Psychic TV’s shows, especially in their early years, had an intimidating sense of menace and dark energy. From the minute you walked in, you strongly got the impression that you were somewhere where you shouldn’t be. Early PTV shows were among the most mesmerizing, depraved, insane and just plain hair-raisingly scary concerts I’ve ever attended. I vividly remember seeing them at the Hammersmith Town Hall in fall of 1984 and deciding to step back from the front in case a winged demon materialized onstage and started flying around killing people. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. I didn’t want to be too close to that action, it was like an evil vortex was threatening to open up and suck the entire place into it. The whole thing was like the most twisted Hammer Horror version of what a demonic rock concert would be like. Yep, the best way to describe it would be to say that it was like being in a really weird, mind-bending horror movie, something so far beyond real life as to seem fictional almost.
In the group’s original incarnation Psychic TV included Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Genesis P-Orridge, both late of Throbbing Gristle. The other members were Paula P-Orridge, Alex Fergusson (formerly of Alternative TV), John “Zos Kia” Gosling and Geff Rushton, a.k.a. John Balance. At this time, the group’s sound was a unique mix of exotic instruments (like Tibetan thigh bones and tribal drums), vibraphone, Fergusson’s Velvet Undergroundy guitar drone, a hefty dollop of Throbbing Gristle’s painfully LOUD musique concrète and the various sonic elements we think of as defining the music of Coil, which, of course, Christopherson and Balance soon went on to form, not staying with PTV much beyond their classic 1983 album Dreams Less Sweet.
Another time I saw Psychic TV live it was in a disused synagogue in London’s Drayton Park earlier that same summer. The “security” were Hackney skinheads. There was no electricity in the abandoned temple, so they’d brought in a portable generator. The circular staircase was illuminated with candles. There was debris, bricks, beer bottles and broken glass everywhere. It was late July, hot, humid and the place smelled of human waste and urine. Genesis played an amplified violin, just sawing away at it, his atonal screeching providing the perfect soundtrack to watching ectoplasm form. It was more of an Aleister Crowley-type occult ritual than anything resembling a rock concert (you can listen to that show, which was released as one of the live series of Psychic TV albums in the late 1980s as Temporary Temple, here)
A new vinyl reissue of 1983’s ‘Force the Hand of Chance’ will be coming out as a limited edition of just 1000 copies in August. Forced Exposure will have 700 copies and the rest will be sold via Genesis Breyer P-orridge.com
Recently a real gem of an early PTV show has turned up on YouTube. The video—an entire show, the group’s very first proper gig in the UK—included the following first person account written by Steve Muhmur who was in attendance at the show (from his blog and slightly edited here):
I can remember a lot about this night, this unforgettable night. The (Christian) demonstrators (outside) were just setting up, getting their chants and placards ready.
Members of Psychic TV were sat across two tables drinking cans of Carling Black Label. A passing smile and nod and we headed straight to the bar.
Originally the first ever Psychic TV live gig should have been at Prestwich Mental Hospital with Nico as support, but local council complaints meant it was hastily moved to a nightclub just off the Oxford Road. With my warm pint of lager in a plastic pint pot in hand I spent the evening front centre. The stage makes a good table and the monitors a great place to throw the coat. No Nico at The Ritz.
Looped footage of Jim Jones in action on a makeshift screen stage right. The place slowly filled, the coaches from London arrived. Members of Test Department came to check the onstage equipment. Anticipation. There was a strange climbing frame on the stage, Genesis used it during the performance.
“Don’t Forget Ken, Make It Hurt.” I have never forgotten those words. The performance is magnificent. It hits a lull in the middle, and if I remember rightly this was down to failing equipment. Gen’s bass guitar and Sleazy’s Emulator, but the power of the performance of the material is still quite stunning. “Roman P” and “Oi You Skinhead” shine. During “Oi You Skinhead” Gen leapt from the stage and started accosting the audience. Frightening moment. Do you remember going to gigs and being scared, scared of the performance and the unknown? Great days.
It’s true! When’s the last time you were truly frightened at a rock concert??? Early Psychic TV gigs were fucking legit scary, I promise you, because it wasn’t an act!
Today’s young people have really been cheated.
Below, Psychic TV live at the Ritz in Manchester, England on November 6, 1983. Keep in mind that this would have been performed at an absolutely ear-splitting—think painful—volume. You can hear the show better here