About time there was a book on this group and its founder (so, well, watch this space!). Most, however, know that Mark Perry, once behind the legendary Sniffin’ Glue fanzine, formed the group either due to or as a response to punk in 1977. Since the debut ‘How Much Longer’ 7” released that very same year, Mark has remained the sole surviving original member and still highly motivated driving force. Not one to stand still, he has taken the group through a succession of lineup changes embarking on a wide spectrum of styles since then; including the blend of igneous rock bludgeon and amalgamation of stripped electronics that informed the fantastic ‘Dark Places’ 12” e.p. on Fourth Dimension in April 2018. Whilst awaiting the new album, Perry has overseen the reissue of 1979’s ‘Scars On Sunday’, which was originally released as a limited run cassette that’s now highly collectible. Comprising material from around the same period as the excellent Vibing Up the Senile Man album period, the ideas behind the music were very much informed by Mark’s experience of touring with Here & Now; a group themselves known for being part of the post-psychedelia traveling hippie set but, like perhaps Gong, Hawkwind and Germany’s Amon Duul, were open to the kinda free music that could draw from the avant-garde as much as the outer reaches they’d already explored as sonic wayfarers. Perhaps serving as a statement on punk, or the many hordes by this time now completely straitjacketed by it, it could be contended it was conceptually far more ‘punk’ anyway.
Beyond this, the music here illustrates precisely how Mark led Alternative TV into wide open terrain sometimes far removed from rock music in its more generally accepted forms. As both proof of where music could be taken once unshackled from all notions of predictability and, indeed, just how far it could go into those realms usually reserved for the avant-garde, this was about as non-conformist as music could get this side of Mark’s beloved Throbbing Gristle at the time.
Originally recorded live at the Greenwich Theatre and The Lyceum and featuring lineups including Dennis Burns (bass), Dave George (percussion, guitar), Anno Graver (vocals), Henry Badowski (drums, sax), Gillian Hanna (vocals), Steve Jameson (bass) and Sam Dodson (guitar), besides Perry himself (vocals, guitar, sax, violin, keyboards), these sets aimed for the jugular as they confounded, enticed and ultimately gave the audiences far more than they’d anticipated.
Between the music of this period, the earlier more direct attacks and the subsequent sidesteps into clever songwriting or more electronically-driven pieces, Alternative TV have always embraced the idea of going to wherever they intuitively feel like in the given moment. Since this early period, the group has gone through lengthy periods of hibernation and surges of activity that together might not have served them so well in a careerist sense, but at least maintained their roles as artists possessed of integrity. A rare virtue in music.
At present, the group are thankfully going through another period of hyper-activity. They are working on material for the next album and have four live shows confirmed (see below). In the meantime, they will have a new track included on Fourth Dimension Records Low Expectations compilation 10”, due to be released to coincide with a label event the group will headline both nights at in late November. They also have an extremely limited edition lathe-cut 10” due on New Zealand’s Independent Woman Records.
Exact credits for the recordings:
Tracks 1 to 5 –
Recorded live at the Greenwich Theatre, 18th March 1979.
Mark Perry – vocals, guitar, sax, violin, keyboards/Dennis Burns – bass guitar/Dave George – percussion/Anno Graver – vocals.
Track 6 –
Recorded live at the Lyceum, 25th March 1979.
Mark Perry – vocals, guitar/Dave George – guitar/Sam Dodson – guitar/Steve Jameson – bass guitar.
Tracks 7 & 8 –
Recorded live on the Animal Instincts tour, May 1979.
Mark Perry – vocals, guitar/Dave George – guitar/Gillian Hanna – vocals/Dennis Burns – bass guitar/Henry Badowski – drums, sax.