Not Your Typical Boy | Tripping Along The Ledge

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Not Your Typical Boy

Light entertainment from the Television Personalities

Dan-Treacy-of-Television--001

July 17
Help

look i am not joking..will some nice young lady please be my new girlfriend…
i am desperate for comfort.. i am good in the kitchen ,quite tidy
…not particularly a monster in the trouser stakes..
but i do pen the occasional good tune……(please no freaks
…i am willing and capable to be gay but riGht now i would like a LADDDDDDEEEEEEE……X

By his own description – by any description – Dan Treacy is not your typical boy. His new album, My Dark Places, arrives with a back story so fantastic it seems almost too good to be true. Born in London to Irish parents (“I’ve always said I’d have played for Ireland if I’d been a footballer”), he grew up on the working class Chelsea Embankment just off the Kings Road. SW3 in the 1970s was “a magical place” for Treacy where he could stalk the likes of David Bowie and Bryan Ferry after school and still be home in time for tea. He earned his pocket money delivering laundry to neighbours such as Rod Stewart, Michael Caine and Bob Marley. Later he worked as a gofer at Led Zeppelin’s Swansong Records where he jammed with Jimmy Page (“quite good on the guitar”) and fell foul of Zeppelin manager Peter Grant (“an utter, utter bastard”).

When Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood opened their Sex boutique in 1976, the Kings Road became the epicentre of the punk rock explosion. “They were the sweetest people” remembers Treacy. “Viv still sends a card to my Mum every Christmas”. Inspired by punk’s DIY ethic the teenager founded the Television Personalities with his school mate Ed Ball. Their first single, 14th Floor, got played on the radio by John Peel. But it was the follow up, Part Time Punks, that really set the template for how the band would sound.

With lyrics that referenced The Clash, The Swell Maps and Siouxsie & The Banshees, it was the first of many songs by Treacy that evinced an obsession with his peers in the punk scene. (He would go on to write more with titles like Where’s Bill Grundy Now?, I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives and I Was A Mod Before You Was A Mod.) But despite that, what he was coming out with sounded like nothing anyone had heard before. The musicianship was basic, and given an almost Daniel Johnson-esque ‘outsider’ edge by Treacy’s unique and unaffected vocal style. This distinctive sound probably occurred as much by accident as design, but that didn’t stop a generation of indie bands from the C86 scene of the 1980s to Belle & Sebastian from copying it.

Part Time Punks would also be the closest the Television Personalities would ever come to mainstream recognition. Treacy still reckons that the independently distributed single should have made the Top Ten. “Virgin Records told me that. But it was barred because the chart fascists did not believe it could have sold that many. After that I decided basically ‘Fuck this business – I’m making music for myself!’” And so he did. For two decades as the only permanent member of the Television Personalities, Treacy eked out a precarious living on the fringes of the indie scene. His was hailed by everyone from the Jesus & Mary Chain and Pavement to Morrissey and Kurt Cobain (who handed Treacy a support slot when Nirvana played London in 1992). But with a tiny cult following he only managed to record and tour sporadically. By the late Nineties he had turned his back on the music business altogether and trained as a gardener and a chef. But the depression and drug problems referred to so explicitly in some later songs (one was entitled Now That I’m A Junky) continued to blight him. In the summer of 1998 he disappeared. By the turn of the millennium was widely assumed to be dead.

Then in May 2004 his friend XFM DJ Iain Baker heard from him out of the blue:

“I’m on a prison boat in Dorset. It’s a long story, not a long sentence, i’m out of here on the 23rd or 30th of June, it’s like a cruise that goes nowhere!…Sitting here recently.. like i’ve sat many a time over the past few years, i’ve realised how much I miss the music, not the business- I don’t even own a guitar or amp (haven’t for years!) But i’ve written my best and most meaningful music in the last couple of years. I want to do a new TVP’s LP, I feel like i’m 17 again […] except i’m not, i’m 44 on the 19th of June and i’m spending it in here of all places! I am completely skint at the moment, but for the last 6 months i’ve been free of health/drug problems. […] Tell Andy he can put every thing i’ve told you on his website and if he wants he can set up AN OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR TVP’S with the truth coming from me. I’ll even list the songs i’ve got waiting to record, and if he wants to put my current address on the site, he can – some birthday cards might be nice!

Love, Jailbird Dan”

Back in 1978 when he was interviewed by Garry Bushell for Sounds Treacy had insisted on using an alias and refused to reveal his real name. Now whatever barriers or issues of privacy remained between the troubled artist and his loyal fans seemed to have crumbled completely. The letter to Baker quickly appeared on a Yahoo newsgroup devoted to the cult musician. Within days of his release from “the Good Ship Lollipop” Treacy begun writing an extraordinary blog that (in the words of pitchforkmedia.com) “totters rather amusingly between precocious brilliance and unnerving hysteria”.

As he struggles to recover from heroin addiction and relaunch his music career, there isn’t much Treacy won’t share with his readers. He will regale us with hilarious war stories about doing drugs with Evan Dando or being joined onstage in New York by Debbie Harry (who kept shouting “In with anger, out with love!”) The next day he’ll be railing against the machinations of the record industry and begging for cash donations from his fans. Talking to him via email, I ask about his unorthodox relationship with his fans. “Yes, I do want it to be a two way thing. I just like people to see another side of me. There are a lot of things I do that people don’t know about. I am not some puppet that is put in a box with my band and taken out at showtime”.

July 15th
la la la la la la lies

Hello mateys, ignore my rantings of yesterday,
just have to remind people i am going through a difficult transition,i cant begin to explain..
this has been one big emotional upheaval i just want to write..
i’ll have to disappear off line for a few days soon..
fantastic news is that i have somewhere to live soon..
my sister [who he hadn’t seen in 14 years – E.B.] is looking after me..its like emotional regression i am 5 and everything she touches turns to gold…oh wow and DOUBLE WOW!..postman just came…
DAN-AID money arrived CASH!..i like CASH!..
and oh ok..i am happy {mostly} happy dan today..
i still need decent stageclothes though
so KEEP YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS coming in to the sick retired ex indie stars home for the deaf..
toodle pip chin chin and polite greetings..
the guy who wrote part time punks

The singer’s rehabilitation is far from smooth. At times though it seems likely that he is drinking heavily and his blog takes us to some pretty dark places.

December 25th
i should explain

i am in the millenium dome..they have turned it into a homeless shelter for xmas until dec 30..
sister and girlfriends have been looking after me but felt like i wanted some space at xmas..
theres up to 1000 people here at a time but the place is massive..
a lot of people i thought i would not see and many i would not want to see again..
too many junkies,abusers and users in here..too many drugs and not enough for some..see myself in these these people..not pretty or clever….
written 2 new songs while here..there are guitars and pianos..been helping with music lessons

As his trials continue and the blog continues to rack up celebrity cameos, the big question anyone who follows it will eventually find themselves asking is ‘Can all of this really be true?’ There have been rumours about Treacy’s mental health. Is there a whiff of The Commitments’ Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagin about Dan Treacy? In his defence, he has in the past made claims that this writer has been certain were bullshit (like when he claimed to be negotiating a record deal with Domino.) These have often since turned out to be true. Other times though he has seemed to suggest, for example, that he has just met Derek Jarman in Dungeness (“he wished [me] well.. lovely man”.) Jarman died in 1994.

I broach the subject casually, inquiring about three of his least likely sounding acquaintances. “You’d be surprised who I know!” is his reply. “I was walking past an art gallery in Kensington, saw everyone was drinking wine etc. Easy to just walk in. Then Michael Winner appeared and said all back to his place. Had a good old chat with him, decent guy.” Hmmm… Plausible. How about Tracy Emin? “Know her from years ago when she was at art college with friends of mine”. Again reasonable, but what about…? “Derek Jarman was a lovely man. He worked with my friend Simon Turner (King of Luxemburg) a lot. We met him on beach in Dungeness when we filmed Strangely Beautiful video. Sadly, he was nearly blind.”

If those reasonable explanations assuage my doubts about the man’s integrity on one front, that’s minor compared to the revelation that is his comeback album My Dark Places. On it Treacy wheels out his tinny Casio keyboards to play which he sings duet with an exact female sound-alike for the disembodied computer woman off Red Dwarf about some of the darkest subjects imaginable. And the results are utterly brilliant. Four of the tracks – Dream The Sweetest Dreams, I’m Not You Typical Boy, They’ll Have To Catch Us First and She Can Stop Traffic – are as good as anything the cult legend has ever managed, as weirdly wonderful as anything you’ll hear anywhere this year. The problems in his personal life may not all be solved just yet. But with this album he has just pulled off one of the least likely comebacks of the year.

See also here.

Published Mongrel Magazine, February 2006

August 10th, 2010.

7 Responses to “Not Your Typical Boy”

  1. Fiachra at The Dubliner Says:

    A pal of mine got TVP on a comp CD, a tribute to The June Brides.. I think it might have been the first release after the prison boat. Needless to say Dan’s track was one of the last one in (one of the quickest back was Manic Street Preachers, whatever issues you might have with the Manics, you can’t knock their time keeping) every time some asked about getting the TVP track from Dan, it ended in a request for £20, which was posted out, till the next enquiry and the next £20… still amazing to have got him on it.. the CD is here..

    http://www.yesboyicecream.com/ybi01.html

    http://www.yesboyicecream.com/ybi01.html

  2. Eoin Says:

    @ Fiachra – yes, by all accounts not an easy guy to work with. I had a pint with the Mighty Stef a few weeks ago and he was talking about meeting Dan backstage at some festival in Spain.

    All the musicians worship the guy, but he really doesn’t seem to be able to help him.

  3. Fiachra at The Dubliner Says:

    actually I bought the 7 inch of his Domino Records released comeback “all the young children on crack”, has to be one of the worst comeback singles ever.. like willingly career car crashingly bad

  4. Brendan Says:

    Very interesting.Is this feature going to appear in a newspaper/magazine?

  5. emmet Says:

    Hi Eoin,

    Great to see some local coverage of Dan (I’m guessing this is from around the time of My Dark Places?)

    It is definitely hard sometimes to separate fact from fantasy in his legend, which is probably the way it should be with your idols. I don’t really mind, he’s written some of my favourite songs so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    He’s had a couple of albums since. “Are We Nearly There Yet?” from 2007 includes a cover of The Killers’ Mr. Brightside…
    And there was also a new album out in June on Rocket Girl called “A Memory is Better Than Nothing”. I’d definitely recommend checking it out. I love it (but I’m probably the wrong person to ask for an objective opinion).

    @ Fiachra – I only gave him £40 to record the June Brides cover and I thought that was more than fair enough. He was moving between a few different places at the time – floors and sofas of friends and relatives – and I sent some money to the studio where he was recording the song (he was recording My Dark Places there at the same time).

    However, it did take a very long time to arrive (about 18 months) and the album was held up while I waited for his cover.

    When it eventually arrived, I was really, really excited about listening to it for the first time, as you would be when you’ve basically commissioned one of your favourite musicians to cover one of your favourite songs. However, the cover was so far removed from the original song – to a disturbingly mental degree – that I thought about dropping it from the album. I wanted to but The June Brides loved it. As it was their tribute album, it stayed. Four-and-a-half years later, I’m glad it did.

    I still think he’s one of the most important songwriters around. And I hope he keeps on churning new albums out.

    Here’s another recent interview that touches on some of the same themes as your article:

    http://www.theartsdesk.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1739%3Atheartsdesk-qa-dan-treacy-of-the-tv-personalities&Itemid=80

    And breathe..….

    Emmet.

  6. emmet Says:

    Ah…I see. This article IS from 2006.

    I am working my back in time from 2004 to the current year.

    Looking forward to seeing how EURO 2008 finishes up. Spanish to underachieve yet again?

  7. Eoin Says:

    @ Fiachra – Yeah, that wasn’t a great single but there were some lovely tracks on that album. Particularly fond of She Can Stop Traffic.

    @ Brendan – It appeared in Mongrel magazine in Feb 2006. For some reason I forgot to tag it as such. Unless you’re Brendan from Vanity Fair in which case it’s unpublished and yours for $500,000.

    @ Emmet – Correctly spotted. This is the second time I’ve posted this article and the second time I forgot to do that for some reason. BTW the first time I posted it, it got a comment from Evan Dando. See here:

    http://www.eoinbutler.com/home/not-your-typical-boy/

    It’s weird. Dan revered by all of these very famous and, in some cases, very rich musicians and let he can seem to keep it together in his own life on even the most basic level. Very sad.

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