GUEST POST/BOOK REVIEW
Rick ACV.

Vukovar helmsman and burgeoning fiction writer Rick ACV has joined the Monolith Cocktail pool of collaborators this month with his review of a new upcoming alternative bio of the idiosyncratic Dan Treacy. Next month sees the blog serialise Rick’s latest book, Astral Deaths/Astral Lights, after previously featuring his last surreal esoteric tome The Great Immurement.

‘Dreamworld Or: the fabulous life of Dan Treacy and his band The Television Personalities’ by Benjamin Berton (Ventil Verlag) 29th July 2022

To start at the end and then to end at the start – The life of Daniel Treacy of The Television Personalities is, nor was, a fabulous one, except seemingly near the start of it. Though his life is not yet over, Daniel’s story very nearly is. The last passage of ‘Dreamworld’ deals with this truth indelicately and head-on but transformed; made poignant & bittersweet in a mono-no-aware fashion through surreal storytelling rather than recounting of actual events. This is a common mode throughout Dreamworld and works all the better for it. Fans of the TVPs are not oblivious to their obscurity and the lack of documented history, not to mention Treacy’s constant disappearances (homelessness, prison time etc.) and lack of public ‘limelight’ since the mid-90s. To therefore have written Dreamworld as a straightforward biography would have been dull. Dull and incredibly short.

Instead, Benjamin Berton mixes cold-light-of-the-day fact with fiction. Or a bending of fact. The lines are blurred, it is sometimes clumsily done (perhaps due to the translation) but even then it still provides an interesting take on what, to those unaware of Treacy & TVPs, could be an unremarkable story – musician starts band, band doesn’t quite make it big, man has drug problems, drug problems cause life problems et sic. To further this strange take on a biography, along with the surreal passages, Berton invents his own dialogue between the pro/antagonists when recounting ‘real’ times and tales from Treacy’s past, and this is all done in present tense. What happens, then, is the reader is transported through little time warps to actually be THERE and THEN and experience it all first hand but through a haze. Like remote viewing. At times, it is extraordinarily visceral. 

The aforementioned surreal passages will not be spoiled here. They may sometimes be clumsy & the humour within somewhat strange and stilted, yes, but they are clever & cutting, and deeply touching. Much like the music of Dan Treacy and The Television Personalities himself and themselves. Watch out for Geoffrey Ingram. Dreamworld jumps backwards and forwards through different times, from different angles (much like Mr Ingram’s archival footage…), which keeps the book jittery and from ever losing steam. All of this adds up to a book that should be sought out even by people who have never heard of its subject matter. 

A lot is made of the ‘spirituality’ of Treacy’s music throughout and his own personal approach to life. I would suggest more esoteric & metaphysical. What endeared this book to me more was the strange ‘psychic’ links I encountered while reading. Whether it be people I actually know, similar experiences or topics that I had been discussing with other people that very day, the pages constantly vomited up coincidences, right from the off with Jimmy Page, Satanism and a certain place and a certain reaction. It would be foolish to recommend the book based on something as personal, but it is perhaps the strange style in which it is written that allows for this sort of reaction. I finished reading this on Syd Barrett’s birthday. Fans of Treacy will recognize the relevance. 

Although the book seems well researched and v v v informed – sometimes even poetic in its recalling of facts – there are some inconsistencies so cannot be relied upon totally as a factual history. (For example – there is a section about a band and a singer I know personally that is so bitter about them and so insulting and which I know most of the account to be untrue.) There are a lot of pictures and posters and photos in Dreamworld, which gives a great visual history. However, just because it isn’t a totally factually accurate history it does not mean it isn’t the truth. The Truth about someone is how they appear to other people, is the mythos around them, is the aura they give off, is something deeper than what day something happened or what words escaped their lips. The Truth is so much more important than The Fact. It is so much more entertaining, too. Invest yourself fully into Treacy & Berton’s Dreamworld for an Astral adventure. 

Compilation Breakdown/Review: Words by Dominic Valvona

Disco Zombies  ‘South London Stinks’
(Optic Nerve)  29th January 2021

Emerging from a fit of bands during the punk era, Leicester’s Disco Zombies never quite broke through despite meeting with the approval of John Peel and bridging both the agreeable knockabout youthfulness of The Undertones and more sneering, University Challenge politico riling of their Tory-baiting peers. Pub rock to fuzz; new wave and even post-punk, they could sound at any one time like The Skids, Damned, Magazine, Swell Maps, Subway Sect and even (on the slower Indie roaming ‘New Scars’) XTC.

Formed almost at the apex of the punk explosion by Andy Ross (vocals and guitar), Johnny ‘Guitar’ Hawkins (as his moniker makes pretty obvious, guitar), Geoff ‘Dod’ Dodimead (bass) and Andy Fullerton (drums), the DC played their debut gig at the student halls of residence, we’re told, to “a packed room of cross-legged intellectuals”. That line-up soon expanded to accommodate Dave Henderson of The Blazers; all part of a scene that could boast the cult obscurity of bands like The Foamettes, Dead Fly Syndrome and The RTRs. The DC would bring in The Foamettes’ guitarist Steve Gerrard when they soon relocated to London in the vain hope of making it to replace founding member Johnny Guitar, who couldn’t go as he had another year at Uni to finish. As it happened, he never really missed his break, as even his replacement soon returned home from the capital due to the lack of success. Gerrard would however make it into Leicester’s version of Rock’s Back Pages by joining another cult band, The Bomb Party.

In an age characterised by the spirit of diy and lo fi, the band recorded their first EP for the fleeting Uptwon Records venture set up by Carl Tebbutt. This now legendary EP, recorded in one four-hour session, featured a Blazer’s number (‘Top Of The Pops’) and a trio of rough ’n’ ready Stiff Records, tongue-in-cheek adolescent ravers (‘Time Will Tell’, ‘Punk A GoGo’, and ‘Disco Zombies’). It was unfortunately shelved due to the occupational hazard of these enterprises going bust. They still carried on however, recording a session for a local radio station, the only fruits of which (included on this twenty-track revision compilation of mishits) is the rebel-country meets Skids goggle-box sneer ‘TV Screen Existence’. The DC would also go on a mini tour showcase of their hometown, playing five nights in five different pubs. But a move to the Big Smoke was on the cards after exhausting the Leicester scene, and hopefully a crack at breaking through. It’s hardly a spoiler to suggest they didn’t; the compilation title of South London Stinks a dead giveaway, and perhaps broadside at the Deptford clique of the time.

In another customary shift of line-up, the group recruited Mark Sutherland to fill the gap left by Gerrard. Gigs at a litany of infamous London showcase spots followed: the Scala, Hope & Anchor, North London Poly. Out of frustration, or just ennui, Andy Ross launched his own label, South Circular Records as a vehicle to releasing the band’s debut single proper; the gnarled Jam-knocks-about-with-The-Clash National Front parodied, ‘Drums Over London’. A classic single of the period, it was totally misinterpreted by Rock Against Racism, who missed the irony, believing it to be an endorsement of far right anti-immigration rhetoric. John Peel had to weigh-in on the side of the DC, to clear up the misunderstanding. It’s more or less the band’s anthem. Alongside overseeing an EP from the Peel approved Adicts, Ross’ label put out the Magazine fatalism with white disco Dr. Boss drum machine shaking, ‘Here Come The Buts’: Another slight turn in direction for the band, now expanding their two-minute blasts to over four, you can hear a hint of more brooding post-punk and a resigned polemic on that record. Just before that diy label folded, the DC recorded the Damned like parody sporting spectacle (“Best position to the chase and pursuit”) ‘The Year Of The SexOlympics’, the wrangled guitar and Lou Reed fronts Voidiods, lyrically violent, ‘Target Practice’, and the already mentioned ‘New Scars’. None of which ever saw the light of day. Still, persevering and now in the dying embers of punk they knocked out the brilliant, more upbeat new wave track ‘Where Have You Been Lately Tony Hately’.  Showing a keenness for knockabout pun and chirpy wit, with references to pop and sporting culture they paid a sort of wry homage to the extremely well-travelled English centre-forward of the title: A player who moved between eleven clubs in his two decade plus career, even joining (for the briefest of times) the beleaguered USA side, the Boston Minutemen.  In a similar vane, but perhaps obscuring a more honest debate about the sex industry and its troubled, used-up pinups, and voyeurism, detachment, the band released a Monochrome Set meets Swell Maps imbued aphorism to the 70s sexpot Mary Millington; star of untold jazz-mags and blue movies in the UK, and the girl-next-door fuck fantasy of a million men.  Drugs, depression, debt, the old bill, and the moralist guardians of so-called decency hounded and hampered Mary into an early grave, the sex star taking her own life by overdose in 1979. With that in mind, the DC song is more tragedy, elegy than rave-up and sniggering schoolboy hijinks.

‘Tony Hately’ met with Peel enthusiasm, but other than a test pressing, the single was never properly released; ending up only subsequently on the Cordelia label’s Obscure Independent Classics compilation – a title that tells you all you need to know about that particular chapter in the band’s career. A consequence of this was the break-up of the band. Sutherland opened a studio in Bow, London; Dodimead (god forbid) got a day job, and Fullerton…well he was already in gainful employment. The remainder joined the experimental Club Tango; though later on, Ross would go on to discover bands himself, such as Blur most famously, for the legendary Brit-pop era Food label he started with the ex-Teardrop Explodes’ David Balfe.

Yet they could never let it lie, and thirty years after initially splitting up, the DC (ala the drum machine incarnation) descended upon Sutherland’s studio to record the extremely limited edition 10” pairing of the Sci-Fi homage ‘Night Of The Big Heat’ and bandy JFK conspiracy shtick ‘LHO’.  The first of these is a broody indie take on the cult Terence Fisher directed and Hammer double-act of Lee and Cushing 1967 environmental terror of the same name, its partner, a motorcade denunciation vision of a Brit-pop Dead Kennedys. A few years later original drummer Andy Fullerton kicked the staid Dr. Rhythm into touch, recording a trio of originals from a bygone punk age: the antithesis of X-Factor chart-topping mediocrity ‘Hit’, The Dickies bash around with Ramones Cold War pastiche ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ (“All good Russians visit Lenin’s Tomb” you know), and polka-punk resigned parody on the banality of nuclear Armageddon ‘Paint It Red’ (“As the arms race escalates, refit the double-glazing”). All three were released on limited 10”. That recent hurrah style resurrection was followed up by a gig at The Dublin Castle in 2019. And just to make certain that the Disco Zombies don’t vanish from Sniffin’ Glues Back Pages, Optic Nerve have collected all those singles, tracks and missives into this “stinking” collection: probably the first and only chance to find the back catalogue in one place, from a band that seldom managed to release much music to the public.

Shelved recordings, ones salvaged from obscurity mingle with Peel favourites and the few actual physical records they managed to put out. Not really part of any particular scene, out-of-sorts with the London set anyway, the Disco Zombies were never as rowdy and antagonistic as the Pistols, but never quite as cuddly as Eddie And The Hot Rods. They did cover many bases however, developing and changing with the times. Above all that and most importantly, they made some cracking records: which you will discover yourself when digging into this fandom compilation. Another piece in the UK punk jigsaw filled in. Dominic Valvona

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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