Quintessential English Music – A Conversation With Benjamin Berton

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The irony of French novelist and rock music critic, Benjamin Berton penning an in-depth book on Daniel Treacy and Television Personalities cannot be lost on the quintessential English music icon. Yet, irony has been a mainstay of Treacy’s life from his futile attempt to kidnap Paul McCartney, his chronic addiction’s to his brilliant sly observations of the world around him. Berton has managed a scholarly effort in chronicling Daniel and TVP and by his own admission – he is a fan. In our Zoom conversation, Benjamin almost frantically shares many details from his book, while emphasizing his passion for the unique Englishness of his subject. Here are a few glimpses into Dreamland. It’s 2977 and Daniel Tracy has just walked past the boutique which, a few months earlier, Malcolm McLaren, manager of Sex Pistols, renamed for the umpteenth time. Daniel had just turned 18 in May. He’s wearing a pair of cheap jeans and a checked blue on blueshift. His only touch of originality, as far as clothing is concerned, is a leather cap, pierced with small metal studs, covering his hair which is fairly short for the time, but it falls in untidy locks over his neck. At school, Daniel was shy and introverted, on the rare occasions when he attended, that is. According to the files of the London Oratory School, he reached the summits of truancy during his last school year, setting a record. Jowe Head , the brothers Nikki Sudden and Epic Soundtracks and a few others form a group with variable contours called Swell Maps, the first records of which, released at the same time as those of TVP, had attracted Daniel’s attention. Daniel invited Jowe Head to come and see him. So he turned up at the family flat for a cup of tea. Jowe and Daniel found they had much in common. They both liked fragile voices, childlike characters, and a mix of musical dilettantism. Alan McGee would willingly recognize the role played by Daniel Treacy in hatching his own ambitions. It would be farcical to pretend that Daniel Treacy had taught him everything, but it’s probable that his audacity was the driving force that gave wings to McGee’s career. Addiction was another point in common. Treacy was falling headfirst into his heroin habit, whilst Cobain would, for several months, walk a destructive path of alternating efforts to kick the habit and being tempted to drug himself into oblivion. When they first met backstage at the Astoria, Treacy, and Cobain hardly spoke to each other. Cobain asked the singer if he had everything he needed, which Daniel confirmed, though it’s not clear what he meant by “everything”. I was amazed by his appearance. I had been expecting the worse, but the man who greeted us showed no sign of physical impairment. His right leg was paralyzed and his foot strangely towards the inside, but his face was smooth, relaxed and, above all, looked as if he were twenty or thirty years younger. Daniel’s eyes were clear, even though he could hardly see anything. Music in the program by Television Personalities was selected by Benjamin Berton. Also included, quintessential English music from The Kinks with their 1967 single, Waterloo Sunset, followed by Whole Wide World, Wreckless Eric’s 1977 hit, then the extraordinarily brilliant, Another Girl Another Planet from 1978 by The Only Ones and to close, Jacobites – Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth’s plaintive It’ll All End Up In Tears from their 1985 album, Robespierre’s Velvet Basement. Portions from Dreamworld – The Fabulous Life of Daniel Treacy and his band Television Personalities are courtesy of the author, Benjamin Berton

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