Mark Perry - Smash The Computers
"I'll tell you what's wrong with the youth of today: they don't know boredom. We didn't have a telly in our bedroom. We had to beg our parents to be able to watch TOTP or TOGWT. We used to listen to transistor radios under the sheets & listen to the same 10 records we had on poxy record players. We were so bored & frustrated that it gave us time to build up our determination & do something about it. Back then there was a real Establishment, men in suits & bowler hats, a genuine cultural divide. Now it's all blurred" Mark Perry, Open Up & Bleed Fanzine, 2000.
Mark Perry left his job as a bank clerk & started punk fanzine, Sniffin Glue (& Other Rock & Roll Habits), in July 1976 after seeing The Ramones. He took the name Mark P to avoid getting bubbled by DHSS sniffers (a popular paranoid pass time for 1st wave punks which just goes to show how fuckin different things were back then). In early 1977, Mark started Step Forward Records with help from Miles Copeland. Home of The Fall, Sham 69, Chelsea & The Cortinas - the first 10 Step Forward 45's remain the best examples of real UK street punk 1977. Mark also helped out with Miles' other labels, Deptford Fun City & Illegal.
In March of 1977, Mark formed Alternative TV, debuting at the Nottingham punk festival in May of that year. Their first single, the skanking white reggae of "Love Lie Limp", was a freebie with Issue 12 of Sniffin Glue in August 1977.
An aborted demo session for EMI left ATV searching for a label of their own. Deptford Fun City, already home to the affable Squeeze, stepped forward & ATV released, "How Much Longer"/"You Bastard", in Dec 1977. Two versions of this seminal 45 exist, both different recordings, both with slightly different picture sleeves (all 4 songs are available on the Cherry Red re-issue of "The Image Has Cracked").
May 1978 saw the release of ATV's debut lp, "The Image Has Cracked". Part live & part studio, the lp was destined to become one of the most accurate social documents of its time. Amongst the sterling collection of Perry originals was a striking cover of Zappa's "Why Don't You do Me Right?", which the band reinvented with their direct approach. A guest appearance from Squeeze's Jools Holland on "Viva La Rock & Roll", remains the cockney cultural chameleons finest recorded moment - in spite of everything he's done since (or should that read because of). "The Image Has Cracked" still means more than a 1000 Nevermind The Bollocks put together.
"Image.." was duly followed by a trio of classic ATV 45's; Firstly, the dubtastic, "Life After Life" b/w "Life After Dub", which reflected the prevailing influence of rastafarian culture on the UK's inner cities far more effectively than covering "Police & Thieves". Secondly, the cynically anger soaked, "Life", a molotov hurled in the direction of a fragmenting scene; "Life's about as wonderful as a record mart, I don't like selling albums but I don't want to go to work." Finally, a re-recorded version of "Action Time Vision", & it's vicious b-side, "Another Coke"; "I'm fed up with living in a world where masturbation means something deep."
Following disappointing associations with hippies, Here & Now, & worrying ventures into the avant garde with the "Vibing Up The Senile Man" lp & the "Force is Blind" 45, ATV broke up for the first time in 1979. Bored with punk, Mark Perry continued to move further into the art rock enclave of the time, working with Genesis P Orridge & Throbbing Gristle - playing live as The Good Missionaries. In 1980, Mark released a solo lp, "Snappy Turns", & drummed for The Lemon Kittens amongst others. ATV briefly reformed in 1981 to record the "Strange Kicks" lp for Miles Copelands Illegal Records.
Mark Perry continued to form & disband ATV almost at will over the ensuing 20 odd years, recording lp's & 45's as he went. Most of the best moments have been collected for posterity on Cherry Red's, "The Best of Mark Perry & ATV", which any self respecting non-sell-out should own without reservation. In 1996 Mark provided the text for Erica Echenberg's, "And God Created Punk", a visual history of the 1st wave of insurrection, published (somewhat ironically) by Virgin. In 2000, Sanctuary Books published "Sniffin Glue: The Essential Punk Accessory", a compendium of all issues of the fanzine, together with acres of new text & photos. In the same way that it is impossible to fit every punter that claims to have been present on the night @ The Screen On The Green to witness that legendary Pistols performance live, many of us old enough to have been there at the time can now enjoy every issue of Sniffin Glue for the first time - as the man says, essential.
Mark Perry is Punk Rock, he may feel punk is now a retro scene & that it's time for the kids to pick up the challenge with something new, but we all need signposts to get around, don't we?. Next time you see a header card in a CD rack that says Alternative TV, buy them all & follow your heart. It always worked for Mark Perry, punk legend.
trackMARX - You've previously cited your generation's lack of available entertainment as a catalyst for punk. Are today's teenagers too complacent to revolt into style?
MARK - Today's young people have a lot more access to their music than we did in the 70s. There are too many TV pop programs MTV etc), radio stations, magazines etc. There does not seem to be an 'underground' anymore. I think that some of the metal/ hardcore/ industrial scene still has an edge to it.
trackMARX - Much has been made of Antony Wilson's "what goes around comes around" theory. Has any music come close to replicating the levels of excitement you experienced in 1976/77?
MARK - Punk was exciting in 1976 because it seemed to follow a period of lethargy in rock music. In retrospect that was not exactly the case. Punk was also exciting to me at the time because I was 19. When you're in your 40s you listen to music in a different way. For example, most hip-hop sounds shit to me but it's a way of life for thousands. Also, whether is relevant or not, Tony Wilson is a wanker and always has been. I think he was one of those I was having a go at in 'Another Coke'.
trackMARX - ATV always survived with their integrity intact. Who, of your fellow 1st wavers, do you consider remained loyal to "the cause"?
MARK - I think John Lydon has done well considering the enormous amount of pressure he was under. Also Vic Godard, although he's probably a bit to vacant to 'sell-out'.
trackMARX - In retrospect, Step Forward Records produced some of the most vital punk rock ever made. How much of a roll did you play in that process?
MARK - I was involved in signing most of the Step Forward acts. I only produced the first two singles - Chelsea & the Cortinas - but stuck my nose into most of the others as well. I was going to produce the first Sham 69 single with John Cale but he chucked me out of the studio for bringing the band a crate of beer!
trackMARX - You once said, "I'm fed up with living in a world where masturbation means something deep." How do you feel society has coped with the changes in sexual expression over the last 25 years & would you still settle for "another coke" given it's modern implication?
MARK - I think 'society' is fine with regards sexual expression. At the end of the day most people get on with what the want to get on with. My lyric was mostly aimed at the pretentious art crowd who are always trying to read more into everyday normal events in order to blow their own trumpet. I don't think coke would be good for me in whatever form.
trackMARX - ATV always seemed to be falling apart from the inside, teetering on the brink? What were the causes of friction within the band & do you still communicate with ex-members?
MARK - I love my ex-members! I can be very difficult to work with at times. People have usually 'left' the band because they didn't fit in with my plans at that time or were fucking up so badly that they just had to go. Most of them have remained friends, some have even rejoined the band.
trackMARX - ATV embraced the experimental side of punk early, on working with Genesis P Orridge amongst others. Who would you site as an influence during this period?
MARK - I became incredibly jealous of Genesis after I met him because Throbbing Gristle were so perfect. Everything seemed to be done so well, and with so much style. He was definitely an influence on me as were Zappa, Can, Eno and some of the avant-garde jazz people.
trackMARX - Your famous quote that punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS gains more credibility with each passing year. In hindsight, are you happier being a cult hero than an ex R&R gunslinger who cant get arrested?
MARK - Of course, it would have been nice to have the sort of choices that the Clash had but, at the end of the day, I think that my position in the scheme of things has defined my work/'cult' status. I.e: I wouldn't be me if I'd have done it differently.
trackMARX - How did you feel about the recent Clash & Pistols documentaries?
MARK - I thought that the Filth & the Fury was excellent and, at times, quite moving. Although, the filming of the recent interviews in shadow was nonsense. It was a typically pretentious film maker's device which was just annoying. The Clash film was disappointing, it might as well been about the Eagles. It didn't really get across just what an important band they were. You would have thought they would have done a better job with Don Letts at the helm.
trackMARX - I read recently that Paul Simonon holds Sandy Pearlman responsible for "fucking up our music". Do you feel this statement compounds your original fears?
MARK - No, because, in my opinion, the songs on 'Give'em Enough Rope' were flawed. The band had lost their way, they were feeling the pressure. True, they were no longer a garage band but that's hardly the producer's fault. Once the Clash realised that they weren't a 'punk' band anymore they came back in fine form with 'London Calling'.
trackMARX - What was working with Steve Albini like? Are you a big fan of his own music?
MARK - I only worked the Steve for one day and he had a migraine at the time - really - but he seemed to know what he was doing. I haven't heard much of his stuff although I do own an album he recorded for Whitehouse.
trackMARX - You were associated with Alan McGee in the mid 80's, playing his Living Room Club, what did you make of Creation Records & has Poptones worked for you?
MARK - Creation Records had it's moments but Alan put out too many of his mate's records, which were mostly rubbish. Primal Scream are ridiculously overrated although Oasis made some good records. I haven't heard much of the Poptones stuff although I think that the covers look awful. They seemed to be falling into that ironic retro trap in which everything ends up looking like 70s wallpaper.
trackMARX - The collected Sniffin Glues are still the definitive word on Punk. Have you read anything else that puts it's finger so close to the pulse, & if so, what?
MARK - I don't think anything comes remotely close to 'Sniffin' Glue'. Caroline Coon in her '1988' book (Omnibus Press) gives the best journalistic angle, basically because, like me, she was there. The Jon Savage (who was also there) tome is also good as a 'history'.
trackMARX - This January saw you play at CBGB's for Punk Magazine's anniversary party. What were the highlights of that trip & when can we expect the CD to come out?
MARK - I love New York and it was great to play at CBGB's at last. The place was a dump but it did have a certain charm. It was good to meet up with some old faces - notably Lenny Kaye, Dick Manitoba and Vivian Goldman - who I hadn't seen in awhile. We recorded all of out NYC gigs (6 in all) for a possible live CD on ROIR. It will probably be out in September.
trackMARX - What contemporary acts float your boat today?
MARK - I mostly listen to 70s stuff although I do like some current Death & Doom metal like Nile and Cathedral. I also listen to noise stuff like Whitehouse. They new CD - 'Cruise' - is excellent.
trackMARX - What are you currently up to & what can we expect to see from Mark P in the future?
MARK - Alternative TV have just finished recording their new studio album - 'Revolution' - which will be out in August on the Public Domain label. We will also be doing a UK tour in August to promote it. Later in the year we'll probably be off to the States again and possibly Europe. I'm also working on a solo album for release later in the year on Overground. All CD and tour details will be posted on my site: www.markperry.freeuk.com