Psychic TV - Hacienda, Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light, Live At Thee MarqueeBetween the original Temple Records releases and the subsequent Vinyl-on Demand and Cold Spring releases I wonder if Psychic TV ever reached the magickal number of 23 live releases. Maybe, someone could let me know. These CDs mark the latest batch of live Psychic TV releases from the archive courtesy of Cold Spring. More so than any other Psychic TV live releases these three discs have a distinct bootleg feel to them, as they include everything from the show introductions with some dubious sound elements creeping in. With their ever morphing line-up changes centring around the omnipresent Genesis P-Orridge, now better known as Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, along with the now missing Alex Fergusson and the cut from history Paula, these 3 CDs catch Psychic TV in their multifarious manifestations with varying results.
With an elongated intro of experimental sounds and atmospherics, most of the Psychic TV set from 1984 at Manchester's Factory owned Hacienda plays out to a rudimentary spartan drum beat as the band flits between the austere sounds of 'Enochian Calls', 'Unclean Monks' and the likes of 'I Like You', with nascent slowed down versions of the hyperdelic pop singles 'Roman P' and 'Godstar'. This is very much Psychic TV in a transitional phase. The sound leans heavily on tapes, overlayen with guitars and Genesis's vocal improvisations, as found on 'Unclean'. 'Roman P.', Psychic TV's embittered paean to the troubled film director, is all improvised jangly guitars and rolling drums as Gen imparts the cold hectoring lyrics. 'Godstar', a story about Brian Jones, one of the Rolling Stones, is just as cheerless, propelled by pumping bass and Fergusson's wayward guitar excursions, with Genesis's meandering words yet to be honed. It's difficult to compare this with the finely crafted slice of pop-psychedelia that touched the outskirts of the charts a year later. The noise atmospherics of the Austin Osman Spare inspired 'The Starlit Mire' and 'Thee Shining' fare better partly due to their improvised nature allowing Genesis to run wild with his vocals. With John Gosling and Paul Reeson, Hacienda rates as one of the more uninspiring Psychic TV shows I've heard.
Psychic TV's headline performance as part of the Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light at London's Hammersmith Palais from May 1985, a day-long event which amongst others featured performances from The Virgin Prunes, (the pre-Sugarcubes) KUKL, Bee The Process, The Death and Beauty Foundation who included artist Val Denham - whose modified artwork adorns the cover, and writer Kathy Acker is perhaps one of the most accessible PTV shows ever - it certainly compares favourably with Live At Thee Mardi Gras with a setlist comprising their chart hit 'Godstar', and the single 'Roman P' together with some of the more melodic tracks from A Pagan Day and latterly Allegory and Self, alongside familiar live mainstays.
Opening with a dramatic and flamboyant intro, this version of Psychic TV featured Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson - from the Icelandic arm of TOPY, Dave Ball (Soft Cell), Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade) alongside Genesis P-Orridge, Alex Fergusson, Max Prior (aka Dorothy), Mouse and Paula. With such a stellar line-up, it doesn't disappoint. Fergusson's guitar jangles with psychedelic flourishes on 'I Like You' and 'We Kiss'. A lighter than usual 'Unclean' is swathed in keyboards bringing a different feel to it. Both 'Godstar' and 'Roman P.' are nicely represented in their hyperdelic tones, with 'Roman P.' fleshed out with keyboards, and 'Godstar' featuring Rose's vocal accompaniment. I can't think of any other live Psychic TV release featuring Rose. But it is the bewitching tones of Rose McDowall that really helps to elevate this live recording for me, especially on the pop-psychedelia of 'Just Like Arcadia' - introduced by Gen as being about Coronation Street icon "Hilda Ogden when she took LSD" - and the just plain pop of 'Baby's Gone Away', a hidden Psychic TV gem. When they turn to the dark acid explorations of 'Southern Comfort' and 'Thee Starlit Mire', Rose's harmonies back the ecstatic vocalisations and howls of Genesis on 'Southern Comfort', surrounded by lumbering bass and layers of keyboards, while 'Thee Starlit Mire' is an unheady improvisation of tapes, feedback and drums with Genesis's voice rising to a scream. 'OV Power' closes Psychic TV's Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light performance with atmospheric layers of keyboard surrounding the bass thrust, as it lunges into full-on improvisation with keyboards performed as if soundtracking a haunted carousel, with audience members joining in on the "OV Power" chants. It's just a pity Psychic TV didn't do more with this line-up, as they were definitely onto something here.
The Live At Thee Marquee show from 1986 was part of a benefit show for the revived underground newspaper International Times (IT), and the set which leans heavily towards the previous CD of Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light is a much more rocky sound ebbing towards the psychedelic space rock of PTV3. From metal beats and looped tapes the thump of a drum signals the arrival Psychic TV with a forcefully rhythmic version of 'OV Power', with Mouse's bass throbbing to layers of keyboards, which towards the end is fleshed out with Fergusson's guitar overload as it segues into 'She Touched Me'. 'Just Like Arcadia' jangles and rocks, and even a rowdy crowd interruption doesn't put Gen off, as s/he strays from the lyrics in only the way s/he can. Fuelled by Matthew Best's commanding drumming, the Marquee set is much rockier than the other two discs, as they power through 'I Like You' and 'Riot In Thee Eye' with a loose lyrical interpretation of Pink Floyd's 'Interstellar Overdrive' - a knowing nod to the 1966 launch of International Times which featured a performance from Pink Floyd. Elsewhere 'Unclean' dispenses with the cyclical guitar strum for Philip Erb's synth stabs and Fergusson's free-form psychedelic guitars. 'Godstar' - "this one's for Mick Jagger" - is present in jagged form - accompanied by a wired-up crowd member. The encore features a tranquil abridged version of 'We Kiss', before a rollicking anarchic 'Roman P.' closes the set with more annoying audience participation.
Each of these CDs has a real bootleg cassette feel to them. That's especially true of Live At Thee Marquee which has more audience noise - and participation, than the others. And while the Hacienda disc does little for me the set from Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light event is a more than worthwhile addition to the numerous live Psychic TV releases out there. Both Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light and Live At Thee Marquee releases feature previously unseen photographs. These CDs, like all Psychic TV live releases, document and catalogue an undeniably unique and influential group. For more information go to www.coldspring.co.uk