Music Monday, September 26th Words by: Mark Bowen, pictures by: Mark Bowen

Crisis of Conscience: Hereford celebrates 40 years of punk with The Adverts' TV Smith

Music Monday, September 26th

Crisis of Conscience: Hereford celebrates 40 years of punk with The Adverts' TV Smith

What is punk? We've all heard about The Pistols, the aggro, the spitting, the swearing and the mohicans. That much is still deeply ingrained in the public consciousness. 

But the real spirit behind the movement is harder to define especially since it is now 40 years since that long, drought-hit summer of '76. 

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Terminal Rage on stage at the 40 Years of Punk Festival in Hereford. Photo: Mark Bowen.

Truth is anyone not in their late 40s will struggle to remember it and, let's face it, the punk movement was of such massive mindblowing importance that reviving its spirit should be compulsory and rostered on the National Curriculum.

Kids. It's time to discover your inner punk. How timely then the 'A Crisis of Conscience: 40 Years of Punk' festival was held at The Booth Hall in Hereford on September 24.

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On Trial UK bringing rebellion to the Booth Hall. Photo: Mark Bowen.

Going against plenty of the preconceptions about punk this Underground Revolution event was held in aid of Alan McGee's Musicians Against Homelessness and the Big Issue Foundation.

The Oasis guru, who spent time on the streets himself, started Musicians Against Homelessness earlier this year, raising funds for homeless charity Crisis. Proof then that looking out for others is part of the punk ethos.

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So is the DIY ethic and self-expression and the Hereford festival included poets, DJs, artists and musicians all with different outlooks on life, all with different messages. 

The evening event saw support slots for Herefordshire's own The Youth Within, Terminal Rage, and Linerunners

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On Trial UK did a turn without their stuck-in-traffic bass player and drummer. True to the spirit of the event they soldiered on before headliner and punk legend TV Smith took to the stage.

Which brings us to the main questions: what is punk? We asked Smith, who fronted punk band The Adverts in the early 70s, to give us the definitive answer.

How did you start off your career with The Adverts? 

I started off writing poems and then started writing songs and realised pretty early on that I  wanted to be in a band.

I went to art college for a year and instead of doing the course I ended up getting my mates together and practised these songs I'd been writing. That was it for me. I decided I wanted to be in a band rather than do art.

I felt words and music were my thing and this just happened to be just before punk started to happen so I was right there in the right place at the right time.IMG 6912

TV Smith. Photo: Mark Bowen.

Were The Adverts a proper punk band?

We were certainly one of the first and it comes down to the whole question of what do you call punk.

These days it's got quite a narrow interpretation in that it's supposed to be all about aggression and against the system and nasty and horrible and spitting and all that, that's what people think of it. What it was at the time was you looked around at the bands that were about.

They were either horribly commercial or ridiculously pretentious or self-indulgent. What punk was doing was breaking down that barrier and saying 'No, it's just ordinary people, we've got something to say and we want to express ourselves'.

Actually the whole kind of aggression and political stance was just a little part of it which some bands took on and some didn't. The main thing was saying 'this is me, I'm going to say what I want to say and I'm gonna form a band and I'm going to do it in the style I want'. It was a very broad church, punk rock, at the time. 

Do you think that the punk spirit is still alive? 

Absolutely. If you take it in that intrepretaion of punk it is definitely still alive. 

What about speaking out: do you think that people have enough of a voice nowadays?

It's up to them if they want to take a voice or not or raise their voice and say something.

I don't think enough people are doing it. I think that is why the world is getting in such an unpleasant place. It's because people aren't saying that something is wrong and they aren't acknowledging that something is wrong and something needs to be done about it so we are kind of sleep walking into disaster. 

What were the highlights of your early career? 

I suppose the highlight was being able to make an album that I felt really expressed what I wanted to say that sounded great and for me to get that piece of vinyl, as we didn't have CDs in those days, to have it in my hand and think this is exactly the record that I wanted to make, was an absolute thrill for me.

There were other fun bits like being on Top of the Pops, that was fun, and it was like 'look at us here on Top of the Pops', but what really counted was to have a record that said something.IMG 6937

What did you think of the others around at the time like The Pistols and The Damned?

Absolutely loved them. I loved The Pistols. First time I saw them it was mindblowing.

Johnny Rotten, certainly at the time, was just a brilliant performer and presence. I loved The Damned and loved The Clash, maybe The Clash less so I like them more in retrospect, but certainly The Damned and The Stranglers.

It as a brilliant movement with many, many fabulous live bands. They were all great on stage and they would set a room alight when you saw them. It was exciting, it was thrilling, it was new, it was really unforgettable movement.

Perhaps The Adverts best known song is 'Gary Gilmour's Eyes'. Wasn't Gary Gilmour a murderer who demanded to be executed...?

He was on Death Row and a group of Liberal activists tried to stop him being executed because they said the death sentence was wrong, which I tend to agree with.

But he said 'hands up I did it, just get rid of me, I'm guilty as charged'.

He was saying 'I've had a miserable life and you may as well kill me'. But then before he was executed he finally redeemed himself by saying 'at least I can do one thing good which is to donate parts of my body', his retina for example to be transplanted so someone else could see. So the song was about what if you wake up in the hospital and you read that he has done this the day before and you think maybe I've got his eye in my head.

So it was kind of a twisted version of a true story. 

How's the touring? Pretty gruelling?

I'm doing 130 gigs a year.

Overseas too?

Yeah. Mainly Germany. I had an audience in Germany in the 80s when I couldn't get a gig in Britain to save my life.

It was the German audience who took to me funnily enough, so I started going over there and built a really good audience. Slowly, because of various reasons, partly because of Rebellion festival, I started to come back to Britain as well and there was interest building again. 

What is it about the acoustic format that suits your work?

90 per cent of my gigs are solo and my stuff is really, really song based so it is all about the lyrics and I just find it very direct.

There is no rock'n'roll bullshit, there is no distraction with amps and volume and drums and all that, and riffs.

It's all about trying to get people to focus on the lyrics and what I'm trying to say. So there are lots of ways to do it. I do sometimes play with a band and I love that as well but the main thing, the main reason I am doing this is to get the ideas and the lyrics across. I find I can do that much better and in a more focused concentrated way when I'm alone on the stage. 

One final question what does the T.V stand for in your name?

The T stands for Tim and the V was just a joke to go with The Adverts. TV, get it?!

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Linerunners. Photo: Mark Bowen.

 

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The Youth Within. Photo: Mark Bowen.

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On Trial UK

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