Alternative TV – Live At The Rat Club 77 – Crystal Records 1979

Memphis / Love Lies Limp / My Hand Was Still Wet / Sleep In Bed / Life / How Much Longer

Alternatives To N.A.T.O. / You Bastard / Why Don’t You Do Me Right? / Total Switch Off

Due to popular demand…well a couple of people anyway, cheers Steve and Martin C, here in all it’s non glory is the Alternative TV set recorded at The Rat Club, based at The Pinder Of Wakefield pub, right down the bottom of Grays Inn Road in Kings Cross.

This set was recorded on September 1977 in mono by Genesis P Orridge whilst in the crowd. Shame Genesis seems to not be able to keep his trap shut, a lot of this recording has his soft northern tones all over the tracks, which are not well recorded in the first place!

Oh well…this record, firmly resting in the genre ‘listen for the quirky value only’, is quite difficult to really get into when the recording is THAT bad, but the gig itself seemed pretty fine. My scratchy copy of this disc also adds to the overall ‘naffness’ of the product.

Other Alternative TV live and studio material is available on this site, which is of a far superior quality to this muddy mix, if you search for it.

Also loads of Mark Perry related material that was recorded after Alternative TV split the first time, second time, third time etc…

Here is a decent interview with Alternative TV in the middle of 1977 which makes up for the quality of the record above.

By Jon Savage

Originally published in Sounds

Now: The Roxy these days is not what it was—whatever shrill camera-lens sense of event there was in the Andy Czezowski days has totally gone. For atmosphere, read zero.

It’s a case of Take the Money And Run—if you can get as far as paying your money, that is. The crowd, if it bothers beyond the Token Badge, is mostly dressed in the First Roxy Style (Soo Catwoman)—fossilised six months on. Hardly the most receptive audience to anything outside the “new wave” they’ve read about (in these pages) and heard on the Roxy album. See the concert of the album of the club… frightening: from innovation to constriction/restriction in a few months, New/no wave.

All of which of course no doubt may seem and probably is an elitist point of view: mass fashions always explode. When they hit the streets, it’s usually in a form objectionable to the “originators,” or to the people who fondly imagined it THEIR very own property. But the question remains: what to do if you were in there at the start? And what happens when you become tired of writing about events and want to create them?

So this Thursday and Friday Sniffin’ Glue‘s Mark P is playingthe Roxy as lead singer with Alternative TV: Alex Ferguson (guitar), Tyrone Thomas (bass) and (ex Gen-X) John Towe on drums. Their fifth and sixth gig—and John Towe’s last (he’s leaving to concentrate on his own band, Stratagem). Mark is quitting the editorship of Sniffin’ Glue after the next issue (11)—a guest issue, anyway: he’s COMMITTED to this band, to moving on.

The image is low-key: non-descript jackets and jeans (“We’ve got no money”), the music varies from straight-ahead 1977 rock, with pointed lyrics (‘Why don’t you do’/’How much longer’)’ through a great Velvets/Can/reggae number (“Love Lies Limp”) to the out-and-out avant-garde—tapes/crescendos of noise/pain/stuttering guitar. The structure of the set is thought-out—no time wasting—but loose enough to admit improvisation and the ad-lib.

Two songs, especially, are left open-ended; “Alternatives To NATO”, placed in the middle of the set, is obviously very important—it’s a chance for Mark to say whatever he feels like saying on the night—and ends with a segue into “You Bastard.” “Life”, the penultimate song, begins with tapes (which also change every night) and ends on a screech peak: the tapes finally fill out the silence at the end of the set, as the band walk off.

Truthfully, Thursday is rather hesitant: there are only about 25 people and it’d take WWII to move them. Mark’s “Alternatives to NATO” rap is about a Russian take-over and the subsequent fawning acquiescence of politicians and the media. Already, he has a surprising presence, and the band play excellently—it’s no use experimenting unless your base is right.

On Friday though, they really catch fire: they do two new songs, “ATV” (with a great hook) and “Depression.” Mark gets so involved with “Alternatives to NATO” that he smashes his guitar to the floor at the end. Tonight, he talks about the deadening power of television—“I used to come home every night from work and watch the TV, every night, and all you’d talk about the next day was what was on TV the night before”—and more.

The tapes are provided by Genesis P. Orridge: little girls scream (flash to the Brady tapes)/Lenny Bruce talks/Genesis’ band, Throbbing Gristle, meander through a subterranean instrumental, “DeadBait”—the tape (and gig) ends with the Television album played at 45, while Mark stares the audience out. They don’t know whether it’s intentional or a cueing mistake: a brilliant messing with preconceptions, perceptions.

One of the songs, “How Much Longer”, deals with the new wave fan as a stereotype, among others—“How much longer will people wear / Nazi armbands, dye their hair / wear safety-pins spray your clothes”—I ask about Mark’s attitude to what’s happened:

“The thing I’m confronted with at the moment, it’s like you said, there’s no new wave, only rock—but in the early days I was walking around with the false impression I was gonna change the world—y’know, the early Glues—I admit now I was naive.

“The only way you learn things, like the media, like fashions change, is by experience: in the last six months, the experience turned into a restriction. And the bands: whether they wanted to or not, they packed it in, confined themselves to clothes—even on that level, we’re not gonna confine ourselves. We’d never pressure any of the band, like Tyrone, to cut his hair….”

Right. But aren’t you going to get some stick from the audience (a few people were barracking), and how you gonna avoid making the same mistakes?

Alex: “Aah—the verbal backlash… one example was the Brighton thing: after ‘Alternatives to NATO’ we got one clap. And y’know that blank expression: it’s this attitude more. It’s really funny, but we expected it—it may get to a stage where it gets really heavy.” Mark: “If anybody throws anything at us, I just wanna explain to them—not how silly they are, ‘cos they aren’t—but just explain our position when they do it. I do get a shock when people react like that… but when they talk… I think they’ve got just as much right to say anything as we have. I think it’s good—that they’ve got the guts to shout it out… I never had the guts.”

And what about the media’s policy of divide and rule via sensationalism—y’know, set the teds against the punks and they’ll waste so much energy fighting themselves that… and the use of TV/papers as a medium of social control? Some of Mark’s lyrics (Guardian Times Observer) and Thursday’s “Alternatives to NATO” touch on this:

“I can’t wait to tell them kids the truth / What it’s all about / ‘Cos they read the Mirror and they believe it / that’s what’s so sad….”

  1. Steve
    April 17, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I know the recording quality’s pretty bad but I find this totally engrossing and I’m one of those weirdos who’s played it A LOT.

    I even think GPO’s yapping adds to the overall ambience – especially when Mark Perry trumps his and Sandy Robertson’s heckling at the start of Life. And while Mark Perry wants to carry on the argument, Alex Ferguson has had enough and launches into the song. Would it be melodramatic to suggest that when Mark cries “hold on! hold on!” at Alex their subsequent divergence was set in motion? (Oh, OK).

    My long gone vinyl copy had some unsightly blobs on side 2 which caused horrible popping sounds so maybe to cap it all it was a dodgy pressing as well, as a final insult to the audiophiles of the world!

  2. Farmer Glitch
    Farmer Glitch
    April 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Agree with Steve – I have always loved this LP – quality and GPO interjections only added to the dynamics …. never had access to the quantity of output that has been posted on this site, and for sure it is in many ways superior – but this LP rocked me when it came out – down here in sleepy Somerset !!

  3. edu
    April 18, 2008 at 12:54 am

    wow, many thanks for this great atv post.
    been wanting to listen to this record since a long time ago, and there was no way to do it! the funniest thing is last summer i saw this album on a record shop in san sebastian -a nice city in north spain- but it was sooo expensive i had no choice to get it 😮 now thanks to you finally it can be listened 🙂 btw, always a huge fan of atv for their great songs (life!) and for being so openminded.
    many thanks.

  4. Martin C
    Martin C
    April 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for this, I hadn’t heard it in years, a key document of the prole art riot! The GPO bitchy bits are great (I’ve got a mental image of him rolling his eyes at the bar throughout the whole gig) and, it is just me, or would “Sleep in Bed” have made a great alternative theme tune for ‘Minder’? Agree with Steve, it’s a shame the recording of “Still Life” from this gig didn’t make it onto the vinyl, cos that was a seriously wacked out version…but this still kills…cheers again!

  5. Steve
    April 18, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Re Jon Savage’s piece – did ATV also inspire him to be the first person to coin the term “no wave” ?!

    Throw away your history books, they’re useless etc etc

  6. dan
    April 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Check out ATV’s ‘The Industrial Sessions’ CD (Overground). I think I’m right in saying this was their first rehearsal (or at least, a very early one) recorded by Gen at Industrial HQ. Many of the songs barely qualify as such (yet) and Gen can be heard helpfully pointing out that “there’s going to be a lot of gaps on this tape.” One ‘song’ is titled after Gen’s dog, Tremble.

  7. dan
    April 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    A quick p.s. : “Still Life” from the Rat Club gig is included as a bonus track on The Industrial Sessions. But I guess Martin knew that.

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