Television: Escapees from Heaven

The Soho Weekly News, June 27 1974

by Patti Smith

Somewhere in the fifties Billy Lee Riley was slicking brillcreme and boys all over the U.S.A. were resting Les Pauls on their hip and scrubbing them like sex. It eats thru the Chez Vous Ballroom 13 Floor Elevator Love Velvet Underground and the Yardbirds live in Persia. It permeates back seats waterfronts the local poolhall traintracks just anywhere that rains adolescents. And for the past six weeks it peaked after midnight every sunday on the bowerie in a dark little soho bar called C.B.G.B. Lousy P.A., long nervous dogs running random, women smoking french cigarettes and mostly boys on the prowl hanging by a thread waiting for Television to tune up.

The tune up is their first number. Like a moslem the boys take their time to tune and they don't apologize. These boys got real short hair totally naked faces and the lead Tom Verlaine has the most beautiful neck in rock 'n' roll. Real swan like. The kind of neck you want to strangle. He strolls up to the mike and drawls, "gotta Count Five number for ya" takes a swan dive and the boys launch into Psychotic Reaction. The music is rigidly maniac. A few non-believers murmur that they look like escapees from some mental ward but those tuned into TV know better. These boys are truly escapees from heaven.

Television's wings are a little twisted but the way they play is nearly perfect. Creating infinite space. Throbbing you over and over like sex. And sexy sexy as hell with songs like Hard on love, One on top of another and Love comes in spurts. Confused sexual energy makes young guys so desirable. Their careless way of dressing; their strange way of walking; filled with so much longing. Just relentlessly adolescent.

Television is all boy. Richard Lloyd, who trades leads with Verlaine, is fresh and pouty. He sings like Arthur Lee with a stomach ache. The one seeming to suffer the most pain. He plays highly emotional fragile and angry. He also spends a lot of time keeping Richard Hell in tune.

Hell raises it. He's real neat, totally Highway 62. Tufted hair perfect shades and a grey-blue gabardine suit reputed to have graced the frame of Raymond Chandler. The way he moves is so insane like a spastic Chuck Berry like as if he strangest spade was doing the split on desolation row. His bass is total trash. A metallic gold fleck piece of shit he got in some pawnshop for $4. He has a driving monotonous way of playing it that comes on real sexy. He's also a real fast mouth spits those jokes from the spleen and keeps them coming.

Billy Ficca keeps the rhythm always smiling and dreaming. He reminds me of Charlie Watts the way he sits behind the band noncommittal sort of glazed over in his own world just drumming while the other guys are pumping their guitars in furious pursuit of the ultimate orgasm. He has an intricate style best described as psychotic calypso. If he loses his rythumn he invents another one. That way he never makes mistakes he just telescopes.

The thing I like about this group is their hunger their desire the way they just get on stage and do it. Immediate tight no flash theatrics. Tom breaks a string he fixes it no apology. Lloyd's strap slips but he beats into that guitar as it drags to the floor. If Hell loses balance he'll lay out and play bass flat on his back. No hesitation. Wrong note so what.

Television is ascending. Sometimes they drive you crazy cause they get out of time yet so close to persian. But they are worth all temperance cause when they hit it you get shot with light you never felt. They transcend every obstacle and heartache and bad night. Someone said one sunday around 3 a.m. closing time these boys are crazy; they are just too insane but me, I heard this funny flapping of wings, and the wild boys the wild boys the wild boys... just smiled. They;re ascending July 3 to Club 82; July 16 t Max's Kansas City.