The Adverts TV Smith on “Cast Of Thousands”
“Cast Of Thousands - Ultimate Edition” (Devil’s Jukebox SDEVIL 905)
Devil’s Jukebox complete their overhaul of The Adverts’ back catalogue with this stunning finale. Originally released to muted response back in October 1979, the production has been a bone of contention ever since. Thankfully, these concerns can now be laid to rest as the sound has been re-mastered to the extent that the sleeve sticker states emphatically: “AS IT WAS MEANT TO SOUND”.
The artwork has been tinkered with the original white background has been blacked out - the booklet features definitive notes from TV Smith, additional notes from Henry Rollins, lyrics & several previously unseen photographs. Also present & correct is a bonus disc featuring the complete Adverts radio sessions worth the cover price alone.
Musically, “Cast Of Thousands” is as brave, visionary & poignant as it was 26 years ago. A wide-screen director’s cut of the basic Adverts sound. I’ve always loved this LP & have continually struggled to understand exactly why it was so critically mauled on its original release. The songs are marvellous throughout, the arrangements atmospheric & compelling. Lyrically, Tim Smith was at the top of his game. At the end of the day, maybe The Adverts were just too real to survive in a dog eat dog world that was too busy gearing up for Two Tone & New Romanticism to worry about things like talent, integrity or diversity.
“Cast Of Thousands” turned out to be the last Adverts LP before TV set sail across the red sea once again, bound for relative obscurity with his Explorers. The Adverts left 2 studio LPs behind, 7 45s, several live recordings & 18 radio session tracks. Thanks to Devil’s Jukebox, this slender catalogue is yours to treasure once again.
Jean Encoule Talks To TV Smith:
trakMARX - The release of “Cast Of Thousands” on Devil’s Jukebox completes The Adverts back catalogue at last. You must be very happy with the way these releases have shaped up. They look & sound fantastic.
TV Smith - Yeah, that was the idea. The Adverts only made two albums but most of the re-releases up until now were done without consulting me, they were often badly mastered and in shoddy packaging. I wanted to get the real definitive versions of those records out and spent a lot of time working on the sound, track-listing, and making sure the cover and booklets were good. The “Cast” cover for example, was notoriously horrible. It was our first record with a major label and they wouldn’t let me use the cover picture I originally wanted (the burning war protester that many years later ended up as the front cover of a Rage Against The Machine album) and instead set up a photo shoot with the band which they explained would be in the dark, beams of light picking out our faces making us look “mean and moody.” But of course they shafted us and delivered a cover which made us look like some cheap shit pop band. For this re-release I obviously couldn’t use the war protester concept as it’s already been done but I tried to get the cover some way back to how the second idea was described to us, and packed the booklet with lyrics, liner notes and photos.
trakMARX - Why has it taken so long to get “COT” out there?
TV Smith - Basically lack of demand. You’ve got to remember that “Cast” was immensely disliked, derided even, by most people on its original release. It’s only in the last five years or so that people have been coming back to the album and re-appraising it. At the same time, I got together with Devil’s Own Jukebox and we put together the project of re-releasing both Adverts albums and also the definitive “Best Of” which came out last year as the “Adverts Anthology.”
trakMARX - “As It Was Meant To Sound” - says the sticker on the front. Can you tell us about the re-mastering process & why ‘it didn’t sound like it was meant to sound’ the first time.
TV Smith - Well, as a twenty-two year old in 1979 I didn’t have much experience of recording and the mastering process. It was a complete mystery to me back then why the vinyl sounded so different from the way the record had sounded while we were recording it. It’s only in the years since then that I’ve found out how much a good - or bad - mastering job can affect the way a record sounds and now I really take a lot of care about that part of the recording. For “Cast” I took the record to the best mastering engineer I know, a guy called Michel Schwabe who works for Monoposto in Germany, and asked him what he could do to try and recover the way the record was supposed to sound. I think he did a really good job on it, there’s a lot of detail and clarity back in the mix and it comes jumping out of the speakers.
trakMARX - What were the key factors behind the expansion of The Adverts sound between “Red Sea” & “COT”?
TV Smith - Restlessness. With “Red Sea” we’d achieved exactly what we set out to do, and didn’t want to repeat ourselves. So I wrote a batch of songs that were very awkward, untypical punk numbers, we augmented our sound with additional instruments and we played around with production and arrangements - anything to push the limits past what we’d already done.
trakMARX - Did the broadening of yr musical horizons have any relation to the collapse of the original punk movement?
TV Smith - Only in as far as punk collapsed because it became conservative. Once it was established what punk was “supposed to sound like” over the course of the first year or so after it started everyone became scared to do anything different in case they lost their money-spinning punk audience. We tried something new and predictably did lose our audience - but at least we had the thrill of going out on a limb and experimenting.
trakMARX - What led to the line up changes between “Red Sea” & “COT”?
TV Smith - After a year or so of continual touring the band had become a fairly dysfunctional unit. Gaye and Laurie, for example, could hardly bear to be in the same room as each other, let alone a minibus travelling all over Europe. So Laurie was the first to go, and we replaced him with Rod Latter from the Maniacs. That was the only change during the “Cast” period. We actually felt pretty good about ourselves and the line-up while we were recording, there was a breath of fresh air in the band with a new drummer on board. Then while we were recording we met Tim Cross who came in to play some keyboards and decided to have him in the band as a permanent member. All the subsequent line-up changes happened when the band started to fall apart after the release - and commercial failure - of the record.
trakMARX - Lyrically, “COT” still stands head & shoulders above the contemporary competition. Was this the pinnacle of The Adverts creativity for you?
TV Smith - It’s hard for me to say, I’m really happy with the “Red Sea” lyrics as well. I was definitely pushing the lyrics on “Cast” into places pop songs don’t usually go.
trakMARX - I think “I Surrender” is the most beautiful song you’ve ever written. Would you agree with that?
TV Smith - Thank you. It was hard to write a song like that in those days. As a punk rocker you were not supposed to admit to your moments of weakness, doubt or negativity - so I decided to write a song full of it. But in actual fact, I suppose it’s not a million miles away from shouting “The Wonders Don’t Care!” - the beauty is in the idea of letting go.
trakMARX - The bonus CD features “The Complete Radio Sessions”. Is this a re-mastered version of the “The Wonders Don’t Care” CD set?
TV Smith - It’s the same album - it was actually really well mastered in the first place so we didn’t need to do any more work on it.
trakMARX - And finally, are there any more unheard Adverts recordings in the archives that are likely to see the light of day (out-takes, etc)?
TV Smith - As far as I know this completes the Adverts story. I don’t know of anything else of releasable quality out there. Of course there are the odd dodgy rehearsal tapes and that kind of thing but I think they’re better filtering around the bootleg market for people who absolutely must have that kind of thing. At any rate, everything we recorded in a studio is now available (over three CD sets) and I’m very happy about it. It’s only taken 25 years to get it right!
Also available in this series:
“Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts” (SDEVIL 901CD)
“The Adverts Anthology” (SDEVIL 904CD)
Jean Encoule tMx 18 02/05