Tom Verlaine. Television. "Marquee Moon". Guitars and Grace and Danger.
This is a site which has emerged from my (let's be honest) obsession with the above. There must be a record in everyone's life which changes things. (If there isn't, then didn't you grow up with the radio on? Haven't you ever queued outside a record shop on a release date just so that you could get it first?)
Changes the way you think about things.
"Marquee Moon" changed the way I thought about music; about the way it was created, the way it was played and the way it sounded. Forget the way it should sound. In the UK, heavy rock and 'progressive' music were the order of the day. Nothing succeeds like excess. (OK, so there's nothing wrong with listening to people whose brains are all in their fingers, but you try listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer without laughing.) In the US, anyone still left over from the 60s and early 70s seemed to be heading towards country. Living in London in 1975, nothing seemed more absurd or worthless than, say, The Eagles (actually, even now, nothing seems more absurd or worthless than The Eagles, but there you go).Love and Thanks to Tania for not complaining but hearing it too.
I played the guitar. Not too well. I listened to Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder, Peter Green, Hendrix and put the guitar away again. Wrong thing to do, of course, but everyone else was trying to play like someone else and, hell, it's hard to play "Big Eyed Beans From Venus" when you didn't write it and, really, what's the point?
I read about the New York music scene in English music papers. At least once a day I wished I lived there. I knew what was going on but I hadn't heard it. Then there was "Marquee Moon". I heard "Elevation" on some late night TV programme and the next day I went out and found the album and that was that. It was like a new musical world, or the old one twisted inside out. It was energy and brains and power and beauty. It slashed a hole in the continental divide between Beefheart and the newly-emerging snarl of the Sex Pistols. I couldn't work out where it came from. It didn't seem to owe anything to anybody and, if it wore its influences at all, then most of them passed me by. My crappy old stereo just wouldn't go up loud enough to play it properly. Must be the grip of love.
It wasn't music that crept up on you. It didn't so much grab you as, well, make everything else irrelevant while it was there. It was clean and sharp and dirty and dense. And there was this open, untreated passionate whine of a voice; even when I could make out the lyrics there hardly seemed time to think about what they meant. Guitars slid through it and skidded around it and almost fell over it. It had beauty and attitude; it said, "Look at me!" and then it said, "Fuck off!" It felt as if it had always been there, complete, somewhere. Did somebody just make this up? Did somebody write this?
Thirty-some years later I still get the same rush when I hear the first few bars of "See No Evil". There's are moments on every Television, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd album that raise hairs on the back of my neck.
I still listen to all this music on vinyl, because I always have done. It sounds better. I don't want to get into an argument about this, but it does. Most of the unofficial Television/Verlaine stuff is only available on CD, but you have to take what you can get.
When I started this site, it wasn't intended to be the Ultimate Television Website. (Maybe some day, if my wife and children don't throw me out first...) It's not an attempt to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Fred Smith and Billy Ficca. It's just an expression of how I feel about this brilliant noise. It's unashamedly positive (I seem to have mislaid my natural cynicism somewhere for the duration) and probably gushes a little too much here and there but, hey, it's my obsession so I don't care.
All the reviews and opinions here are mine (unless otherwise credited) so if you think I'm wrong about something, well... send me an alternative point of view.
It's growing, bit by bit. A lot of great work on the Discography and history was already done by Steve Rovner, in his Just The facts site, which has now become part of this site. You can find it here. I owe much in the way of research to Leo Casey, who is a much-tapped source of archived stuff about Television and who generously shared his treasures with me. Richard Lloyd has his own official website here, and Richard Hell's is here.
If, somehow, you got here by accident, read on and then do yourself a favour and go out and get some of this stuff. If it wasn't an accident then you already know what I'm talking about.
"You know it's all like some new kind of drug"...
Thanks to Colin at Helter Skelter Records, Chichester UK
I'd also like to thank:
Leo Casey (archivist extraordinaire),
Howard Webb (for.. he knows what) ,
Maurice Rickard (for this and that)