Free Trade Hall, Manchester, England, 26 May 1977
See No Evil
Little Johnny Jewel
Knockin' on Heaven's Door (cuts)
... "a thing called.. er.. 'Just The Facts'"
The fifth date of Television's first tour outside the U.S. and they reach Manchester full, as they say, of piss and vinegar, fire and passion. Here was the missing link I'd been waiting for; the bridge, the connection between the fuck-off vitriol of the Sex Pistols and the dark, poetic journeys of the Velvet Underground in its prime. Here, finally, was a band that made sense
Barely pausing long enough for Verlaine to mutter the title of the next number, the first four songs are a rush of frenzied drumming and spiralling, sharp guitars. Richard Lloyd's guitar lines are all over the sound, and you're struck once again by the realisation of how important Billy Ficca was to the band's dynamic. He doesn't so much push the sound as guide it. Although both Verlaine and Lloyd have played with a number of drummers since Television, I do think that Ficca's drums belong with their guitars. Any 'punk' drummers in the crowd in Manchester that night (and I bet there were a few) must have gone home afterwards and found themselves thinking that, maybe, there was more to it all than they'd previously realised.
Of course, this is not in any way a punk band. Never was. But there was no other easy category into which to slot them at the time - and there still isn't.
Each song, when introduced, is greeted with a roar of approval by the crowd (and Marquee Moon had been out - what, a couple of months?), with the greatest cheer, of course, for "Marquee Moon".
And to those of us who knew "Little Johnny Jewel" only from the Ork single, this great live version was a revelation - the way that Verlaine's guitar twists, scratches, claws and moans its way through the song's structure. This was guitar playing free of the histrionic wanking that had characterised most rock guitar since Hendrix opened the doors. Any band boasting either Verlaine or Lloyd in its ranks could consider itself fortunate - to have both is to be blessed with an embarrassment of riches.
Television's live version of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" has to be one of the great covers; there's something about the tone of Verlaine's guitar that suits the song so well. Unfortunately this recording cuts out the second half of the song so the definitive live version remains that on The Blow Up. There's a great version of "Marquee Moon" here - Verlaine's guitar runs liquid through the song before pulling back and throwing out little flurries and spasms of notes. Lloyd goes crazy on "Satisfaction", which couldn't possibly go any faster without something melting. "Psychotic Reaction" sounds like a building full of musical instruments collapsing, as if the tension and adrenalin running through the whole gig had to finally find a way out.
Oh, and Blondie were supporting, as if anyone really cared.