Sunday, August 10, 2008

atv: the image has cracked

deptford fun city, DLP01.

I made reference to Mark P. and Alex Fergusson of Alternative TV sometime back in a previous post on Eater, a band the "Sniffin' Glue" editor seemingly - and to my mind, unaccountably - detested.

I mentioned then that "The Image Has Cracked" was every inch one of the most superior and long awaited releases of 1978, and I stand by that claim. The tone throughout the first LP to appear on Perry's Deptford Fun City label is racked with discord and ill-concealed contempt for the self congratulatory illiteracy of shop-lifting punk rockers as 1977 drew to a dreary close, and that sentiment was very much mirrored by the circumstances in which I first heard the album.

The setting for its spinning dansette debut was a shabby front room - my best friend's father's house - the curtains permanently drawn over a formica coffee table overspilling empty lager cans and cigarette ash; the two of us on a permanent vacation slumped in sagging easy chairs trailing stuffing on the floor. Michael's mother had succumbed to cancer a couple of years previously (see previous post on PIL, where Lydon's lyric - a dedication to his own dying mother - overshadows Van Morrison's "TB Sheets" in terms of emotional authenticity), and clinical depression had by this time translated itself into escalating bouts of incoherent rage between intermittently passive oasisses of ennui. The violence was more often than not directed at his father, and even from the considerable distance of thirty years' hindsight I can't help but feel his antipathy was mostly justified. Careful with that axe, Eugene.

"The Image Has Cracked" was our adopted soundtrack, a nihilistic badge of distress for Michael especially. I just went more or less along for the ride. A clueless navigator sunk deep in the passenger seat without crash helmet or map.

As is often the case, we lost track several years further down the line, but not before we registered in each other the appetite for self-destruction and self-imposed exile. I caught up with him entirely by chance a quarter of a century later on a train, and I can report the prognosis was a good deal brighter than either of us had any right to expect. I doubt he has any ATV in his possession these days, and if he does I would confidently wager he seldom plays it.

Alternative TV went on to record a split live LP with Here & Now, an offshoot of Gong, before finally dissolving as the 70s gave way to the brash consumerism of 1980. Fergusson went on to team up with Throbbing Gristle's Genesis P. Orridge in Psychic TV, while Mark Perry turned solo with varying results. Listen closely to the following tracks and you just might hear the faint echo of mutant Zappa and krautrockers, Can. It doesn't make for comfortable listening, so if you would sooner relish more genteel Sunday afternoon fare - as is your right to expect, perhaps - be warned.

This is 1978's soundtrack to the slow-burning fragmentation of ego and the banal subjugation of id.

ALTERNATIVE TV: NASTY LITTLE LONELY from "The Image Has Cracked" LP (Deptford Fun City) 1978 (UK)

ALTERNATIVE TV: RED from "The Image Has Cracked" LP (Deptford Fun City) 1978 (UK)

ALTERNATIVE TV: SPLITTING IN TWO from "The Image Has Cracked" LP (Deptford Fun City) 1978 (UK)



ib said...

The ATV logo featured pictorially was the British Independent Television logo "used all the way from the mid-fifties until they became Central in 1982.It's apparently supposed to be an eye with its shadow underneath.
It is a wonderful design that never looks dated."

It reminds me of the nadir of 1970s "Tragic Lantern" babysitting and accompanying tv dinners. In black and white for dismal full effect.

Brushback said...

Love the profile on Sniffin' Glue that you scanned -- "Anybody who uses a typewriter is a GIRL."

ib said...

Yeah! A lot of "Sniffin'Glue" was writen in magic marker, typewriters be damned...

While I'd like to take credit for the NME scan, the original can be found through the link, as well as some excellent scans from Mark P.'s fanzine.