Two hours before they play I’m interviewing ATV frontman and key figure from the early punk years Mark Perry on stage for one of my ‘literary events’ at Rebellion.
It’s a fascinating exchange, Mark Perry was the editor of Sniffing Glue fanzine- the first of the punk fanzines and a massive influence on the scene. In many ways Sniffing Glue was the consciousness and Xerox soul of punk and in its pages the arguments about the very essence of punk raged.
Of course Mark himself doesn’t see it that way and tries to play down his role. He also railed against the limitations of punk itself and formed his own band Alternative TV or ATV as they became known and stopped the fanzine when it was breaking through with 20 000 sales.
ATV were fantastically awkward, like a London version of the Fall, they delighted in going against the grain. So if they started with some great punk anthems like ‘How Much Longer’ and ‘Action Time Vision’ they were quite happy to switch to free jazz improvisation because that had a punk rock logic to it.
A way of fucking with your head.
A way of stripping away the punk rock straight jacket.
Of course it confused everybody, no-one had the time to concentrate and the band were left as a cult, an underground niche when Mark himself could have been one of the key figures of the period. Of course that was the plan and sniping from the side lines was far more preferable to the pantomime of the mainstream that many of the punk bands were slipping into.
Mark and ATV have been off the scene for a few years. But there have been recent gigs and it’s great to see him embracing Rebellion punk festival. It’s the kind of gig that part of him must be instantly contrary about but there is a good crowd in here for him, many have stayed true to that questioning spirit of early punk and are quite prepared for anything here tonight.
The biggest surprise is how straight Mark plays it tonight as ATV deal out the punk rock end of their catalogue, Mark is a great frontman, impassioned and direct and looking into those onstage eyes you get to see the madness of the original punk rock arena. This is the genuine article, perhaps the purest of punk spirits and if he has been wandering around for decades like some wild eyed punk rock sadhu then his welcome return to the scene makes some sort of sense.
His version of ‘Action Time Vision’ tonight is razor sharp and it’s great to hear one of the best anthems from punk rock played with such a keen understanding. The song should be up there with the Clash and the Pistols as one of the best known songs of the period but somehow it’s been preserved in cult aspec and avoided in the re-write of the period. If only Adam Ant would cover it like he was promising to recently then it would get some of the attention it really deserves.
Not that Mark P. cares. he’s quite happy to slip away again, contrary to the last, so immersed in the flash brilliance of music that he just can’t be arsed to grovel for your attention. The stuff is there if you what it and you really should check it out.
There’s lots of arguments over just what punk rock really is and who is not punk rock and no-one really has a clue perhaps they should ask this enigmatic figure- he pretty well defined it with Sniffing Glue and ATV and is still defining the ideal of it know with his occasional gigs.