This article is written by Ian Birch and was published in Melody Maker on 6th August, 1977.
Page 10—MELODY MAKER, August 6, 1977
On the crest of the wave
Continuing MM's series on the up-and-coming
Reading the Adverts
by lan Birch
THE new wave scythe has brought about
a dual personality in programming for a lot of the more established clubs.
However reluctant they might be,
many venues have instigated a "punk night," when security guards either
outnumber the punters or turn a blind eye as an innocent onlooker is mechanically
Crackers Club, situated in the heart of
London's film and "French lessons" district, used to cater exclusively
for a disco audience. Now, realising the box office potential of punkerie, they
are devoting a couple of nights every week to the sound of the chainsaw guitar.
To make the distinction that much clearer, Crackers becomes The Vortex on those
evenings. Vortex, as you all know, means a mass of whirling fluid. Standing
by the stage, the name is clearly appropriate.
Last week the Adverts played there, and
to put it mildly their set was a shambles. But, in a way, that is what has always
appealed to me about the band. It never ceases to amaze me how they can stumble
through one number, let alone a whole set. Every song constantly teeters on
the verge of collapse as it careers along.
It's as if the group has some unfathomable,
extraterrestrial understanding with one another. They certainly don't seem to
communicate on the usual wavelengths. Gaye Advert, who is rapidly becoming the
focus of the punk movement, will occasionally fix those sultry eyes on the audience,
though most of the time she has to concentrate with single-minded ferocity on
her bass playing. She isn't in the Jack Bruce division yet.
Drummer Laurie Driver (full marks for
the name) is also locked in his ownspace,
flailing away and staring psychotically into the middle distance.
Laurie and Gaye sometimes link up musically.
Guitarist Howard Pick-Up can thrash out a full-tilt rhythm, while vocalist T.
V. Smith (Gaye's close friend) virtually offers himself for sacrifice. As T.V.
says, "we're not great musicians — let's face it, we're terrible musicians".
I met T.V. the day after the gig, and
even he couldn't muster much of a defence for the Vortex fiasco. But on to other
matters. Gaye and he came up to the Big Smoke from Devon about 18 months ago
and tried, unsuccessfully, to get a band off the ground, advertising for the
two extra members.
They were flat broke. "I took on
a few crappy little jobs, but the trouble with those was that you take on a
job in the theory that you are going to get some money out of it and get your
gear out of it, but you end up getting trapped in this horrible little job.
"I don't advise it to anyone who
is intending to get a band together. I was horrified, seeing people who were
going to do these jobs for the rest of their lives. The only thing that made
me do it was knowing that I wasn't going to do it for long."
By Christmas things had finally gelled.
They grabbed "supports at the Roxy at every possible opportunity,
for peanuts". How were they received?
"At first both members of the audience were unsure! We get a lot of people
now who like us just because they think we're a punk band, but when the scene
wasn't quite so strong back then people weren't sure whether it was hip to like
us or not, because we were doing it a bit differently." In what way? "Just
the fact that we bothered to have
things like rhythm changes and, lyrics. You remember lyrics — those things that
Bob Dylan wrote." What was that? Dylan!
T.V. writes all the band's material, having
penned such stage faves as "Bomb-site Boy", "Gary Gilmore's Eyes",
"New Church", "Bored Teenagers", "New Boys" and
"On The Roof". Could he be attempting to emulate the denim poet laureate?
"Oh, Dylan — that was just a slip
of the tongue. I'm not the new protest singer.
"I don't want to pin anything down,
like explaining a song. It's there to be misunderstood, and I'm quite happy
for people not to understand."
Wouldn't he like the Great Listening Public
to have some idea about the contents? "Well, maybe I'll make it seem better
than it is. I can't control the audience. I put something out and I'm not going
to force them to listen or understand. That's their half of the work. YOU VlL
UNDERSTAND ZE SONG. DO YOU KNOW VOT I AM TALKING ABOUT? We'll start throwing
lyric sheets over the heads of the audience during the final number and they'll
be tested after the gig. If you fail, go and see Bad Company."
The Roxy shows brought them to the attention
of Jake Riviera, the wily brains behind the infamous Stiff label. He offered
to put out a single. T.V. (his mum and dad christened him Tim) elaborated:
"We went in knowing there wasn't
going to be much money for us. It was an exposure deal, really. The way Stiff
works is that Jake knows that he is picking up a lot of bands who are then
going to go on to another record company after they get a first single out."
Stiffs half-way house function worked
completely. Though it divebombed fairly spectacularly, the single, "One
Chord Wonders", reached the appropriate ears at Anchor records. Two weeks
ago they signed the customary one single deal with options on further work at
T.V. seems happy with the arrangement.
"At present we're intending to stay with them because they're doing a good
job for us, or it certainly looks like they're doing a good job for us. The
good thing is that they can concentrate exclusively on us because they haven't
got anything else in this area. Like Stiff have the Damned."
A second single is due in early August.
It will couple their two strongest Smith-songs, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes"
and a new (possibly disciplined ?) studio version of "Bored Teenagers"
which appeared on the recent live Roxy compilation. T.V. agreed: "That
trade is really insane."
"One Chord Wonders", however,
is a different kettle of halibut. An eminently respectable debut, it thunders
along at an inter-city pace and boasts a successfully original structure. Give
it a listen, if you can find it.
I wondered what he thought of the whole
shebang at the moment. "It's rotting, really. I don't mind. I think it's
good that it rots. There's plenty of room for rot. Most of it's so lousy because
everyone's doing the same thing.
"Things aren't going badly at all.
I'm just being a sour old creep basically. I like to have my jaundiced outlook
"It makes me feel good when I watch
Abba and I'm feeling sour. I just hate to see - someone smile, and they're always
smiling." Possibly because they are selling vast quantities of records?
"Yeah, probably that's why. It's kind of a vicious circle."