The Times were one of many projects launched by Edward Ball, a vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in smart, sharply written pop tunes with lyrics that cast a wry and sometimes bitter gaze on U.K. popular culture. Ball first came to the attention of music fans in the late '70s as he partnered with Dan Treacy in a handful of recording projects (the Teenage Filmstars, the Missing Scientists, the O-Levels) that evolved into the Television Personalities, who gained a well-deserved cult following with tunes like "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape," "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives," and "A Picture of Dorian Gray."
After releasing three albums with the Television Personalities, Ball formed the Times; initially the group was a collaboration with Treacy, but with Ball as the dominate songwriter and vocalist, and they made their debut with the single "Red with Purple Flashes" in 1981, released on their own Whaam Records label. In 1982, the first Times album, Pop Goes Art!, was released in tandem with Whaam Records and Ball's newly formed Artpop! Records label. In 1983, Ball re-recorded "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape" with the Times for an Artpop! single; it was also the title track of a Times EP, and the same year the group released its second album, This Is London, which found Ball casting his eye on more serious issues.
By this time, the Times were fully Ball's project, with a fluid lineup and Ball as the sole constant, and he continued to release material at a prolific pace, including the 1984 album Hello Europe and the 1985 EP Blue Period. The year 1985 also saw the release of Go! With the Times, a collection of unreleased material dating back to 1980. In 1986, Ball co-wrote (with Tony Conway of Mood Six) Up Against It, a theatrical adaptation of Joe Orton's unproduced screenplay for a Beatles film, and the Times released an album of music created for the show the same year. Another Times album, a loose concept piece about the ongoing collapse of civilization titled Enjoy the Times, also arrived in 1986.
Ball bowed out of performing and recording for a while, becoming an executive with Creation Records, but by 1988, label head Alan McGee persuaded him to make a new Times album, with members of Biff Bang Pow! serving as his backing band. Beat Torture, the Times' first album for Creation, was released in 1988, and Ball maintained his typically busy schedule, releasing nine albums and EPs for Creation between 1988 and 1999, including 1989's E for Edward (a jaundiced look at Ecstasy and rave culture), 1990's Et Dieu Créa la Femme (a set of French-language pop tunes), 1991's Pure (which featured another French-language number, a guitar-based reworking of New Order's "Blue Monday"), and 1993's Alternative Commercial Crossover and 1999's Pirate's Playlist 66 (two sets of venomous satire of the state of rock and the music business). Concurrently with the Times' run of recordings for Creation, Ball began releasing solo efforts, as well as material with his side projects Love Corporation and Conspiracy of Noise, but after Creation Records folded in 1999, little was heard from Ball, though he would rejoin Television Personalities in 2004, and occasionally perform live as the Times. ~ Mark Deming