Clip: Daniel Treacy of the Television Personalities
A Full-Time Punk Again
Published: March 12, 2006
In the late 1970's, the Television Personalities, Daniel Treacy's
ramshackle do-it-yourself band, built a sizable cult following by
tweaking their London peers with songs like "Part Time Punks." In the
80's, as Mr. Treacy became a darkly powerful songwriter, exploring his
fascinations with childhood, Roman Catholicism and the mod movement,
one of his best-loved songs was another joke: "I Know Where Syd
Barrett Lives," about the Pink Floyd founder who "was very famous once
upon a time/ And no one knows even if he's alive."
Mr. Treacy himself effectively vanished in the mid-90's after a string
of increasingly despondent Television Personalities records, leading
to speculation that he was lost to drugs or, worse, was dead. A new
generation of shambolic pop bands venerated him or his memory: the
second Television Personalities tribute album, "Someone to Share My
Life With," has just appeared, and the punk band Mr. T Experience even
recorded a song about him, "I Don't Know Where Dan Treacy Lives." In
May 2004, though, he surfaced with an e-mail communiqué: he was alive
and well and on a prison boat off the south of England, and he was
eager to record again.
"I had a bad time: mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness," Mr.
Treacy, 45, said recently. "I gave up on music. I was in prison five
times — it was all shoplifting to get money to buy drugs, basically."
He didn't realize listeners still cared about him, he said, and had
been surprised to learn that there were Television Personalities fan
sites on the Internet.
Nuns who visited Mr. Treacy in prison gave him a guitar and a
keyboard. After his release in June 2004, he formed a new version of
the band with his childhood friend Edward Ball, who had played in its
earliest lineups, and a group of fans organized a benefit concert to
buy studio time. The resulting album, "My Dark Places," is being
released this month on the independent label Domino, whose owner,
Laurence Bell, has been a Television Personalities buff since he was a
13-year-old part-time punk listening to the radio in 1978.
"My Dark Places" is the band's saddest, most chaotic album. Much of it
was improvised in the studio; at times, it recalls Mr. Barrett's
edge-of-madness songs. Mr. Treacy's wobbly, desperate vocals suggest
that he's on the verge of collapsing into sobs. In fact, he said, he
did break down a few times during the recording, overwhelmed by making
music for the first time in 11 years. "It's the way I like to work,"
he added. "I like to hurt when I'm working."
Mr. Treacy remains a contrarian and an acid-tongued critic of pop
music. Asked if the new song "All the Young Children on Crack"
intentionally echoed his old mod favorite the Creation, he snapped, "I
don't do anything intentional!" He paused. "Which is why I was
sleeping on the street for years. Maybe if I'd been more intentional
I'd be Franz Ferdinand or something. God forbid."