red records | 7″ rs003 | 1980
There appears to be a television theme running through Daniel Miller‘s work between 1978 and 1980. First (of course) there was Mute‘s first move, his single ‘T.V.O.D.’ as The Normal; Silicon Teens, his fake synth group, had a track called ‘TV Playtime’ and Missing Scientists, who Miller produced for their single ‘Bright Lights Big City’ were better known as The Television Personalities. Alex Fergusson, whose ‘Stay With Me Tonight’ Miller produced under his Larry Least alias in 1980, was a founder member of Alternative TV. If nothing else, this release proves that too much TV is not necessarily a bad thing, despite what the health professionals might say.
Alternative TV were formed by Mark ‘Sniffin’ Glue’ Perry and Fergusson, a Scottish guitarist. The debut release by the nascent ATV was a flexi (‘Love Lives Limp’) given away with the last issue of Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue punk fanzine in 1977. Shortly after, following a couple of 7″ singles, Perry sacked Fergusson and cast his original collaborator aside. Fergusson went on to join Sid Vicious biographers Fred and Judy Vermorel’s brainchild, the band Cash Pussies (with Alan Gruner, model Diana Rich and Ray Weston); Cash Pussies released one single, ‘99% Is Shit’ which featured clips of Sid Vicious being interviewed, and withered away like the Vermorel-constructed act they were. In 1981, Fergusson formed Psychic TV (aka Psychick TV) with Genesis P. Orridge (who had been a sometime ATV percussionist) and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, after the initial demise of Throbbing Gristle. TG had contacted Fergusson when they were working on the soundtrack to the Vermorels’ Millions Like Us movie, asking him to assist with the music they were creating.
1980’s solo Fergusson 7″ on Red, ‘Stay With Me Tonight’, sounds a million miles from those punk / industrial roots. Featuring Fergusson on vocals and Gruner on synths, the track is a pretty, out-and-out synthpop track that provides no clue whatsoever to the harsh cerebral onslaught that Psychic TV would create. Quite how Daniel / Larry got on board is hard to understand, but it perhaps serves to highlight how intertwined the punk / post-punk landscape in the UK was. (Gruner would go on to work with Bonnie Tyler; we won’t talk about that.) The synths on both tracks distinctly sound Miller-esque, both from Fad Gadget and Depeche Mode records; it wouldn’t surprise me if perhaps they were Miller’s synths. No details are provided on where this was recorded or who else worked with Miller / Fergusson / Gruner on this, but it’s feasible that this is a Blackwing / Eric Radcliffe / John Fryer affair like the Missing Scientists 7″.
‘Stay With Me Tonight’ (copyrighted to 1979) has a steady, thudding beat and some brilliant arpeggiating synths plus a beat on the chorus that Depeche Mode would definitely borrow for ‘Dreaming Of Me’. The way some of the synths get filtered from subtle background noises to foreground flashes is good too; it’s an effect that acid house and techno would repeat ad infinitum, but it’s nice to hear it deployed on a synth pop track. Fergusson’s vocal has a certain naivety, an unpolished, nasal youthfulness which is about the only ‘punk’ quality this song has; punk in the sense that it sounds like he’s not a singer in the trained sense. Overall, it’s a nice, upbeat and forgotten synth pop track and I really like the transition from flat-out verses to sparse choruses, which sounds like a Miller trick to me.
The less we say about the name of the B-side, ‘Brushing Your Hair’, the better. The track is a too-short synth instrumental, co-written by Fergusson, Gruner and Miller. The drums have a Krautrock quality while electronic squiggles reminiscent of the percussion on Depeche Mode’s ‘Nodisco’ have prominence in the foreground. Meanwhile, a wavering keyboard riff that was appropriated and expanded for Fad Gadget’s ‘Ricky’s Hand’ makes a brief appearance. This track has Daniel Miller’s handiwork in major evidence, and it’s worth tracking this down for the B-side alone.
A. Stay With Me Tonight
B. Brushing Your Hair
First published 2011; edited 2014
(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence