TOM VERLAINE INTERVIEW
by George Elliott
In 1976, on assignment with CRAWDADDY MAGAZINE I met Verlaine in the midtown NYC Wartoke offices
during the recording of Television's first album MARQUEE MOON (winter 1976.) This fragment survived over the years.|
(re the Eno/Island Records-funded demo fiasco)
-the only thing I can tell you about it would be bad! I mean I like Eno, I like his records... The bad thing about it is there was a very uncool A&R guy who took the tapes back to London and played 'em for every fucking artist on Island Records, so-& like I tell that to people but they don't believe it, it happens a lot, especially with the English... I mean they ripped off a whole fucking artform from Americans. And their whole esthetic is like if they hear something that's good it just sorta comes in their ear and goes out their mouth y'know-and most of 'em have the means to like set something on vinyl really quickly, crank out the stuff, so yeah, so there's a lot of lines that are on our record (MM) that might strike some people as familiar even though the songs are like 4 years old...specifically, a lot of the lines turned up on Roxy Music's SIREN record-at least a dozen! Some I got so distressed about I said 'Well FUCK! -if he's gonna take THESE lines! I mean how can I prove it, I can't prove it, right? But you know...
Quote some, I'm very familiar with that album...
One of them is 'My heart stopped' and the whole band stops...
GE: (quoting Ferry)
'Will it stop?' (Sentimental Fool)
Right, which is a move we used to do in 'Venus de Milo' ...which I got bored with and changed anyway. Another thing is 'This case is closed' at the end of - see, I only heard the album twice, I got so like pissed off when I heard it I took it out and sold it (laughing) didn't want to hear it again!... And there was this thing about little birdcalls I think on one of the songs.
Right- we used to have like a (chirp-whistles imitating a bird) kind of effect on a song called 'Prove It'...another thing is on the tape I did for Eno I did a certain style of playing piano-a certain kind of harmony with two hands- which showed up in their keyboards on I believe the second song on the first side ("End of the Line") just a certain way like- but I can't claim originality for that, it was just curious that even THAT showed up... and then we had, the song 'Venus de Milo' the whole SUBject of it is Love is a drug, I mean there's even a line in it "It's all just like a new kind of drug" -and then there's this Roxy song (chuckling) on SIREN 'Love is the Drug'! ... Bryan Ferry's known as a thief y'know, everybody sort of knows it...
('Little Johnny Jewel 45')
I'm kind of proud of that little record! I mean I've heard about a million other records that have come out since then by all these groups around here and there and I really like 'Little Johnny Jewel'.(smiling) That was done all in one night... I'm surprised at the sound of that. I first did it, well...I had a specific idea about how I wanted it to sound and I thought it sounded that way ...and then I finally got it mastered and I heard it and I go 'God!' this is just like... 'Yuck'; then some guy took it to a recording studio and played it over this HUGE monitoring system and it really sounds cool! I really didn't dig the way it sounded until this (1976) year and now I really like it...In one part if you listen close there's a piano and an organ (sings riff) in the background...to fill it out and make that part like a theme, it happens once on the each side (of the 45). In fact, that was recorded right down the hall where you hear the drummer goin'... crazy, on his first new set of drums in 14 years...
TV: It's like training ground, it's just really great, it's like a place where you can make all your mistakes in front of people, and there's not too many places I don't think where you can do that...It's not like a bar where people want to dance...that's exactly what it is, it's the ideal place to like develop a following and to go through all your - it's like first grade where you make all your mistakes and people see it and yet some people see that there's something there that's really valuable or something... that's the way it went for more than 2 years almost 3 years of playing there. When we first started playing I knew we were awful-I don't know what the rest of the band thought-I knew we stunk! Then the bass player (R Hell) quit, I said 'Great! Now we can get a great bass player' (F Smith) and then we got real good, we got a million times tighter just having a good bottom in the group...
(Japanese rock magazines)
TV: I just got a letter from a guy in Japan. In fact one of them somehow found out where I lived one day and came up to my house and knocked on my door. And I opened it and he's standing there (imitating breathless Japanese accent) 'Tom Verlaine! Yes! I am from Japan! I- Rock & roll! You are very BIG there!' and I said No one's ever heard of us there- he goes (accent) 'It doesn't make any difference! Rock & roll!' really like a purehearted - yeh I'd love to go to Japan... Rock & roll must be, like over there- like it was here in the 50s, something completely new and it's like all of a sudden your instincts are on display or sumpthin' (dastardly cartoon character snicker)...
(The thrust of the pending article)
...You just don't seem like a dumb guy to me... I'm not really so worried about it, the main thing is a lotta (press) people get real coy with the 'television' stuff and they start throwing all these adjectives about- "Get your antennae out," all this kindalike little garbagey stuff- but that's not- the whole idea of Television is like on the visionary aspects of- art, rather than the media aspects. It's really not like TV as something 'supermodern' or something 'media' or 'electronic' or that kind of farout William Burroughs kind of stuff... It's more like the old aspect of Vision...the classical aspects.
Tell a vision...
Right, the 3 words...I don't see us as a big media gimmick band. We don't really have any gimmicks. We don't have a cultivated appearance or anything like say Kiss or something... we don't have a 'show'... this whole thing with Rock as a big show is a 70s thing but I don't subscribe to that whole idea even though it might pay off...
~no heat hot water or phone at Tom's apartment /advance $ /debts /new instruments~
...I did find a Fender 1959 Jazzmaster with a bronze pickguard and 2 white pickups. This one I had to have ...It sounds real good on the record. We've been able to find guitars cheap, we found this old Gretsch for $80 that sounds real good, we used that on the record (MM). The record isn't like a heavy...metal sort of record, there's no Gibsons on it. Most records you hear are Gibson guitars, there's a distinct difference between Fenders and Gibsons. The whole Fender sound is like Jimi Hendrix; the thinner Fender sound is like Booker T and the MGs, that kind of stuff. The whole Gibson sound is like Oh...lotsa Led Zeppelin-
Yeah, Mahavishnu has a heavier sound... our record's like - there's a lot of 'bite' in the guitars...
Well that's what E-no's tape sounded like to tell ya the truth, when Eno did us we sounded like The Ventures! And it wasn't bad on one of the songs, but on all 8- Euchh! No balls, no balls...