Tom Verlaine’s 15 Essential Songs

Television performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 16 April 1978.
“Tom Verlaine was present at the creation of New York City punk. His band Television held a residency at CBGB in the club’s first years. But his music was never bound by what became punk’s ruling aesthetic of fast, loud and simplistic. Instead, Verlaine’s songs reveled in the open-ended: in improvisations that could spiral out toward free jazz and in verbal enigmas and paradoxes. Born Thomas Miller, Verlaine — who died on Saturday at 73 — renamed himself after a symbolist poet, Paul Verlaine, and he built his songs around guitar patterns that interlocked like cats’ cradles, intricate but never confining. His music looked back to the not-so-distant days of psychedelia and the Velvet Underground, but it was leaner, tauter, steelier. …”
NY Times (Video)
Remembering Tom Verlaine – James Wolcott
LitHub: Tom Verlaine was the Strand’s Best Customer
Lightning Struck Itself: Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’ in Eight Phases
Variety: Tom Verlaine, Founder of Influential Punk-Era Band Television, Dies at 73
NY Times: Tom Verlaine, Influential Guitarist and Songwriter, Dies at 73


Anarchy Around The World: Punk Goes Global

“Forty years after it officially crash-landed in our midst, it’s easy to believe punk ‘sold out’ its lofty original ideals, not least because its leading acts all eventually signed to major labels and played ball with The Man. Yet regardless of its shortcomings, punk still had a seismic global impact during the mid-to-late 70s and its legacy can still be felt in everything from its inherent DIY ethos to its (broadly) anti-sexist stance. However, while countless revisions of this flawed – yet exhilarating – period have since been published, they nearly always fix punk as a purely transatlantic phenomenon. … This is entirely understandable, as both nations have reason to claim punk as their own. In North America, the 70s had barely dawned before New York was spawning remarkable proto-punk acts such as Suicide and New York Dolls, while across 1974-76, trailblazing US refuseniks such as Pere Ubu, Patti Smith, Ramones and Blondie were already hurling out remarkable, oeuvre-defining discs. …”
uDiscover (Audio)

Marquee Moon – Television (1977)

Marquee Moon is the debut album by American rock band Television. It was released on February 8, 1977, by Elektra Records. In the years leading up to the album, Television had become a prominent act on the New York music scene and generated interest from a number of record labels, eventually signing a record deal with Elektra. The group rehearsed extensively in preparation for Marquee Moon before recording it at A & R Recording in September 1976. It was produced by the band’s frontman Tom Verlaine and sound engineer Andy Johns. For Marquee Moon, Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd abandoned contemporary punk rock‘s power chords in favor of rock and jazz-inspired interplay, melodic lines, and counter-melodies. Verlaine’s lyrics combined urban and pastoral imagery, references to Lower Manhattan, themes of adolescence, and influences from French poetry. He also used puns and double entendres to give his songs an impressionistic quality in describing his perception of an experience. Marquee Moon was met with widespread acclaim and was hailed by critics as an original musical development in rock music. …”
Television’s Punk Epic “Marquee Moon,” 40 Years Later (Video!!)
Inside the Song: Television Shines Under the ‘Marquee Moon’ (Video)
How Television Made ‘Marquee Moon,’ the Best Punk Guitar Album Ever
YouTube: Marquee Moon full Album

The ROIR Label’s Timeless Documents of Underground Music

“If you had a taste for underground music in the ‘80s, you almost certainly had multiple releases on the ROIR (pronounced ‘roar’) label in your collection. The tiny New York label’s output was exclusively available on brightly-colored cassettes, with liner notes by noted rock critics like Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Byron Coley, Kurt Loder, Jon Pareles, and a pre-Yo La Tengo Ira Kaplan. The catalog included releases by proto-punk and punk legends like the MC5, Television, the New York Dolls (and Johnny Thunders), Nico, the Raincoats, the Dictators, and Suicide, as well as hardcore acts like Flipper and GG Allin, compilations like New York Thrash (featuring the Beastie Boys’ earliest recording), and the Bad Brains’ legendary ‘yellow tape.’ They also released noisy, arty music by Glenn Branca, Christian Marclay, Laibach, and Einstürzende Neubauten. And they balanced their loud, aggro side with releases that revealed label founder Neil Cooper’s passion for dub and reggae, with titles by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Big Youth, Niney the Observer, Yellowman, Bill Laswell, and others. …”
bandcamp (Audio)
Guardian – Label of love: ROIR

A Conservative Impulse in the New Rock Underground

August 18, 1975: Arabian swelter, and with the air-conditioning broken, CBGB resembled some abattoir of a kitchen in which a bucket of ice is placed in front of a fan to cool the room off. To no avail of course, and the heat had perspiration glissading down the curve of one’s back, yeah, and the cruel heat also burned away any sense of glamour. After all, CBGB’s Bowery and Bleecker location is not the garden spot of lower Manhattan, and the bar itself is an uneasy oasis. On the left, where the couples are, tables; on the right, where the stragglers, drinkers, and the love-seekers are, a long bar; between the two, a high double-backed ladder, which, when the room is really crowded, offers the best view. … Now consider the assembly-line presentation of bands with resonant names like Movies, Tuff Darts, Blondie, Stagger Lee, the Heartbreakers, Mike de Ville, Dancer, the Shirts, Bananas, Talking Heads, Johnny’s Dance Band, and Television; consider that some nights as many as six bands perform, and it isn’t hard to comprehend someone declining to sit through a long evening. …”

Read Christgau’s Take on Television’s 1978 Live Show Before Their Brooklyn Concert

“Following the release of their 1977 debut album and indisputable classic, Marquee Moon, the ink that Robert Christgau spilled on Television — that hardy brick in the decade’s downtown rock foundation — stained and dried in the form of a cohesive rave in three parts. First, he adored Marquee Moon, throwing an A+ its way in his Consumer Guide; then, his review of 1978’s Adventure glowed, albeit with a duller shine, as their second output earned them a slightly more tarnished A- by his metric. When Christgau caught them at the Bottom Line in 1978, his intense approval for both Television on tape and Television live and in the flesh lead to this review, ‘Television’s Principles,’ which considers the genre lines they drew at the time along with their assault on ear drums and expectations as they continued to deafen audiences in Marquee Moon‘s wake. …”

1976 Film Blank Generation Documents CBGB Scene with Patti Smith, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie & More

“Fans of bratty New York punk-turned-serious writer Richard Hell or schlocky German horror director Ulli Lommel or—why not—both, will likely know of Lommel’s 1980 Blank Generation, a film unremarkable except for its casting of Hell and his excellent Voidoids as feature players. (Their debut 1977 album and single are also called Blank Generation.) The movie, as a reviewer puts it, ‘seems as if each member of the production was under the impression they were working on a different film than the rest of their collaborators…. You can’t help but think that something more watchable could be produced out of the raw footage with a good editor.’ One might approach an earlier film, also called Blank Generation—the raw 1976 documentary about the budding New York punk scene above—with similar expectations of coherent production and narrative clarity. But this would be mistaken. …”
Open Curture (Video)
W – The Blank Generation
Voice: Punk Icon Richard Hell Looks Back at “Blank Generation” Forty Years Later

Little Johnny Jewel – Television (1975)

“‘Little Johnny Jewel’ was the first recorded work that the world ever heard of legendary New York post-punk band, Television. The song was released in 1975 by the storied New York City label Ork Records and is a blast of seemingly disconnected avant-garde guitar noodling that as the song progresses, suddenly begin to congeal into a song. The twin lead guitars of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd (who had recently replaced Richard Hell, who after a rift with ever-moody Verlaine had left to form The Voidoids) intertwine, providing an almost counterpoint quality atop the foundation laid by the rhythm section of Billy Frica and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith. … While Television were always lumped in with their punk peers – something easy to do given the time frame that they emerged and that they played the legendary early New York City dive-bar-come-punk club, CBGB with regularity, in many ways Television were both pre-punk and post-punk. They favored slow tempos, clean guitar tones and protracted improvisation. While punk was initially all about speed, brevity, and aggression (both sonic and lyrical), Television were all about languid improvisation and the bizarre poetry of Tom Verlaine‘s lyrics. …”
Song of the Day: Television “Little Johnny Jewel”
Little Johnny Jewel (Part One) b/w Little Johnny Jewel (Part Two)
YouTube: Television – Little Johnny Jewel (Parts 1 & 2)