|THESE MEN ARE PART-TIME PUNKS|
|L to R: Nicholas Parsons, Russell Harty, Bruce Forsyth, Hughie Green.|
|...OR ARE THEY? STARSTRUCK GARRY BUSHELL TALKS TO NICHOLAS PARSONS, LEADER OF THE TV PERSONALITIES, AND REVEALS ALL|
Walking down the Kings Road / posing in the drizzle / shivering past Seditionaries / trying not to spit. . . My Destination? Flat 26, 355 Kings Road, a humble place
which houses Kings Road records and overlooks Malcy's little corner shop. My mission? To go where no music paper had gone before and get the goods on Nicholas Parsons,
guitarist / vocalist and chief motivator of the TV Personalities.|
I press the bell. The figure who opens the door is Irish, in his late fifties and an ashphalter. Surely this ain't the man behind the splendiforously excellent 'Where's Bill Grundy Now?' EP? No, it's his dad. Nick's an even bigger surprise 'cos it's not him. Y'know, the smarmy besuited bloke with the Charlie's Angels rejects who grills the gumbies on the box's leading cult quiz. Shaken but not stirred, I start off on the two quid questions, like how d'you feel about that bozo taking your name in vain every Saturday, Nicky?
"I like 'im, he's quite amusing. I get a lot of ideas from watching 'im. In fact, I feel sorry for 'im, 'cos everybody's got it in for him, but I reckon it's just a television image. Our next single could be 'Nobody Loves Nicholas'"
"All right sunshine enough is enough," I snap, getting him in a bone-crunching headlock, "I didn't get where I am today by getting taken in by imposters - what's your real name?"
"What's yours? Nah, I ain't saying. If people see my picture and my name they won't believe it's me. Like at school, I was the one who sat at the back and said nothing. If they saw my name it'd just worry them."
Okay then, time for this week's instant sale. Yes friends, for just one note you can purchase the TV Personalities' great four-track single from the Kings Road address. T'was reviewed just three weeks ago by yours truly and in my words it's single of the week material, sounding like the Gang of Four meet the Barron Knights combined with lyrics which, in Nick's words, are "clever, cynical and sarcastic". It comprises, 'Part Time Punks', 'Where's Bill Grundy Now?', 'Happy Families' and 'Posing At The Roundhouse', a collage of humour and insight, track one of which is getting played to death by Peelie. So you as well as me, dear reader, might just be lusting after a touch more info.
The key to the TVP's success was failure. Summer '76, Nick leaves school with no 'O'-levels and just one scholastic achievement; getting earmarked as the pupil most likely to be AWOL at any given momento.
"There was a gang of us who wanted to do something but we didn't know what. The punk scene hadn't come then and we were sitting waiting for something to happen. Then we had the idea of making our own single 'cos I'd read this thing about the Desperate Bicycles in Melody Maker."
"Oh, some fanzine. I don't think they do it any more. Anyway, I'd been on holiday at Butlins and there was this cabaret band, Jasper, who'd 'ad their own album pressed at SRT. So I got in touch with SRT to find out how much it cost. Nothing come of it at the time 'cos we didn't think we'd be able to sell any. . . just think we could've 'appened before 'Spiral Scratch'."
Cutting a long story short, in early '77 Nick got fed up with his mates going on and on about cutting a demo but never doing anything, so he lured them into a cheapo Shepherd's Bush recording studio where, without knowing what they hell they were about, they somehow recorded two of his songs '14th Floor' and 'Oxford Street W.1.'
"It was terrible. I come home and just bunged the tapes in a cupboard. A couple of months later I thought, well, I might as well get one copy done and we brought it out as a single." 400 copies for 400 quid, paid for by the supreme sacrifice - flogging priceless album collections. But the single sold out.
By December last year Nick had found out enough to bring 1,500 copies of the superior second single for under £500 (prices broken down on the sleeve) which is an object lesson in independence.
Nick is the TVP's mainman. Of the original line-up only drummer Russell Harty, who prefers working in a gun shop to interviewing these days, is still with him (the others are in the 'O'-Levels). And replacements Hughie Green and Bruce Forsyth are far from full-timers - they didn't even turn up to record the single. Nicky, who writes all the material and after a succession of nothing jobs doesn't work, takes it more seriously.
Was he, I wondered, a part-time punk himself?
"Oh Christ yeah, I'm the worst of the lot. Up to about six months ago I was just like everybody else. If there was a review in Sounds saying this is a good album I'd go and but it. . . The other night I was looking over the road, not with me telescope, and there was actually someone pogoing in their bedroom. That's when I realised everybody takes it too seriously."
"Yeah, I just sit here some days watching people. You see everything walking down the Kings Rd - that's where I get all my songs from. Y'know, you see someone walk into a shop to buy the News Of The World and everyone in front of them's buying The Observer so they buy The Express. I ain't got any 'O'-levels but I notice these things."
What's it like living opposite such a famous institution then?
"What, Beaumont Mansions?" No, Seditionaries.
"Oh yeah, my mum used to do their dry cleaning. . . you see all the stars up here. I must see Steve Jones five times a week. Gene October. They all go in there, Charlie Watts, Diana Dors, Reggie Bousanquet. I wrote a song about that, 'I Saw Reggie Bousanquet Yesterday'.
What about 'Bill Grundy', is that serious?
"It's sympathetic really. I was sitting here one day about 11 am and there was Grundy there up in the Scottish Hebrides talking about wild flowers. That's what's happened to him - he's on children's television. He's got a bad deal out of it."
The first 6,500 copies of the single are in a fast selling out situation.
"We're gonna leave it at that. We could sell more, but then you'd just sit here every night with a calculator working out how much you're gonna make and that's not the point."
Not much chance of the disc crashing the charts as predicted by the putrid Peter Powell then?
"That's the best thing that's happened to us so far, Peter Powell playing the record, it's probably the worst record that's ever been played on a day-time show and there was probably hundreds of kids sitting there thinking: 'Christ we can do that'. Since the record's come out loads of kids have phoned us up asking how they can do the same and that's what we enjoy most."
So you'll just bring out a follow-up?
"We're gonna make money from this one and so we'd just like to help someone else. We know a couple of bands. No point in us making more records, we'll let someone else have a go. It's funny, after the Peel show all our friends stopped coming round. They got some illusion that we'd look down on them, which we wouldn't do at all. We'd like to get everyone involved. If we did do another single I'd probably have my eight-year-old nephew on it, or a complete stranger off the street."
You have got more songs then?
"Yeah, 'I Saw Reggie Bousanquet', 'Dear John', 'Man At C & A', which I pinched from that Sounds article 'Day In The Life Of A Ted'. 'Hurry Up Hari' which is about a sort of leader-type person who kids can identify with, which is what a lot of kids need. It's not a comedy thing."
So if there's no single how about gigging?
"We haven't gigged yet. I'd like to do gigs if it was some sort of event, say if someone said they were getting a gig together with six or seven independent bands we'd turn up and play for like ten minutes - not a full set, we don't take ourselves that seriously."
How's abhart the TV proper, any aspirations to live up to your name small screen-wise?
"I'd like to be interviewed by Janet Street-Porter. She'd be sitting there in her Zandra Rhodes costume and we'd be sitting in our Marks And Spencers costumes. I mean, why doesn't she interview some real groups? Actually, I could see myself on 'Coronation Street'. . ."
Suddently it dawns on us that it's almost 7.30pm, time for Nicky's, mine and your fave TV rave and what with Albert with the poker on Monday night and 'Annie' Iron Undies Walker coughing up 20 nicker for Hilda's doodling, we couldn't miss it, could we? So there was only time for one more question, and this one's for five quid, Nick: Any final message to the world?
"Only to say that it was a good result for Maidstone last night" (Charlton 1, Maidstone 1 - Ed).
"Fancy getting sent off for bopping one of yer own" (Hales chinned Flannagan - Ed).
Bastards. Shaddup. Just shaddup.
|Click on image to view larger pic.|
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|Nicholas Parsons presented the popular weekly quiz show, 'Sale of the Century' from 1971 - 85.
The 'instant sale' Bushell mentions was an element of the programme.
Thanks to Mark Flunder for the scan.