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Television Personalities

Britain's Television Personalities enjoyed one of the new wave era's longest, most erratic and most far-reaching careers. Over the course of a musical evolution which led them from wide-eyed, shambling pop to the outer reaches of psychedelia and back, the group directly influenced virtually every major pop uprising of the period, with artists as diverse as feedback virtuosos the Jesus and Mary Chain, twee-pop titans the Pastels and lo-fi kingpins Pavement readily acknowledging the TVPs' inspiration. The Television Personalities were the brainchild of singer/songwriter Dan Treacy, who grew so inspired by the nascent punk movement that he recorded a 1977 single, "14th Floor," with his friends in the group O Level. The BBC's John Peel became a vocal supporter of the group -- soon dubbed the Television Personalities -- and a year later they issued an EP, Where's Bill Grundy Now?, which featured their lone hit, "Part-Time Punks." Always a loose-knit group, the first relatively stable TVP line-up consisted of Treacy, organist vocalist Ed Ball and guitarist Joe Foster, who recorded the band's 1980 debut And Don't the Kids Just Love It, a step into psychedelic pop typified by songs like "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives." Treacy and Ball soon founded their own label, Whaam! (later renamed Dreamworld after threats from George Michael's attorneys), to issue 1981's Mummy Your Not Watching Me, which made the Personalities one of the figureheads of a London psychedelia revival. Ball exited around the time of the release of 1982's They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles, a collection of re-recordings along with renditions of the Creation's "Making Time" and "Painter Man." 1984's dark, moody The Painted Word was followed by the 1985 live set Chocolat-Art, by which point the TVPs were in dire straits; broke and without a label, the group could do little but infrequently perform live for several years, and were forced to watch the C-86/anorak pop groundswell -- a movement they directly presaged -- from the sidelines. Comprised of Treacy, ex-Swell Map Jowe Head and drummer Jeffrey Bloom, the band finally won a contract with Fire Records in 1989, and resurfaced later that year with the EP Salvador Dali's Garden Party, followed in 1990 by the mod-flavored Privilege. After a handful of singles and EPs, the Television Personalities issued the 1992 double-LP Closer to God; despite critical approval, the album failed to find an audience, and Treacy reportedly fell prey to depression and drug problems. After several more years of occasional singles, they issued the harrowing I Was a Mod Before You Was a Mod, followed in 1996 by Top Gear. Treacy went missing in the summer of 1998; his whereabouts currently remain unknown. Jason Ankeny

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