Gary And His Eyes Have Parted Company

Smart, fast and so of their time The Adverts Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts embodied the London punk scene in a microcosm.

Adverts Crossing 03

The Adverts were everything that punk should be.  TV Smith and Gaye Advert were misfit small towners who moved from rural Bideford  to London, to feel close to something, to make some noise and put something out there.  Recruiting a guitarist and drummer, within three gigs they were signed up with a record deal and documenting the mood of the times, the anxiety and excitement of the scene in a series of tracks that sometimes seem less like songs sometimes than despatches from the front.  Beloved of purists, fanzine writers and, briefly, the single buying public alike.  Punk journalist Jane Suck said that, for them being the spontaneous volatile bunch they were, making an album would be a feat akin to crossing the red sea, and they grabbed it for an album title.

Article in Sniffin' Glue fanzine (#7)
Article in Sniffin’ Glue fanzine (#7)

Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts, recorded at Abbey Road Studios no less with John Leckie at the helm, crashes straight into life with ‘One Chord Wonders’, a fabulous, intelligent, sly examination of the relationship between band and audience at the time,

 I wonder how we’ll answer when you say.
“We don’t like you – go away”
“Come back when you’ve learned to play”
I wonder what we’ll do when things go wrong
When we’re half-way though our favourite song
We look up and the audience has gone
Will we feel a little bit obscure?
Think “we’re not needed here”
“we must be new wave – they’ll like us next year”

        the answer of course is ‘the Wonders don’t give a damn!’.   This is a fast one too, speedy in every sense of the word.  A gig poster at the time for a concert supporting the Damned read, ‘the Adverts know one chord, the Damned know three – come and hear all four at …’  Next track, ‘Bored Teenagers’ rattles along with similarly overwrought pace and passion, avoiding the lyrical clichés inherent in the title.

Adverts Crossing 02

In ‘New Church’, such was the Adverts accelerated development you could hear who new genres and ways forward being born – The Damned for one would mine a similar melodic seam for years once they had learned to play their instruments properly*.  ‘On The Roof’ even hits hints at cynicism and jaundice of Roger Waters proportions.  Some tracks even play with the woozy time changes, in a crude way, so beloved of US indie bands a decade or so later.  Me? as always I prefer the ones that they belt out as though their very lives depend upon it like ‘Bomb Site Boy’, ever melodic its one of those moments that nearly always make band’s debut LPs their best for me, it just captures that moment when ambition rattles up against competency and you can just hear the sheer effort involved dragging the maximum out of everyone concerned.

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Despite all their schtick about only having one chord to offer, The Adverts were good musically.  Gaye Advert always seems to get more column inches for setting the punk chick archetype of panda-eyed cool than for her sometimes excellent bass lines.  Her future husband, singer TV Smith had a great urgent punk voice too.  The whole band hit a good melodic fast-paced groove for much of the LP, although some tracks like ‘Great British Mistake’ err a little on the basic side of the fence.

Panda-eyed cool
Panda-eyed cool

My copy of Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts isn’t a long-cherished 1978 original, but a 1988 reissue which means it’s even better because it includes their best moment ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’.  A thing of wondrous, twisted genius, over a great beat and a brilliantly catchy tune, it deals with Gilmore’s execution from a remarkably sick and original perspective.  Gary Gilmore, insisted that he be allowed to donate his eyes for medical purposes after his execution and so the song deals with a patient waking up and realizing that he’s looking through … (cue song title).  Two brilliant lines stand out in a menacing song that is just sheer brilliance,

The eye receives the messages and sends them to the brain.
No guarantee the stimuli must be perceived the same…


Gary don’t need his eyes to see
Gary and his eyes have parted company.

Sometimes you have to just stand up and applaud for all you’re worth.  Produced by early Motörhead guitarist and erstwhile Pink Fairy, Larry Wallis, the single was a #18 hit in the UK, it was the band’s peak TV Smith later stated that the tension of following the track, coupled with various speed and heroin problems, on top of personnel problems just did for the band.  In some ways, selfishly, I like that fact.  It meant that The Adverts really did just exist in that time they documented so well.

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Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts is 12 bullets from a punk pistol, mostly hitting hard home and true – flash, bang, impact and gone.

420 Down.

*was this where scuzz-rock kings Lords Of The New Church grabbed their name? anyone out there know?

Lyrics to ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ in full, because we all deserve it:

I’m lying in a hospital,
I’m pinned against the bed.
A stethoscope upon my heart,
A hand against my head.
They’re peeling off the bandages.
I’m wincing in the light.
The nurse is looking anxious,
And she’s quivering in fright…

I’m looking through Gary Gilmore’s eyes.

The doctors are avoiding me.
My vision is confused.
I listen to my earphones,
And I catch the evening news.
A murderer’s been killed,
And he donates his sight to science.
I’m locked into a private ward.
I realise that I must be…

Looking through Gary Gilmore’s eyes.
Looking through Gary Gilmore’s eyes.

I smash the light in anger.
Push my bed against the door.
I close my lids across my eyes,
And wish to see no more.
The eye receives the messages,
And sends them to the brain.
No guarantee the stimuli must be perceived the same…

When looking through Gary Gilmore’s eyes.

Gary don’t need his eyes to see
Gary and his eyes have parted company.




12 thoughts on “Gary And His Eyes Have Parted Company

  1. Your post triggered a spin of the punk comp CD “Your Generation”. As well as hugely enjoying GG’s Eyes, I also pogo-ed to “New Rose”, nodded my head off to “Holiday in Cambodia” and fucking went nuts to “Babylon’s Burning”. So thanks.

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