Mark Perry in New York City, 2003
Rob Ugly - Lee McFadden
Alternative TV (sometimes known as ATV) are an English band formed in London in 1977. Author Steve Taylor writes: "Alternative TV pioneered reggae rhythms in punk and then moved on to redefine the musical rules".
Alternative TV were formed by Mark Perry, the founding editor of Sniffin' Glue, a punk fanzine, with Alex Fergusson. The name is a play on the name of Associated Television, a British broadcaster also known as ATV. Early rehearsals took place at Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records studio with Genesis P-Orridge on drums (recordings from this period appeared, long afterwards, on the Industrial Sessions CD). The band's first live appearance was in Nottingham supporting The Adverts.
The band's debut on record was "Love Lies Limp", a free flexi disc issued with the final edition of Perry's Sniffin' Glue fanzine. For their first two singles Perry and Fergusson were accompanied by drummer John Towe (ex-Generation X) and Tyrone Thomas on bass; Towe later left to join The Rage and was replaced by Chris Bennett. This line-up was the most straightforwardly 'punk' version of ATV, although they combined short, fast songs with extended pieces such as "Alternatives to NATO", in which Perry read an anarchist political text and envisaged the possibility of a Soviet invasion of Britain. Shortly afterwards they released the "How Much Longer"/"You Bastard" 7" in December 1977. The A-side was a pointed critique of punk style: "How much longer will people wear/Nazi armbands and dye their hair?"
At the end of 1977, Perry sacked his chief collaborator and co-writer Fergusson. The latter went on to form the short-lived Cash Pussies and, a few years later, Psychic TV along with Genesis P-Orridge. Tyrone Thomas switched to guitar, later replaced by Kim Turner, while Dennis Burns joined on bass. A dub-influenced single, "Life After Life", was released, followed by the band's debut album, The Image Has Cracked, both featuring Jools Holland guesting on piano.
By the end of 1978, only Perry and Burns remained from the previous line-up, although ATV used additional musicians live and in the studio. The band's second album, Vibing Up the Senile Man (Part One), saw the band take a more explicitly experimental direction, which alienated both the music press and audiences. A recording of one gig which ended in a violent stage invasion can be heard on the cassette-only release Scars on Sunday. A live LP was released, documenting their tour with commune-dwelling progressive band Here and Now, marking the band's further movement away from the punk/new wave scene. A final single "The Force Is Blind" featured Anno from Here and Now on additional vocals.
Alternative TV soon evolved into the avant-garde project The Good Missionaries (taking the name from a track on the Vibing album), releasing one live album, Fire From Heaven, in 1979. Perry also joined the experimental duo The Door and the Window, releasing some EPs and a studio album, Detailed Twang. The following year, Perry released a solo album, Snappy Turns, before he, Burns and Fergusson briefly reformed Alternative TV along with former members of Fergusson's Cash Pussies in 1981. The reconstituted ATV released one album, Strange Kicks, a venture into light pop songs unlike any of their previous work, produced by Richard Mazda. The album was indifferently received, while a contemporary review by AllMusic panned the album, writing that the record, along with ATV's later work, "[falls] a little flat amidst the confusion and veer[s] closer to the new wave sound than most punks would dare to venture."
From 1981 to 1982 Perry had a new project, The Reflections, a band with Nag from The Door and the Window, Karl Blake (of The Lemon Kittens) and Grant Showbiz, among others. They released one album, Slugs and Toads, and a single, "4 Countries", before disintegrating.
Perry reformed ATV in 1985. This line up started with Karl Blake, Steve Cannell and Allison Philips. Martin 'Protag' Neish and then Clive Giblin featured later on guitar and ATV released further records over the following decade with varying line-ups, Perry being the only constant member. Another line-up followed with James Kyllo, Steve Cannell and Dave Morgan, which led to the release of "Sol" and "Dragon Love".
ATV's last studio album for over a decade, Revolution, was released in 2001, followed in 2003 by the official bootleg album Viva La Rock'n' Roll - consisting of live performances recorded in the UK, France, Germany and the US. In 2004, Perry recorded the Ramones song "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" for a single and an Argentinian Ramones tribute album.
Their first studio album in fourteen years, "Opposing Forces", was released through Lost Moment/Public Domain on 10 July 2015.
Unrecorded-at-the-time ATV lyric "Urban Kids" was released as a single by Chelsea in 1977.The Chameleons regularly closed their gigs with a cover of "Splitting in 2". Savage Republic covered "Viva La Rock n' Roll" on their 1988 LP Jamahiriya Democratique et Populaire de Sauvage. Thee Headcoats recorded "Action Time Vision" for a single in 1993. Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire covered "Date With Doug" on their 2007 debut album.