Thursday, May 31, 2007
Punk Guitar Heroes - Television's Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd
Television, and its guitar pas de deux between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, fit into the punk scene only because they are the ones basically responsible for CBGB becoming a punk rock club. Tom Verlaine convinced Hilly Kristal to let them practice there and play shows, and the rest is history.
Both Verlaine and Lloyd are such virtuoso guitarists that its a crime to fit them in with other punk bands that came out of the same scene. Along side Richard Hell and the Voidoids, a band that also boasted some expert musicianship and poetry, Television occupied a special place, bridging the gap between art, poetry, music and the underground scene that was punk'd out.
Punk rock bands played short, angry bursts of rock n roll, often badly, mostly brashly and without finesse. Television played long, lyrical explorations of the rock n roll song with the precision of surgeons, the focus of scholars and the words of poets.
"Little Johnny Jewel," the single Television released on (the late)Terry Ork's Ork Records was so long that the song continued on the b-side. It was a poem/guitar entwined journey through the dark side of underground life. Verlaine's plaintive and evocative style of singing reflected all the emotions inherent in the lyrics and the alternating switchblade guitar style between him and Lloyd became Television's trademark, and a style many bands tried to copy, but rarely delivered.
The band always seemed aloof on stage, never really making any sort of contact or talking to the audience. Instead, they looked at their feet, at their guitars, into space, or as Verlaine was wont to do: the ceiling.
Television's album, Marquee Moon, a classic record of any genre, was produced by Andy Johns, little brother of classic rock producer extraordinaire, Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin). That alone set the band apart, since most punk bands opted for a producer with less stellar a pedigree. Andy had engineered several Rolling Stones albums that his brother produced. Television's fine guitar work, Verlaine's insistence on quality and Johns experience resulted in a work that will continue to hold up through any kind of musical trend.
What's not so much peculiar, but telling about the liner notes/credits on Marquee Moon was the identifying of which guitarist played what lead on the songs. If you don't want to reach for your copy of Marquee Moon, here goes:
1. "See No Evil" – 3:53 [Lloyd]
2. "Venus" – 3:51 [Verlaine]
3. "Friction" – 4:44 [Verlaine]
4. "Marquee Moon" – 10:40 [Lloyd after second chorus, Verlaine after third chorus]
5. "Elevation" – 5:07 [Lloyd]
6. "Guiding Light" – 5:35 [Lloyd]
7. "Prove It" – 5:02 [Verlaine]
8. "Torn Curtain" – 6:56 [Verlaine]
Both men are active musicians to this day, and Television plays the occasional reunion show to sold out, rabid adoring crowds. Richard Lloyd has become a member of the reunited Rocket From the Tombs, alongside punk heroes David Thomas (Pere Ubu) and Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys). Verlaine goes it alone as a solo artist, and both have released several solo records over the years.