Throbbing Gristle And Psychic TV: An essay by Al Puppy


It was in 1977 that I finally found, and bought, a copy of the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the UK’ on EMI Records. It cost 37p from Woolworths in Castle Douglas, and I’ve still got it.

In 1978 I found, and bought, a copy of  Throbbing Gristle’s ‘United / Zyklon B Zombie’ 7″ single.

Funny thing is I was kind of disappointed by ‘Anarchy’ at the time, as it was after all, only well produced but raucous rock n roll. But ‘Zyklon B’ – that sounded like what I had imagined from reading about punk, what punk should sound like – all distorted, weird and ugly.

August 1979: By this time I was living in Ilford and working. I used to hang out at the Small Wonder record shop in Walthamstow every Wednesday before going to Waltham Forest College to study engineering. One of Pete Stennet’s mates who used to turn up was called Coz (Colin) and Coz started promoting concerts as ‘Final Solution’.

The Final Solution concerts started in a big way that August at the YMCA in Tottenham Court Road, over four nights, four concerts.

I attended the first two concerts.

First concert was Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division and Essential Logic.

Echo and the Bunnymen I thought at the time, must have been a newly formed group as I had witnessed problems by the band working out where to plug guitar into! Maybe the members of the band were just ‘speeding’ affecting their collective judgement! 

The next concert was Rema Rema, Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle.

Also played in background of the hall was the yet to be released ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus, which was eventually released on the Small Wonder record label.

But what I remember most is Throbbing Gristle. They came on to Village People’s ‘YMCA’ which gradually slowed down as Gen struck poses under a strobe light… They were awesome.

I saw Throbbing Gristle performances on two further occasions. Once in February at the Scala Cinema in Kings Cross and in March at Goldsmiths College in Deptford. I bought the records. I joined the ‘fanclub’, I even tried to tape the noise of the Durex condom making machines at work, to send to the band!

I also had a bit of fun writing to Throbbing Gristle HQ on my employers London Rubber headed paper – and I got some replies from Cosy at work which caused some raised eyebrows – all letters were read by office manager’s assistant and stamped “Works Engineers Dept” before I got them!

The actual records were interesting, but live – Throbbing Gristle were IT, they ‘anti-rocked’, they created the most intense atmosphere of any group I have ever seen or heard. ‘Heathen Earth’ is maybe the closest on an album to what I describe, but witnessing Throbbing Gristle performing live, this was the ‘real deal’.

Next up was Toxic Graffity (sic) fanzine. It was a very Crass influenced fanzine. The writer, Mike D, came from Tunbridge Wells and was intrigued by the Toxic Graffity / Throbbing Gristle synchronicity (TG/TG) and so me and him set off one day to the ‘Death Factory’ in Martello Street, beside London Fields in Hackney, to do an interview.

We wandered around but there was no sign of anyone,so we wander around the corner to Beck Road and met Genesis and some other people.

I don’t remember any actual interview happening though. Shame, it would have been amusing to find Throbbing Gristle in Toxic Graffity alongside Crass and the rest.

Beck Road is one one side of Mare Street, with railway line running on arches over head – for years there was Class War graffiti on one of the arches “Toffs out of Hackney”. I don’t think it was ironic, I don’t remember Class War doing much irony.

Brougham Road is on the other side near the original ‘Albert Square’. A big housing estate had been built and then the money ran out or something so a row of Victorian terraced houses that were left which were then squatted for a few years – ex Bader Mienhof person Astrid Proll lived there for a while under an assumed name.

I think Mark from The Mob lived at Brougham Road for awhile, Min did too, and so did a white South African draft dodger J.C. more names, ummm I can’t remember, but there was a woman with a young family too.

Min and Andrew

The point being that after Throbbing Gristle ended in 1981 and Psychic TV emerged as Gen and Sleazy’s new project (Chris and Cosey had their own group) a bit of overlap began to emerge with some anarcho-punk Hackney squatters being some of the first TOPY – ‘Temple Ov Psychick Youth’ youths.

Unfortunately, I never enjoyed Psychic TV as much as I had Throbbing Gristle. I think the tensions and differences within Throbbing Gristle made their music more interesting, whereas Psychic TV became more and more Gen’s project. Can’t really say though, I was buying fewer and fewer records, so don’t have any Psychic TV to compare with Throbbing Gristle.

I think part of the attraction of Psychic TV was their total ‘myth and ritual’ approach, like that of Crass, and even Hawkwind and maybe the Grateful Dead. That what you got was not just a bit of noise on a record, you got a whole lifestyle and ideology.

Certainly, there was a lot of cross-links between us anarcho-goth-punks and Psychic TV.

In 1984 I remember us all going to Psychic TV gigs at a squatted synagogue in Drayton Park, at Hammersmith Town Hall and at Heaven in Covent Garden.

And of course, a further cross-link between us anarcho-goth-punks and Psychic TV was when All The Madmen Records, of which I was a part of,  released the Zos Kia’s ‘Rape’ 7″ single – sleeve artwork on the cover showing a pierced willy, which got faded down a bit to make it less obvious. 

Zos Kia were John Gosling and Geoff Rushton, both Psychic TV members, along with Min. The record engineered by Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV.

But the further detailed Zos Kia tale is for another day… 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *