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Group Members: Jowe Head
All Music Guide:
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 that led them from wide-eyed shambling pop to the outer reaches of psychedelia and back, they 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 Television Personalities' inspiration.
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, which was soon dubbed Television Personalities. A year later they issued the Where's Bill Grundy Now? EP, featuring their lone hit, "Part-Time Punks."
Always a loose-knit group, the first relatively stable TVP lineup 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." Released in 1984, the dark and moody The Painted Word was followed the next year by the live set Chocolat-Art, by which point TVPs were in dire straits -- broke and without a label, they 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, 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.
By the time that Don't Cry Baby...It's Only a Movie was released in November of 1998, Treacy had gone missing. Rumors of mental illness, drug abuse, homelessness, and even death were tossed about until finally in 2004 Treacy wrote a letter to Iain Baker, an old friend and DJ at London's XFM. In it he disclosed that he was incarcerated on a prison boat in Dorset. Following his release in June of 2004, Treacy set about resurrecting TVPs, playing some gigs and posting a hilarious web journal. Finally, in March of 2006 a new album, My Dark Places, was released on the influential Domino label. Are We Nearly There Yet? followed one year later, although some of its material had been recorded just after Treacy's release from prison. Numerous live gigs and tours followed during the rest of the 2000s, including a spot on December 2009's All Tomorrow's Parties event (curated by My Bloody Valentine). In June of the following year, A Memory Is Better Than Nothing appeared on the Rocketgirl label, and the band earned high praise as well as publicity when MGMT debuted "Song for Dan Treacy" on their album Congratulations. Late in 2011, however, news broke that a critically ill Treacy was in a coma after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.
The Television Personalities are an English group with a varying line-up. The only constant member is singer–songwriter Dan Treacy (b. 19 June 1960), who uses the band as a vehicle for his music. The band's first release (January 1978) was the single "14th Floor / Oxford Street W1", while their second, the EP Where's Bill Grundy Now? features one of their best-known songs, "Part Time Punks".
The Television Personalities' first album ...And Don't The Kids Just Love It was released in 1981. It set the template for their subsequent career: neo-psychedelia, an obsession with youth culture of the 1960s, a fey, slightly camp lyrical attitude, and the occasional classic pop song. Their second album Mummy Your Not Watching Me [sic] demonstrated increased psychedelic influences. Their third album, entitled They Could Have Been Bigger Than The Beatles showed Treacy's sense of humour: the TVPs were never to have any major commercial success in the UK – although their albums sold respectably in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. The first three albums featured Treacy and schoolmate Ed Ball; Ball left the band to found The Times, but rejoined in 2004.
The band were offered the support slot on Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's 1984 UK solo dates, but were promptly dropped after reading out former Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett's home address.
The 1984 album The Painted Word was unexpectedly dark in content, reflecting Treacy's despair at Thatcherite Britain and his personal circumstances.
Various line up changes prevented their next album (Privilege) from appearing until 1990. Their subsequent album Closer to God was a combination of fey sixties style pop and darker material, similar in tone to The Painted Word.
The album Don't Cry Baby, It's Only a Movie was released in 1998.
From 1998 to June 2004 Dan Treacy was incarcerated for shoplifting to feed his drug habit. He spent time aboard HM Prison ship Weare in Portland Harbour, Dorset, England. He has referred to the Weare as "The Good Ship Lollipop". The experience helped him put his life and career back on track.
In February 2006 a new TVPs album My Dark Places was released. Despite their relatively small independent sales the TVPs were very influential on British music in the 1980s, especially the so-called C86 generation and many of the bands on Creation Records.
In an article in The Guardian on 24 April 2006, it was implied that Dan Treacy is in some way behind the Arctic Monkeys, although this is based on little more than a perceived similarity between their lyrical style and that of Treacy, and the fact that the lead singer of Arctic Monkeys, Alex Turner is mysteriously not credited with their songwriting.
It was reported in October, 2011 that Treacy is seriously ill after an operation to remove a blood clot from his brain.
References to popular culture 
Treacy is notorious for the numerous popular culture references and in-jokes scattered throughout the TVPs' lyrics, album titles and record artwork. Most of the references are to (mostly British) cult films, 1960s culture and forgotten or underappreciated musicians and celebrities.Woody Allen – The song "Little Woody Allen" is named after the American filmmaker. He is also mentioned in "Salvador Dali's Garden Party."Dr. Strangelove – "How I Learned to Love the Bomb" is named after the full title of this Stanley Kubrick film.Girl on a Motorcycle – The TVPs have a song named after this Marianne Faithfull/Alain Delon film.If.... – The Lindsay Anderson film (starring Treacy favourite Malcolm McDowell) is quoted in several songs, including "Paradise Is For The Blessed" and "Not Even a Maybe."King & Country – The TVPs named a song after this film by Joseph Losey. Several other Losey films are referenced in the TVPs' work, and "I See Myself in You" mentions Losey by name.Look Back in Anger – The last song on the TVPs' debut full-length is named after the film version of this famous play by John Osborne.Privilege – The name of the band's fifth album is taken from this 1967 film by Peter Watkins. The band's third album credits Steven Shorter (the main character of Privilege) as producer.A Taste of Honey – A major character from this popular "kitchen sink drama", Geoffrey Ingram, shows up in a lot of the Television Personalities' early work.Bill Grundy – The TVPs named their 1978 EP Where's Bill Grundy Now? after the disgraced British television presenter.Syd Barrett – The band's debut album features a song called "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives." In imitation of Barrett's own solo work and Pink Floyd's Brain Damage, the song is significantly calmer than the rest of the album, and features mildly psychedelic studio effects (such as chirping birds). They also recorded a cover version of "Apples and Oranges for Beyond the Wildwood, an indie tribute to Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd released in 1987.The Byrds – The Byrds song "Eight Miles High" is frequently quoted both lyrically and musically by Treacy. The guitar solo on "King & Country" is based on the one in "Eight Miles High." Byrds member Roger McGuinn is also mentioned in the song "You, Me and Lou Reed"David Hockney – "David Hockney's Diaries" is the name of a song on the band's second albumThe Jam – In "Geoffrey Ingram", Geoffrey and the narrator go to see The Jam play at the Marquee Club. Jam song titles are also quoted in TVPs lyrics, and the song "And Don't The Kids Just Love It" mentions Jam bassist Bruce Foxton getting all the girls.Roy Lichtenstein – The TVPs' label, Whaam!, was named after one of Lichtenstein's paintings. "Lichtenstein Painting" is the name of a song on the band's second album. An earlier version of the song (released by Treacy under the name The Gifted Children) was called "Lichtenstein Girl"Joe Orton – The British playwright's death at the hands of his lover Kenneth Halliwell is referenced in the song "God Snaps His Fingers" (the song's title is itself a quote from a novel co-written by Orton and Halliwell). The song "The Good and Faithful Servant" is named after one of Orton's plays.Andy Warhol – The Pop Art maverick is often mentioned in Television Personalities songs.King's Road – Referenced in several songs (including the seminal "Part Time Punks"), this Swinging London locale is close to where lead singer Dan Treacy was born."Read About Seymour" – A song by their contemporaries Swell Maps mentioned in "Part Time Punks".