01. Little Johnny Jewel (Television Single A/B Side October 1975)
02. See No Evil (Television Marquee Moon LP February 1977)
03. Venus (Television Marquee Moon LP February 1977)
04. Friction (Television Marquee Moon LP February 1977)
05. Marquee Moon (Television Marquee Moon LP February 1977)
06. Prove It (Television Marquee Moon LP February 1977)
07. Glory (Television Adventure LP April 1978)
08. Days (Television Adventure LP April 1978)
09. Foxhole (Television Adventure LP April 1978)
10. Ain’t That Nothin’ (Television Adventure LP April 1978)
11. Souvenir From A Dream (Tom Verlaine LP September 1979)
12. Kingdom Come (Tom Verlaine LP September 1979)
13. Breakin’ My Heart (Tom Verlaine LP September 1979)
14. There’s A Reason (Dreamtime LP July 1981)
15. Without A Word (Dreamtime LP July 1981)
16. Fragile (Dreamtime LP July 1981)
17. Present Arrived (Words From The Front LP June 1982)
18. Postcard From Waterloo (Words From The Front LP June 1982)
19. 1880 Or So (Television Television LP September 1992)
20. Call Mr. Lee (Television Television LP September 1992)
Writing about the business of death can be a strange, strange thing, especially when it comes to the demise of influential figures from my distant past. Why, for instance, should I feel it necessary to scribe a few lines about the death of Tom Verlaine (28th January 2023) and not those of Terry Hall (18th December 2022) or Alan Rankin (3rd January 2023)? Perhaps it’s because while all three had a significant impact on my youth, it was Tom Verlaine and his group Television who really opened up my ears and belief in the power of music just that little bit more, albeit that his influence was based largely around the brilliance of one song.
It was back in February 1977, during those glorious, early weeks of high speed, punk ramalama, when I heard the title track of Televisions debut album Marquee Moon for the first time. With some remarkable dueling guitars and the poetry of ‘I remember how the darkness doubled / I recall that lightning struck itself / I was listening, listening to the rain / I was hearing, hearing something else’, in almost ten minutes of crystal clear, sonic perfection it introduced me to the possibility of beauty within a punk world clogged with nihilism, decay and sloganeering. As a seventeen year old, provincial boy full of youthful concern and immature wonder, ‘Marquee Moon’ was the furthest thing imaginable from what I expected punk to be. And yet, not only did it make me think of music in a completely different way, it made me confront a multitude of feelings I didn’t even know I had!
Then again, I guess it could be argued that Tom Verlaine and Television were only nominally punk in the first place, or at the very least that the arty CBGB’s/New York impulse that brought them sharply into focus was the polar opposite to the brutalist British one. Even so, ‘Marquee Moon’ still sounded like nothing else I’d heard before, and that included the instrumental second half where Verlaine’s extraordinary, serpentine guitar weaved its magic towards some kind of cathartic conclusion. In fact, so incredible was it that the albums other seven songs took a while to reveal themselves. But when they did, the likes of ‘See No Evil’, ‘Venus’, ‘Friction’ and ‘Prove It’ became almost as indispensable as the title track.
If Tom Verlaine had packed it all in and retreated to a monastery after the release of Marquee Moon his place in the annals of modern music culture would have already been assured. Instead, he chose to do the impossible by following it up with the slightly less ambitious Adventure just over a year later. Featuring a mixture of concise pop songs, a couple of serene, tender hearted ballads and one side of diffuse guitar epics, it was another remarkable record but one that predictably suffered in the shadow of its predecessor before the group predictably fell apart in frustration three months later.
Setting out on his own, Tom Verlaine sounded as assured as ever, particularly on his self-titled, 1979 solo album and 1981’s Dreamtime. But when they failed to generate much interest he slipped slowly but surely into obscurity, his name only popping up on my radar sporadically over subsequent decades, most notably when he reformed Television in 1991 for a surprisingly good, if different, new album.
Television never actually split up after that, although you could be forgiven for thinking they had, especially when Tom Verlaine restarted his stuttering solo career with a series of releases that for some reason remain unavailable on Spotify. But when I heard about his somewhat premature death at the age of 73 I didn’t think about those albums. Instead I turned immediately to the unbridled romanticism of ‘Marquee Moon’, a song I must have heard over a thousand times before, and once again revelled in its magnificence and its ability to influence and change lives, safe in the knowledge that at least nothing can ever take that away from him.
Chris Green. 30th January 2023.