The Adverts were an English punk-rock band, best known for the 1977 singles “One Chord Wonders” and “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” and the 1978 album Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts. Their second album, Cast of Thousands, appeared shortly before their breakup in late 1979.
Members: T.V. Smith (vocals), Gaye Advert (bass), Howard Pickup [Howard Boak] (guitar, 1976-79), Laurie “Lorry” Driver [Laurie Muscat] (drums, 1976-78), John Towe (drums, 1978), Rod Latter (drums, 1978-79), Tim Cross (keyboards, 1979), Paul Martinez (guitar, 1979), Rick Martinez (drums, 1979)
The Adverts were formed in December 1976 by singer Tim Smith and bassist Gaye Black, a couple from Devon that hit London and stumbled on the burgeoning punk scene.
Smith first played in a school band, Slaby Witness, with bassist and fellow art student Andy Bennie. They moved to Torquay and formed the hard rock quartet Sleaze, which self-financed a 1975 session at West of England Sound Studios for a five-song EP, pressed in a quantity of 50 copies. One track, “Listen Don’t Think,” was later reworked into the Adverts song “Newboys.”
Sleaze disbanded when Smith and Gaye, who’d taken up bass to pass time, moved to London for job opportunities. (Bennie and Sleaze guitarist Buzz Chanter later formed the new wave band Last Chance and issued the 1981 album Ladies in Grey.)
In London, the couple attended the 100 Club Punk Special (Sept. 20–21, 1976), where they caught early performances by The Clash, the Buzzcocks, and The Vibrators. Adopting the stagenames TV Smith and Gaye Advert, they formed The Adverts with guitarist Howard Boak (aka Howard Pickup) and drummer Laurie Muscat (aka Lorry Driver).
1977: Shows and Singles
The Adverts made their live debut on January 15, 1977, at the Roxy Club in Convent Garden, the epicenter of the new scene. They opened that night for rising stars Generation X. On the 19th, they opened for the Mancunian act Slaughter and the Dogs. They returned for their first exclusive showcase in February, followed by three engagements with The Damned. In March, they shared double-bills with The Jam and The Police. In total, The Adverts played 11 shows at the Roxy during its legendary first 100 nights of operation.
In April, The Adverts signed to Stiff Records and issued their first single, “One Chord Wonders,” an attack on virtuosity built on a pounding two-step descent from A minor. It was backed by another Smith original, “Quick Step,” and produced by fellow Stiff recording artist Larry Wallace (Pink Fairies, Motörhead). Also that month, they did their first of four sessions for DJ John Peel at BBC Radio One studios, where they performed both sides of the single, plus the early live favorites “Bored Teenagers,” “New Boy’s,” and a song about Gary Gilmore, the recently executed American double-murderer.
The Adverts and labelmates The Damned embarked on a joint UK tour, posters of which sported the tagline: “The Damned can now play three chords, The Adverts can play one. Hear all four of them at….” In July 1977, EMI released the multi-act live document The Roxy London WC2, which features one Adverts number (“Bored Teenagers,” recorded 2/19/77) along with performances by Wire, X-Ray Spex, the Buzzcocks, Eater, Johnny Moped, and Slaughter and the Dogs.
In August 1977, The Adverts switched to Anchor Records for their second single, “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes,” inspired by the killer’s wish to have his eyes donated to science, (b/w “Bored Teenagers”). The a-side is sung from the point of view of an eye-transplant recipient who awakes to see the world through the eyes of a killer. With its floodgate verses, anthemic chorus, and towering amplification, the song reached #18 on the UK Singles Chart.
The Adverts’ third single, “Safety In Numbers” (b/w “We Who Wait”), appeared that October. It features a color-blocked picture sleeve designed by Nicholas De Ville, the cover designer for Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, and select titles by King Crimson and Sparks (Kimono My House).
They recorded their first album that fall at Abbey Road Studios with producer John Leckie (Be-Bop Deluxe, Doctors of Madness, XTC, Magazine). The first taste of these sessions, “No Time to Be 21,” appeared as a single in January 1978 (b/w “New Day Dawning”).
1978: Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts
Their debut album, Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts, appeared in February 1978 on Bright Records. Side one includes their first a-side (“One Chord Wonders”), second b-side (“Bored Teenagers”), and three new originals: “New Church,” “On the Roof,” and “Bomb Site Boy.” Another track, “Newboys,” is a sped-up version of the Sleaze cut “Listen Don’t Think.” Side two includes the two recent a-sides (“Safety In Numbers,” “No Time to Be 21″) and a sequence of epic numbers: “Drowning Men,” “On Wheels,” and “Great British Mistake.”
De Ville designed the cover, which shows a cross-street photo of a modernist tenement with a billboard sign that reads “LAND OF MILK AND HONEY,” surrounded by paint-blotched wood framing. He and photographer Martin Durrant (back cover) also collaborated on the concurrent self-titled album by supergroup UK. Sounds journalist Jane Suck conceived the title Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts.
One week after the album’s release, Driver quit over alleged complaints about the number of takes he required in the studio. The Adverts roped punk journeyman John Towe (Generation X, Alternative TV), who soon cleared out for ex-Rings drummer Rod Latter.
“One Chord Wonders” appears on the 1978 Stiff comp Heroes & Cowards with cuts by Ian Dury (“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll“), Elvis Costello (“Less Than Zero“), The Damned, and Motorhead. “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” (added to later pressings of Crossing the Red Sea) appears on the 1979 Polydor comp 20 of Another Kind with cuts by The Jam (“‘A’ Bomb In Wardour Street“), Generation X (“Ready Steady Go”), The Skids, The Cure, The Stranglers (“No More Heroes“), Stiff Little Fingers, and 999.
That fall, The Adverts signed to RCA Victor and teamed with producer and engineer Tom Newman (July, Mike Oldfield, Henry Cow, Paul Brett). The first fruits of this liaison, “Television’s Over,” appeared in November 1978 in a color-lettered sleeve with a cover-collage of LIFE magazine on the back. Its flipside, “Back from the Dead,” is a co-write between Smith and Doctors of Madness frontman Richard Strange (also recorded by the Doctors on their 1978 third album Sons of Survival).
1979: Cast of Thousands
In June 1979, The Adverts issued their sixth single, “My Place,” backed with the chestnut “New Church,” recorded live in Germany. They expanded to a five-piece with keyboardist Tim Cross, recently of Oldfield’s live backing band. Under the alias Leo Afzelius, Cross recorded the 1976 stage/screen release Pop Spectrum (Volume 3) for the library label Studio G.
The Adverts’ second album, Cast of Thousands, appeared in October 1979 on RCA. Richard Strange plays synthesizer on the opening title track, released that month as a single. Newman does likewise on the closing number “I Will Walk You Home.” The album also includes the two prior a-sides and six new Smith originals, including “Male Assault,” “I Surrender,” “I Looked at the Sun,” and a song called “The Adverts.” The rear cover contains a biblical quote: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” – 1 John 2.15.
Between the recording and release of Cast of Thousands, Pickup and Latter cleared out for guitarist Paul Martinez and drummer Rick Martinez. Paul hailed from Hackensack and the original lineup of Stretch. He’d also played on albums by Cat Stevens, Chicken Shack, Patty Pravo, Paice Ashton Lord, and Renaissance (A Song for All Seasons).
However, the new Adverts lineup was hit with a lawsuit by Pickup and Latter, who objected to the band’s use of the Adverts’ name in their absence. Weeks later, the accidental electrocution death of manager Michael Dempsey ended the band, which played its final show at Slough College on October 27, 1979.
Smith formed T.V. Smith’s Explorers with ex-Doctors of Madness bassist Colin Stoner. They issued the 1980 single “Tomahawk Cruise” (b/w “See Europe”) on Big Beat and the 1981 album The Last Words of the Great Explorer on Kaleidoscope Records Ltd. In 1983, Smith went solo with Channel Five, recorded with Cross and guitarist Tim Renwick (Al Stewart, Sutherland Brothers, Magna Carta). Smith later reteamed with Bennie in T.V. Smith’s Cheap.
Cross played on Mike Oldfield’s 1980 release QE2 and Sally Oldfield‘s concurrent Celebration. He then played on albums by the Skids, Doll by Doll, Dana Gillespie, Claire Hamill, and further Oldfield titles (Five Miles Out). Throughout the decade, he cut numerous instrumental albums for the library labels JW Music and Josef Weinberger Ltd.
Paul Martinez played on Richard Strange’s 1981 solo album The Live Rise of Richard Strange. He then joined Robert Plant‘s backing band and played on the singer’s 1982–85 solo albums. Rick Martinez did a brief stint with Hawkwind.
- Crossing the Red Sea With the Adverts (1978)
- Cast of Thousands (1979)
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1 thought on “The Adverts”
From an earlier draft:
Distinguished by the dramatic yelps and provocative lyrics of frontman T.V. Smith, the band’s high-volume, briskly strummed, riff-laden rock was suited to the era’s London-area club scene. In mid-1977, The Adverts scored a U.K. top-20 hit with the re-imagined news-clip horrors of “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.”
On The Adverts first two singles — “One Chord Wonders” and the aforementioned “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” — maximalism brims from the towering amplification and irrepressible breaks of the former, and through the floodgate verses and anthemic chorus of the latter.
On Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts, the band’s frantic melodrama manifests in compact and compound form, from the pent-up youthful anxiety of “Bored Teenagers” to the epic sonic explosions of the countdown-to-Armageddon “Great British Mistake.”