Mark Perry was a bank clerk by day and a punk fan by night, putting his talents to good use by creating and producing the fanzine Sniffin’ Glue. But despite the success of Glue, he was sick of writing about other people and longed to be the one being written about.
His band, the New Beatles, were coming to the end of their own long and winding road with little to show for it, and so Alternative TV was born, in March 1977.
Featuring Perry on vocals, ex-Generation X drummer John Towe, Mickey Smith (bass), and former Nobodies guitarist Alex Fergusson, the band rehearsed at Throbbing Gristle’s studios in Hackney before making their live debut on May 6, 1977 in Nottingham.
That first line-up splintered almost immediately with Smith swapped for New Beatle Tyrone Thomas, and on June 5 ATV opened for Wayne County’s Electric Chairs in Brighton. Six gigs later, Towe quit, but not before ATV released their first single, “Love Lies Limp,” as a free flexidisc with the final, August 1977 issue of Glue.
Towe was replaced by Chris Bennett, and in this form the band continued to gig, at the same time as preparing the ground for their debut album. The Image Has Cracked, appeared the following spring.
Singles “Action Time Vision” and “Life After Life” followed, together with the archive Towe-era “Life,” but ATV were changing first, as Perry rocketed on toward the Throbbing Gristle sound which by now captivated him.
By the time of Vibing Up the Senile Man (Part One), the second ATV album, and its accompanying single, “The Force Is Blind,” only Perry remained from the original band; only bassist Dennis Burns remained from any of those who had followed. And, of ATV’s original, punk-era press disciples, even Sounds found the album unlistenable.
Unperturbed, Perry took the new album out on the road, but an end of sorts was in sight. In March 1979, on-stage at Chelmsford, ATV called it a day.
ATV reunited in 1981, with Fergusson back on board, and in 1999, Perry celebrated the release of his 20th album, under the born-yet-again name of Alternative TV.