The Adverts had the poor luck to have a talented songwriter in T.V. Smith, a foxy-looking female bass guitarist, and an opening salvo that remarked on punk musicians who might not have been too technically proficient (a group that included some of the people in the Adverts, as it happened). Smith’s songwriting ambitions didn’t entirely fit in with the London punk scene that enabled the band’s existence, and the apparent boon of Gaye Advert’s photogenic, oftentimes goth-like glare simply became a weapon nay-sayers could use to put down the band (as in, “Oi, that girl bass player can’t play”). And naming your first single “One Chord Wonders,” well, you’re just asking for it now, aren’t you?
The Adverts broke up in 1979 after a single on Stiff Records (the aforementioned “One Chord Wonders,” featuring a typically brilliant Barney Bubbles cover) and a true hit in “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” for Bright Records—as well as two LPs—but the frontman and main songwriter for the band, T.V. Smith, never quit making good music, becoming something of a “troubadour,” in the words of Richard Strange as uttered in the 2012 BBC4 documentary We Who Wait: TV Smith & the Adverts.
When I first heard “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” I knew exactly who Gary Gilmore was but it had never occurred to me that the song was referencing a historical fact, that Gilmore had made sure to donate his eyes so that another might see. Would you want to have to look through Gary Gilmore’s eyes?
More after the jump…