Decades on, TV Smith returns to his teenage roots
He was one of the original punks and TV Smith remains committed to the revolutionary spirit that shook up the modern music scene in the late 1970s.
TV, or Tim to his friends, left the Westcountry back in 1976 with local girl Gaye Balsden. They moved to London where they formed The Adverts – one of the leading bands in the first wave of British punk rock.
Now a solo artist who plays 120 gigs a year all around the world, later this month Tim finally makes his Westcountry debut in Bideford, the North Devon town where Gaye – who is still his partner – grew up.
Tim was from further south in Okehampton, where his parents, both teachers, decided to move the family when he was about nine years old.
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"I know that part of the country really well and it's nice to eventually play a gig there," he says.
"When I was a teenager in Okehampton, there was nothing going on at all. Every couple of months, if someone with a car was willing to drive, we would travel to Plymouth or Exeter to see a live band."
After school Tim went to study art in Torquay, where he met Gaye, taught her to play the bass, and started a band together. She shared his feelings of stagnation, as well as his spirit of adventure, and as soon as they finished college, the pair moved to London.
"It was exactly at the time when punk was hitting; there was this great spark about the place," he recalls. "Normal kids had had no way of expressing themselves before. No matter what anyone says about the punk movement, it was a fantastic time for creative energy, especially for kids who had dead-end lives.
"Punk rock is a very positive thing. It's another release for all that stuff that either festers inside or comes out in a bad way."
The Adverts – TV and Gaye, plus Howard Boak (Howard Pickup) and Laurie Muscat (Laurie Driver) – quickly gained a cult following, performing Tim's politically charged songs at a regular slot at the Roxy Club in London. Underground success with the Stiff Records single One Chord Wonders turned to notoriety with their next release.
Gary Gilmore's Eyes became a huge hit record, leading to radio and television appearances and extensive media interest. A further single, No Time To Be 21, also entered the charts, and the band spent the rest of the year playing live, including major tours with The Damned and Iggy Pop.
The album that followed in 1978, Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts, is still considered a genuine classic, and appears in many top ten punk album lists.
The Adverts released one further LP, Cast Of Thousands, before their split in 1979.
Gaye quit making music altogether to concentrate on her art, while TV Smith's Explorers were born, achieving a UK hit with the single Tomahawk Cruise and released one album, Last Words Of The Great Explorer.
But then Tim found himself in the music business wilderness.
"I was that guy who had been signed by two major labels but couldn't provide another hit," he recalls. "I wrote and recorded 50 songs and took them in to labels and they just weren't interested.
"I was only 22 and I was looked upon as finished already."
But, of course, he wasn't finished at all.
"It was a bizarre situation and I just had to be bull-headed and push through," he says.
He formed a band called Cheap who would play benefit gigs for "just about anything" just for the chance to get out there.
Tim performed his first gigs as a solo artist in the early 1990s and has never stopped writing, recording and performing ever since.
He has released a succession of critically acclaimed albums, including March Of The Giants (1992), Immortal Rich (1995), Generation Y (1999), Not A Bad Day (2003), Misinformation Overload (2006), In The Arms Of My Enemy (2008), and last year's Coming In To Land.
Tim still finds plenty to write about. "Poverty, war and unhappiness are still there; in fact, the world is in a worse state than it was in 1977," he says. "The question is trying to find a way to write about it without being a miserable, grumpy, moany old man.
"I try to find some poetry in it all, use it as a lever to make some art and shed some light on things."
The cult artist has come full circle. Fiercely independent, he travels the world alone, bringing his epic solo show to ever-increasing audiences.
He plays his marathon concerts – sometimes up to three hours long – without a setlist and every performance is tailored to the night, the place, the crowd – from the US, Japan, Australia, South America, and across Europe. He has just finished a six- week European tour supporting the UK Subs, who are due to return to Bideford later this year. In a few weeks' time he will make his debut in Argentina and Ecuador.
But first it's back to Bideford, and minus Gaye, who will be attending a black metal festival called Inferno in Oslo that night. There will, however, be two up-and-coming local acts that will be supporting – The Verbals and Quiet Hooligans.
TV Smith plays at the Palladium Club, Bideford (01237 478860) on Good Friday, March 29. Doors open at 8pm and the first support band is on at 8.45pm.