For someone with such a short solo discography, Edward Ball's story is a long and complicated one because he's also recorded many solo albums and EPs under various band names. Ball, a resident of north London, first appeared on record in the post-punk '70s, teamed with his schoolmate Dan Treacy and future Creation Records executive Joe Foster. The threesome self-released various singles and EPs under the names the Teenage Filmstars, the Missing Scientists, and the O-Level (under which name they recorded the legendary "Where's Bill Grundy Now?") before finally settling for good into the name the Television Personalities. (Most of the Teenage Filmstars and O-Level material was reissued on the 1992 CD A Day in the Life of Gilbert and George under the latter band's name; some also appeared on the Television Personalities' 1995 rarities compilation Yes Darling, But Is It Art?) Although Foster left the group before the recording of their first album, Ball and Treacy remained a duo for the first three Television Personalities albums, And Don't the Kids Just Love It? (1980), Mummy Your Not Watching Me (1981) and They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles (1982), all of which were released on the Whaam! label, co-owned by Ball and Treacy (the pair renamed the label Dreamworld after receiving a substantial payout from George Michael's management around the time the tanned popster's first singles came out in 1982). While still a member of the Television Personalities, Ball formed his own '60s Brit-pop-obsessed band, the Times. Though the first Times album, recorded in 1980, went unreleased until 1985 (when it came out in Germany as Go! With the Times), the second, Pop Goes Art!, was released on Whaam! in 1982. the Times released a steady stream of albums and EPs on Ball's own Artpop! label (funded with his share of the George Michael payout) after he left the Television Personalities: This Is London (1983), I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape (1983), Hello Europe (1984), Blue Period (1985), Boys About Town (1985), Up Against It (the songs for a West End stage musical based on Joe Orton's unproduced screenplay for the Beatles written by Ball and Tony Conway of the Mood Six, 1986; this is unrelated to Todd Rundgren's later musical based on the same script), and Enjoy the Times! (1986). the Times broke up around the end of 1986 and Ball joined Foster as an executive at Creation Records. It wasn't long, however, before Ball restarted the Times; this time the name was cover for a solo career with a less Carnaby Street-obsessed outlook and more of an interest in current trends. 1988's Beat Torture was standard late-'80s U.K. guitar jangle à la Creation's house band, Biff Bang Pow!, half of which serves as Ball's backing band, but 1989's ecstatically titled E For Edward dips tentatively into the acid house boom spreading over the country that summer. (Ball recorded three acid house EPs under the name the Love Corporation in the early '90s.) Three more Times albums followed, Et Dieu Crea la Femme (1990), Pure (1991), and Alternative Commercial Crossover (1993) before Ball discarded that band name for good. Rather than start a proper solo career right away, however, Ball simply picked up one of his old pseudonyms. Although Foster and Treacy aren't involved, Ball released two solo albums under the name the Teenage Filmstars. 1993's Rocket Charms is not too different from late-period Times albums, but 1995's Buy Our Record, Support Our Sickness is something of a conceptual masterpiece: with the exception of the drums, every instrument and vocal is recorded backwards, resulting in a surprisingly listenable piece of experimental psych-pop. (Ball also played rhythm guitar with labelmates the Boo Radleys during this era, but didn't contribute to the writing or production of their albums.)
The first record to come out under Ball's own name was 1995's Welcome to the Wonderful World of Ed Ball. A career-spanning compilation chosen by Ball's boss, Creation head Alan McGee, the two-disc set samples records by every Ball project save the Television Personalities. A bewilderingly all-over-the-place collection showing Ball's extreme stylistic versatility, it's nonetheless a fine introduction to his songwriting skills. As if in response, Ball's first real solo album, 1995's If a Man Ever Loved a Woman, is the most musically focused and lyrically direct (the album deals with Ball's divorce in uncharacteristically personal terms) album of Ball's career. The 1996 follow-up, Catholic Guilt, was similarly strong, if a bit more uptempo. Unfortunately, the demise of Creation Records in the late '90s at least temporarily derailed Ball's recording career.