CBGB, NYC, 29th December 1976
Little Johnny Jewel
See No Evil
O Mi Amore
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Little Johnny Jewel
The last time Television played CBGBs, recorded before "Marquee Moon" was released. The sound is much better than on "The Blow Up" (which was recorded live 15 months later) but is still frustratingly murky in places. It makes you wish that, just once, a Television gig in the 70s had been recorded professionally for official release. And this one would have been perfect.
It sounds like a band at the height of its (live) powers. Confident, brash, innovative and occupying a space, a position, all of its own. Robert Christgau, in the liner notes for "The Blow Up" calls Television "one of the most influential bar bands in rock and roll history", which I take to be a reference only to their residency at CBGBs, because they were far more than that. There's nothing about this music to suggest that it was meant to be only played to a couple of hundred people at a time or that this was the intention or the extent of their ambition. In fact, it sounds to me like music whose time has come and which needs a much broader canvas to make its mark.
It's uncompromising and uncompromised which is perhaps why, even if Television hadn't carried its own internal tensions which led to its fragmentation, they were never going to be as 'popular' as, say, Blondie, who came from the same place but ended up (started out?) giving people what they wanted.
The playing throughout is tight and muscular - listen to "O Mi Amore" for the sound of four people who have nothing to prove as a live band. The set (I guess a typical Television set) is made up of songs that would appear on both "Marquee Moon" and "Adventure" and the live standards that wouldn't appear (officially) anywhere else. You can hear that these songs have been honed, shaped and refined in the preceding couple of years and it's no surprise that "Marquee Moon" would be such an exciting and powerful record.
The second CD has 'bonus tracks' recorded during the same week of shows as the first disk. For my money, the seven songs here are all better than the versions on the first CD. Everyone seems to be playing with even more commitment and there's a real sense of (raw) power. The version of "Satisfaction" is the best live one I've heard (so far). Imagine the Stones before complacency replaced energy; Television play "Satisfaction" as if it hadn't been written by white boys from London but as if it had been cut and dragged, spontaneous and whole, from the murk and smoke of CBGBs.
Forced to choose between the versions of "Little Johnny Jewel" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" on "The Blow Up" and the ones here, I'd have to go for the former as the definitive statements of Verlaine's live guitar genius, but there really isn't that much in it. The later versions are a little more daring, a little more extreme, as if Television was becoming Verlaine's band which, by all accounts, it was. But Richard Lloyd here in, for example, "O Mi Amore" and "Adventure", plays some great rock guitar which fits perfectly and really boosts the excitement level.
"Kingdom Come" bears no relation to the song of the same name which would appear on "Tom Verlaine" but does feature that very 70s thing, the Drum Solo, albeit a pretty manic, over-the-top drum solo. (OK, so most of them were). It seems like an incongruous thing to hear in a Television set but it does fit in with the general excitement and thrash of the track.
The second version of "Marquee Moon" is glorious for its attack and exuberance. In fact there's a great communication of the sheer enjoyment of playing that runs through all these songs.
Listening to these recordings is like hearing a band poised on the point of world domination; what, you wonder, could possibly stop them?