Over the course of a long career that led them from wide-eyed shambling pop to the outer reaches of psychedelia and back, Britain’s Television Personalities influenced artists as diverse as feedback virtuosos the Jesus and Mary Chain, twee pop titans the Pastels, lo-fi kingpins Pavement and neo-psych oddballs MGMT. Led by the alternately whimsical and devastating songwriting of Dan Treacy, the band began recording in the late ’70s with an off-kilter take on punk, the band followed a winding path that resulted in a long string of songs (from 1978’s “Part Time Punk” to 2010’s “A New Tattoo”) and albums (classics like 1981’s ‘…And Don’t the Kids Just Love It’ and 2006’s wrenching ‘My Dark Places’) that were always hooky, emotionally powerful and beloved by those who understood Treacy’s outsider vision and unique voice.
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’, which was met with widespread critical acclaim.
Late in 2011 Treacy suffered a blood clot in his brain and was forced to undergo emergency surgery. The procedure was severe enough that it left Treacy unable to make music as he recovered. The band’s profile among fans of classic indie-pop stayed high during Treacy’s convalescence and their first four albums were reissued in 2017, followed the next year by ‘Beautiful Despair’, a collection of 1990 demos recorded by Treacy and Jowe Head.