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The Adverts

1976 was the year that around a dozen Brit punk acts emerged from the pack; among them, London’s The ADVERTS were tipped for great things, identified as they were by shout-y lead singer, (Tim) TV Smith, and one of the genre’s first female icons, the sultry “goth” bassist Gaye Advert (aka Gaye Black, his future wife). Enlisting guitarist Howard Pickup (did he have to change his punk-esque surname from Boak?) and drummer Laurie Driver (aka Muscat), the second division punk quartet performed intermittently at infamous Covent Garden punk club, The Roxy, appearing on that year’s various artists compilation with their first recording, `Bored Teenagers’.
Subsequently signing a one-off single deal with Stiff Records through the help of headline group, The DAMNED, the outfit released their self explanatory `One Chord Wonders’ around the same spring period. While the track generated some interest, it was the amphetamine rush of `Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ that launched the hard-grafting ADVERTS into the Top 20. Based on the behest of the notorious death row inmate to have his eyes donated to science, the single predictably caused a minor furore in the tabloid press. Yet despite this publicity, the group’s follow-up, `Safety In Numbers’, flopped, when also released for Anchor Records.
Major label muscle courtesy of C.B.S. subsidiary Bright Records led to third single, `No Time To Be 21’, and their accompanying debut album, CROSSING THE RED SEA WITH THE ADVERTS (1978) {*8}, both denting the Top 40. Bristling with the aforementioned new wave anthems, plus `On The Roof’, `Great British Mistake’ and `Bombsite Boy’, the angst-ridden nihilism of TV Smith and crew had at least rallied their war-cry among the big guns of British punk.
The first of many personnel upheavals came with John Towe (formerly of ALTERNATIVE TV and GENERATION X), but his brief tenure was to last only a matter of a few months when drummer Rod Latter was preferred; Tim Cross (of MIKE OLDFIELD’s band) was duly added as fifth man and keyboard/synth player after a couple of singles for RCA Victor (namely `Television’s Over’ and `My Place’) went awry. The general consensus was that The ADVERTS had failed to capture the energy of their live shows in the studio and an increasingly mainstream sound and attitude ensured that CAST OF THOUSANDS (1979) {*6}, and its attendant flop 45s would sink without trace. As line-up changes dogged the band as they went through a succession of drummers, Spinal Tap-style (Rod was duly replaced by Rick Martinez, brother of fresh bassist and Laurie’s deputy, Paul Martinez – from CHICKEN SHACK), it seemed they were fast blowing the remnants of their dissipating street cred. Following the tragic accidental electrocution of manager, Michael Dempsey, TV and Gaye finally threw in the towel in late ‘79 and embarked on solo projects. The singer formed TV SMITH’S EXPLORERS (with Cross) before ploughing a singer/songwriter vein, releasing a debut solo effort, “Channel 5”, in 1983. Absent from the mainstream music scene for most of the 80s, SMITH re-emerged in 1992 on Cooking Vinyl Records with “March Of The Giants”. Follow-ups such as “Immortal Rich” (1995) and “Generation Y” (1999), kept the Romford-born singer in the retro-punk spotlight, although clearly fans were still counting the days of an ADVERTS reunion; Howard would sadly die on 11th July 1997, and Tim Cross almost exactly 15 years later.
© MC Strong 1994-2003/GRD // rev-up MCS Nov2013

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