NME 2 August 1980|
DANGER! TEENAGE FILMSTARS AT WORK
You do remember TV Personalities, don't you? Adrian Thrills introduces the man who used to be Russell Harty|
The nationwide cult of the inspired punk amateur started to look tarnished from the day The Mekons elected to try their luck as A Proper Group and threw away the keys to their independence by signing to Virgin Records.
Whether that was the day the music died or merely the day the first of the bedroom bands - those hyper-enthusiastic DIY merchants so beloved of John Peel - started to grow up depends solely on your personal viewpoint.
What is beyond dispute is that since The Mekons took that plunge - certainly ill-advised in their case - their spiritual contemporaries have slowly followed suit, leaving their musical inadequacies behind them as they went; Vic Goddard to MCA, Spizz to A&M and The Teenage Filmstars to Pye of all people.
The Teenage Filmstars? Perhaps not so widely-loved as those others, the Filmstars are just as important in context, having come from the ashes of the legendary London basement-punk neanderthals the Television Personalities. Remember Nicholas Parsons and Russell Harty? 'The Part-Time Punks' and the 'We Love Malcolm' EP?
No? Well there is still time to catch up.
The Teenage Filmstars are to most intents and purposes, one Eddie Ball, formerly Russell Harty of the TVP's. He's the mastermind behind both last year's dreamy 'Cloud Over Liverpool' and the current Filmstars skiffle-calypso 'The Odd Man Out'.
Unlike all previous Eddie Ball efforts, however, 'The Odd Man Out' has the distinction, if that's the word, of being released through a major - Pye subsid Blueprint - on a one-off basis.
It is seen more as an experimental move than a sell-out.
"For the last couple of years, we'd been doing things totally ourselves, even down to printing the labels, so I just wanted to see things from the other side for a change."
Despite Pye's interest and the single's overt charm and promise, the Filmstars are destined to remain very much a part-time punk band. The only permanent member apart from Ball is drummer Paul Doody at the moment, although a few more original TVP's might "get drawn in later on".
So the next single could just as easily be another totally independent home-produced effort?
"Yeah. With the independent thing, you just don't feel part of the record business and it can still be a hobby. What we are doing at the moment is looking at the alternative to the alternative!
"A few years ago, people thought of doing their own records. At the start of punk all the bands like the Pistols and The Clash just went to all the big labels 'cause that's all there was. The big labels came to them and they didn't know anything else."
The other half of the original TVP's Nick Parsons, is meanwhile gigging with a re-vamped TV Personalities and also has a synthesiser version of the old Dandy Livingstone single 'Big City' due out soon on Rough Trade. The name of the band, natch, is different again. This time the music comes courtesy of The Missing Scientists.
"I think one of the reasons for all the name changes is that we all got sick of the Personalities thing," says Eddie.
"It did get a bit out of hand at one stage where the Nicholas Parsons and Russell Harty thing was becoming a real cult. But we never expected people to take us seriously in the first place.
"We were going to try and get the Angela Rippon band together at one point so that we could do gigs for Rock Against Sexism!
"The most important thing is to have a laugh. I reckon that if we were doing gigs every night, it would get to be like a job. But if things don't work out with Pye, then we can always go back to what we were doing before."