Essential Albums: Pop Goes Art

Edward 'Ed' Ball and Dan Treacy were London schoolmates when they founded the Television Personalities in 1977, which became one of the most influential British underground pop bands in the 1980s.

Both were still in their late teens when the TVPs released their first album on Rough Trade Records, "...And Don't the Kids Just Love It", a groundbreaking album of lo-fi underground pop greatness that set the tone for the career of both the Television Personalities and later The Times.

The Times' Pop Goes Art album is basically a TV Personalities effort where Ed Ball and Dan Treacy changed roles. Ball is leading the band as singer and songwriter and Treacy is just playing the guitar, so The Times is Ed Ball's band who remained its only constant member throughout the years with an ever-changing line-up.

Just like the first TVP album, Pop Goes Art is a garage pop gem with a strong focus on 1960s pop culture. The equivalent to the TVPs brilliant "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives" was "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape" on The Times' album; McGoohan played the title character in the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, who spends the entire series trying to escape from a luxury island prison.

Pop Goes Art was the first album release on Dan Treacy's Whaam! Records, in a small print of amateurish looking, individually handmade sleeves that perfectly complemented the music. All the sleeves are unique. The band used plain white jackets, glued a small paper with a track listing on the back, and silk-screened or painted a design on the front, usually with a small sticker of The Times' logo, resembling a London Underground sign.

Shortly after the album release, Ed Ball left the Television Personalities and also Whaam! Records to focus on The Times. He immediately launched his own Artpop! Label and re-released the Pop Goes Art album, again with entirely handmade (but distinctly different) covers. Both issues are highly collectible today, both for the music and as outstanding examples of British underground pop culture.

Here is a gallery (obviously incomplete) of many of the individual Pop Goes Art designs:


Rames El Desouki

The Traveller Publishing

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