As a Chelsea teenager with a job at Led Zeppelin‘s Swansong Records, Dan Treacy began Television Personalities in the mid-’70s with school friends Ed Ball and ‘Slaughter’ Joe Foster.
They were initially a successful exercise in no-budget independence but spent the rest of their career being critically lauded and commercially ignored. But their story was never short of drama . . .
Despite the upbeat, often cutesy, arrangements of their jangly anthems, singer-songwriter Dan Treacy often used Television Personalities as an outlet for his feelings of depression and under-achievement.
He set out his stall in 1978 with Part-Time Punks, a sniggering nursery rhyme satire from the Where’s Bill Grundy Now? EP, aimed at provincial kids on the Kings Road who “come from silly places, come down for the day”. The track was championed by BBC disc jockey John Peel which, in turn, attracted the attention of the Rough Trade label.
Crossing ’60s pop and psychedelia with the amateurishness of Jonathan Richman, the Television Personalities went on to create seven LPs of snappy, idiosyncratic English pop, from 1981’s And Don’t The Kids Just Love It to 1995’s I Was A Mod Before You Was A Mod.
The band were fêted by everyone from Alan McGee (founder of Creation Records) to Kurt Cobain and recorded such seminal works of greatness as I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives.
Ball spent the majority of his time with other projects, most notably The Teenage Filmstars, eventually leaving to form The Times.
Treacy, meanwhile, added bassist Mark Flunder and organist Dave Musker in 1982, with Flunder soon replaced by former Swell Maps and Slaughter Joe bassist Jowe Head.
Following 1985’s The Painted Word, the Television Personalities took several years off, regrouping in 1990 with Treacy, Head, and ex-Slaughter Joe drummer Jeff Bloom.
Dan Treacy disappeared in the late ’90s only to be rediscovered seemingly abandoned, aboard the prison ship HMP The Weare in Dorset. He had been in and out of jail four times for petty offences related to his problems with alcohol, amphetamines and heroin – and to his ongoing mental health issues (he was sectioned briefly in the 80s).
Undeterred, he emerged from chokey to resume his career with the 2006 album My Dark Places. Although the album was clumsily executed, Treacy was reunited with sidekick Edward Ball for the first time since 1982’s psychedelic lollipop Mummy, You’re Not Watching Me.
The results (such as Sick Again and She Can Stop Traffic) suggested that – despite concerted efforts – Treacy hasn’t squandered all of his talents just yet.