew Innes) in the band Revolving Paint Dream. Alan is often quoted as being inspired by Dan Treacy and the Television Personalities and when he started Creation Records he took with him Joe Foster to play and produce many of the early Creation releases. As mentioned earlier, Dave Musker who played in the TVPs also played with the Jasmine Minks on an early Creation 7″ and possibly with the mysterious Revolving Paint Dream. Edward Ball from the TVPs also joined the Creation family and released many albums under several monikers; The Times, Teenage Filmstars, Love Corporation, Sand and even started a label “Ball Product” as a subsidiary of Creation, just as Joe did with RevOla. To quote Alan McGee in an article in The Guardian:

“While filming the forthcoming Creation documentary (produced by Steve Lamacq and Danny O’Connor), I found myself remembering Dan Treacy. I realised that the Creation story really starts with Treacy and his band Television Personalities, because they provided the inspiration and motivation for me to start the label.”

Louder Than War quoted Alan as saying: “Dan Treacy started it … and without Dan there would be no Creation, no Stone Roses and by extension a whole raft of British music.” Just to emphasize this point, many of my favourite bands were on Creation like Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits, Jasmine Minks, Bodines, Phil Wilson, Ride, Slowdive, MBV, Biff Bang Pow, Weather Prophets, Nikki Sudden, Felt, Dave Kusworth, Sneetches, Boo Radleys, Apple Boutique and many more and that’s not even mentioning Poptones Records (Cosmic Rough Riders, January, Captain Soul, Technique etc.). So you can quickly see how the tentacles of the Television Personalities spread and continue to spread.

As Ava Dial once said: “Formed by songwriting wonder Dan Treacy in 1977, The Television Personalities were quickly embraced by BBC mouthpiece John Peel, and proceeded to leave an indelible mark on the London music scene with a sound that stretched from punk to soul, mod to psychedelia. Though TVP earned some attention with songs like Part Time Punks and I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives, legions of rare gems preceded and followed those mix tape faves.” Television Personalities were a true visionary band when it came to musical styles, mixing Mod, Psychedelic, Folk, Soul and Freakbeat with true 60s Pop sensibility. They inspired many and their influence can still be heard in records being released today.

 

Television Personalities photo

My list above tries to capture the essence of some of those rare gems and whittling a list down to only 10 songs with the Television Personalities is like asking the impossible, as favourites change from day to day and there are plenty of great songs to choose from. I’ve chosen some of the obvious ones like Part Time Punks and … Syd Barrett … as those songs captured the Jonathan Richman spirit that Dan had (I’m a big fan of Jonathan) and they were at the same time a great social commentary on our fascination with musical stars and new genres. Part Time Punks was also one of the first songs I heard from them (on Rough Trade’s Wanna Buy A Bridge compilation) and how could you not fall in love with a song that mocked everything about being a punk and namedropping a Swell Maps song. I also had to include some of my favourite love songs like Someone To Share My Life With and If I Could Write Poetry (with The Prettiest Girl as a runner up) as where would life be without a good love song to include on a mix tape.

Three Wishes, Magnificent Dreams and The Dream Inspires are songs where it’s hard to pinpoint just what it is that make them three of the best songs ever written, but they capture the magic of the perfect psych pop masterpiece and who but Dan would be smart enough to wish for “three more” as the last of his three wishes. I still recall hearing Magnificent Dreams on the Rough Trade C81 cassette (which was also one of the first few songs I heard by them) for the first time and it sent shivers down my back and still does the same today. As for The Dream Inspires, who wouldn’t want a castle in the sky and be able to make all your dreams come true – it’s just the perfect song and one that I hope more bands will discover so that we can get a few more covers of this beautiful song for our tributes.

The song, Sad Mona Lisa, for me captures Dan’s ability to be the storyteller of the down and out, and brings to mind people like Ray Davies and Robyn Hitchcock who displayed the unique ability to capture the feelings of life and express them beautifully in songs with keen observation techniques. The Day The Dolphins Leave The Sea shows Dan pondering some of our environmental issues, as he also does with war on A Sense Of Belonging and the almost comical but tragic pursuit of weapons in How I Learned To Love The Bomb.

As for Strangely Beautiful, it’s one of those songs where its title is the perfect description of the song; somehow it doesn’t quite sound like any other song but yet it has a strange familiar beauty all of its own. It’s a song of contradictions that its title hints at; it’s a song of loss, but one of ultimate hope, “Chill out, it’s not the end of the world” sings Dan as someone is reeling from a destroyed relationship. It has always been one of my favourite TVP songs and it is the song that partially inspired the name of our record label The Beautiful Music and the inspiration for our crazy Television Personalities tribute series. I think Joe Shooman in Record Collector summed it up the best when he said:

“Preposterous like life – As labours of love go, you don’t get any more tenderly put together a tribute than these albums, the initial efforts in a planned 10-volume bow at the feet of Television Personalities. The gorgeous folly of bringing together so many different artists covering Dan Treacy’s songs is matched only by the passionate grace of the approach.”

“It is an idea that is both bonkers and admirable, as if the label is trying to make up for all the praise and recognition that the band has sadly missed out on over its 30 plus year existence.” Mark Rowland, Pennyblackmusic.co.uk

 

More information on The Beautiful Music tribute series can be found here.

And more information on the Television Personalities can be found at this excellent fansite.

Television Personalities are the new Velvet Underground, if not the Beatles for an indie generation.

 

 

A Few Runners Up:
A Memory Is Better Than Nothing – A Memory Is Better Than Nothing
The Prettiest Girl In The World – Overground Records Over 15
Where’s Bill Grundy Now? – Where’s Bill Grundy Now? EP
A Sense Of Belonging – Rough Trade ‎RT 109
A Good And Faithful Servant – Privilege
This Angry Silence – …And Don’t the Kids Just Love It
Salvador Dali’s Garden Party – Privilege
Diary Of A Young Man – …And Don’t the Kids Just Love It
Smashing Time – Rough Trade RT 051
Arthur The Gardener – Rough Trade RT 063

 

Television Personalities poster

 

A Day In Heaven: an unofficial Television Personalities website

Television Personalities historic site

This Is Our Music – Television Personalities – MTV Europe documentary 2005 (YouTube)

Television Personalities at Discogs

Television Personalities biography (iTunes)

 

Television Personalities poster 2

The Beautiful Music (TBM) is a Canadian record label started by Wally Salem in 2002, specializing in indie pop, and inventing Post Mod, and Janglewave music genres. Acts include Skytone, Dot Dash, Roy Moller, The Yellow Melodies … TBM has gained popularity since 2004 as the label that is releasing a ten volume tribute series to the Television Personalities.

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Pastels, Mighty Lemon Drops, Swell Maps, Teenage Fanclub, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Felt, Boo Radleys, Jonathan Richman, Ray Davies

TopperPost #641

4 Comments

  1. Pete 905
    Jul 17, 2017

    Amazing Article WEW !!
    I have one thing to say:
    “Biff Bang Wow ! ”
    Keep up the great work at
    The Beautiful Music !!!

  2. Andrew Shields
    Jul 18, 2017

    Wally, a great piece which brilliantly captures the unique qualities which make TVP such a great band. Might have to have ‘King and Country’, “Salvador Dali’s Garden Party’ and “Smashing Time’ in my premier list, though, but very hard to know what to demote… And, of course, there are very few songwriters who can tread the line between wit, whimsy and heartbreaking in the way that Dan can – as you say, Ray Davies and Jonathan Richman are the only other two who come immediately to mind.

  3. Esther
    Jul 18, 2017

    The right combination of passion and requisite connect-the-dots (but of course!) That’s a great runners-up list too. I wouldn’t know where to start but I’m glad to see Strangely Beautiful on there. Great piece!

  4. Andrew Shields
    Jul 21, 2017

    Would also add that ‘Honey For The Bears’ is on my list of the best of the later TVP songs. And ‘Silly Girl’ both contains some of my favourite lines by Dan (“You ran away on a train to Crewe/ such a silly thing to do’) and has become our cat’s theme tune.

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