TV Smith: Tales of the Emergency Sandwich – book review
‘Tales of the Emergency Sandwich’ TV Smith (Arima, Suffolk)
Tales of the Emergency Sandwich is the third volume of tour diaries from founding Advert, and travelling DIY punk troubadour TV Smith.
In volume three we pick up shortly after ‘How to Become Human’ (the second instalment of TV’s diaries), with TV visiting Australia, venturing further around Europe, and revisiting several of the countries that have been embracing him since he began touring solo in the nineties.
Stylistically nothing has changed, TV continues with the same engaging humorous style introduced in the two previous diaries. In this volume the prose is accompanied with a more abundant collection of tour photography, a welcome addition.
We pick up on the eve of a German tour that coincides with the release of his new record ‘Misinformation Overload. It’s released on Golden Zeiten the label owned by former Die Totsen Hosen drummer Wolli. TV’s long standing relationship/friendship with the band has been documented in previous volumes. Excited about the initial buzz, there is hope it will do well considering it’s a relatively quiet time for album releases, but things never seem to sail easily for TV, and there are problems to contend with from the off, but success, as TV demonstrates doesn’t always have to mean album sales.
Germany is like a 2nd home to him, and having read previous diaries you find yourself reminiscing over previous visits as if you were returning yourself, which is testimony to his personal and engaging style. He yo-yos back and forth from his London home to a multitude of destinations in England, and across the globe, visiting several places for the first time. He takes in a successful live tour of Australia and several dates in Lithuania and the Czech Republic, which both turn out to be quite the adventure. He faces the same battles as before, crummy hotel rooms, spiteful cats, and the continuing saga of a vegetarian pursuit of a decent meal on the road, hence the title.
Scenarios often defy belief, and lead to some enjoyable and genuine laugh out loud moments, suffice to say, these are sometimes at TV’s expense. What we’ve learned from previous volumes though is that despite problems, and whatever else is thrown at him, TV always soldiers on, nearly always in good humour, even when dealing with stony faced check in clerks that don’t appreciate it. It’s his excitement, and passion for playing that prevails. His genuine appreciation for his audience, his delight in their reaction, and the sheer love of what he does. Whether he’s chatting to people after a show, being recognised in the street, or being informed of a hip-hop legend’s appreciation for his show, TV comes across as a salt of the earth character.
The diaries reveal a man absolutely committed to ideals he formulated as a young punk in the late seventies. His is not a stubborn committal to a look or fashion (although there are some wardrobe issues), but to the ethos of punk and to the music, and in his case, the personal evolution of that music. His path as musician feels not like it’s a chosen livelihood, but a vocation.
Along the way he tours with a group of fellow punk veterans, meets colourful characters such as Uncle Hans and Auntie Agnes, Aussie Comedian Bruce Griffiths, the cynic, Rudi (the parrot, not the band), aggressive “punkettes”, drunk wedding planners and bands like Garden Gang, Tina (ex Punk Lurex), Spanish backing band the Bored Teenagers, and struggles like Karen Hill on her wedding day trying to negotiate multiple faces with the same names.
In the previous review I stated that the diaries would appeal to readers outside his fan base or unaware of his output since the Adverts, but the passion in the pages create a desire in the reader to listen to the music, and will in no doubt inspire a plethora of newcomers to TV’s solo recordings. Huge success might constantly evade him, but he’ll always find new listeners. The fact that he’ll never give up, makes him successful.
The diaries are an entertaining and addictive read, impossible to put down. From the beginning TV was regarded for his accomplished lyrics as much as the hook of his songs. His ability as a writer is unquestionable, and the years spent concentrating on writing are evident here. Through his prose he creates wonderful lasting imagery, whether it’s the description of a gig, a dive hall moonlighting as a venue, or a stroll down a familiar or new street, you always feel you are there with him.
When we leave TV its 2008, but we know the story doesn’t end there, with the release of the documentary made for BBC in 2012 to be covered, the subsequent release of some of his rarer work, and his commitment and stamina showing no signs of waning, we look forward to Volume 4.