Television was part of the 1970s New York rock scene, along with musical acts like the Patti Smith Group, The Ramones, Blondie, Richard Hell, and Talking Heads. Although they recorded in a raw manner similar to their contemporaries, minimalizing the use of studio techniques, sound effects and atypical instruments, Television's music was unique and technically proficient, defined by guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd.
History[edit source | edit]Edit
Television's roots can be traced to the teenage friendship between Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell. The duo met at Sanford School in Hockessin, Delaware, from which they ran away. Both moved to New York, separately, in the early 1970s, aspiring to be poets.
Their first group together was the Neon Boys, consisting of Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Hell on bass and vocals, and Billy Ficca on drums. The group lasted from late 1972 to late 1973. A 7-inch record featuring "That's All I Know (Right Now)" and "Love Comes in Spurts" was released in 1980.
In late 1973 the group reformed, calling themselves Television and recruiting Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist. Their first gig was at the Townhouse Theatre, on March 2, 1974. They soon persuaded CBGB owner Hilly Kristal to give the band a regular gig at his club, where they reportedly constructed their first stage. After playing several gigs at CBGB in early 1974, they played at Max's Kansas City and other clubs, returning to CBGB in January 1975, where they established a significant cult following.
Initially, songwriting was split almost evenly between Hell and Verlaine, Lloyd being an infrequent contributor as well. However, friction began to develop as Verlaine, Lloyd, and Ficca became increasingly confident and adept with both instruments and composition, while Hell remained defiantly untrained in his approach. Verlaine, feeling that Hell's frenzied onstage demeanor was upstaging his songs, reportedly told him to "stop jumping around" during his songs, and refused to play Hell's songs, such as "Blank Generation", in concert. This conflict, as well as the failure of a Brian Eno-produced demo to be picked up by Island Records, led Hell to leave the group and take his songs with him. He co-founded The Heartbreakers in 1975 with former members of the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan, later forming Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Fred Smith, briefly of Blondie, replaced Hell as Television's bassist.
Though Verlaine and Lloyd were nominally "rhythm" and "lead" guitarists, they often rendered such labels obsolete by crafting interlocking parts, where the ostensible rhythm role could be as intriguing as the lead. Al Handa writes, "In Television's case, Lloyd was the guitarist who affected the tonality of the music more often than not, and Verlaine and the rhythm section the ones who gave the ear its anchor and familiar musical elements. Listen only to Lloyd, and you can hear some truly off the wall ideas being played." The opening of the song "Marquee Moon", from the album of the same name, displays the band's characteristic interlocking melodic and rhythmic guitar lines.
As with many emerging punk bands, the influence of The Velvet Underground was pervasive. Television also drew inspiration from minimalist composers such as Steve Reich. Tom Verlaine has often cited the influence of The Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown" on Television's approach to the guitar, and he has also expressed a fondness for Arthur Lee's Love and the Buffalo Springfield, two groups noted for their dual-guitar interplay. Television's ties to punk were underscored by their late 60s garage-rock leanings, as the band often covered The Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" and the 13th Floor Elevators' "Fire Engine" in concert.
Lester Bangs heard in Television's music the influence of Quicksilver Messenger Service, noting a similarity between Verlaine's guitar playing and that of John Cipollina. Tom Verlaine has downplayed the comparison, citing the Ventures as a more apt reference point. In 2004, Robert Christgau pointed to the debt that Television owed to the San Francisco scene of the late 1960s, directly comparing Verlaine's guitar playing to that of Jerry Garcia.
Television made their vinyl debut with "Little Johnny Jewel", a 7-inch single on the independent label Ork Records in 1975. Ork Records was owned by their manager, Terry Ork. The song was split into two parts, one on each side of the single. Richard Lloyd apparently disagreed with the selection of this song, preferring the never-released "O Mi Amore" for their debut, to the extent that he seriously considered leaving the band. Reportedly Pere Ubuguitarist Peter Laughner auditioned for his spot during this time.
Television's first album, Marquee Moon, was received positively by music critics and audiences, despite failing to enter the Billboard 200 albums chart - though it sold well in Europe and reached the Top 30 in many countries there. Upon its initial release in 1977, Roy Trakin wrote in the SoHo Weekly, "forget everything you've heard about Television, forget punk, forget New York, forget CBGB's ... hell, forget rock and roll—this is the real item." Recently, critics ranked it number 83 on cable music channel VH1’s 2000 list of the 100 Greatest Albums of Rock and Roll, number 128 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was ranked number two on Uncut magazine's 100 Greatest Debut Records, and number 3 on Pitchfork Media's list of the best albums of the 1970s. Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes that the album was "revolutionary" and composed "entirely of tense garage rockers that spiral into heady intellectual territory, which is achieved through the group's long, interweaving instrumental sections."
Television were disparaged by English punk band The Damned in the song "Idiot Box", from the album Music for Pleasure. This was apparently a reaction to Television's treatment of them while a support act on a 1977 tour. Verlaine, Lloyd, Smith, and Ficca are each given abuse in the verses, with the chorus knocking Television's live act and the album Marquee Moon.
Television's second album, Adventure, was issued in 1978, to less fanfare. The distinctive guitar work of Lloyd and Verlaine are still evident on Adventure, notably on the tracks "Glory," "Foxhole" and "The Fire."
The band members' independent and strongly held artistic visions, along with Richard Lloyd's drug abuse, led to the band's break-up in 1978. Both Lloyd and Verlaine pursued solo careers.
Television reformed in 1992, recording an eponymous third album, and have performed live sporadically thereafter. Since being wooed back on stage together for the 2001 All Tomorrow's Parties at Camber Sands, England, they've played a number of dates around the world, and continue to perform on an irregular basis.
In 2007, Richard Lloyd announced he would be amicably leaving the band after a midsummer show in New York City's Central Park. Owing to an extended stay in hospital recovering from pneumonia, he was unable to take his place with the band for this concert. His place that day was taken by Jimmy Rip. Rip was subsequently asked to join the band in Lloyd's place. On July 7, 2011, the new lineup performed at the Beco 203 music festival in São Paulo, Brazil.In an MTV Brazil Television interview, the band confirmed that an album with about ten new tracks was close to being finished.
Members[edit source | edit]Edit
- Tom Verlaine – vocals, guitar, keyboards (1973–present)
- Billy Ficca – drums (1973–present)
- Fred Smith – bass, vocals (1975–present)
- Jimmy Rip - guitar (2007–present)
Former members[edit source | edit]Edit
Discography[edit source | edit]Edit
Studio albums[edit source | edit]Edit
- Marquee Moon – (USA Elektra 7E-1098 1977; UK Elektra K52046 1977 UK Chart No. 28)
- Adventure – (USA Elektra 6E-133 1978; UK Elektra K52072 UK Chart No. 7)
- Television – (USA/UK Capitol CDP 0777 7 98396 2 9 1992)
Marquee Moon and Adventure were remastered and reissued by Elektra/Rhino on CD in 2003 with bonus tracks
Live albums[edit source | edit]Edit
- The Blow-Up – (ROIR A114 (Cassette) 1982) [Recorded live 1978]
- Live at the Academy, 1992 – (2003) [Recorded live in New York City Dec 04, 1992]
- Live at the Old Waldorf – (2003) [Recorded live in San Francisco June 29, 1978]
Compilations[edit source | edit]Edit
- The Best of Television & Tom Verlaine – (Phantom Import Distribution 1998)
Singles[edit source | edit]Edit
- "Little Johnny Jewel, Part One" (3:30) b/w "Little Johnny Jewel, Part Two" (4:00) – 7-inch mono 45rpm (ORK Records 81975 1975)
- "Marquee Moon Part 1" b/w "Marquee Moon Part 2" – 7" single (UK Elektra K12252 April, 1977 UK Chart No. 30)
- "Marquee Moon (Stereo)" b/w "Marquee Moon (Mono)" – 12" single (UK Elektra K12252 April, 1977)
- "Prove It" b/w "Venus" – (July 1977) UK Chart No. 25
- "Prove It" b/w "Venus" – 12" single (UK Elektra K12262 1977 green vinyl)
- "Foxhole" b/w "Careful" – (April, 1978) UK Chart No. 36
- "Foxhole" b/w "Careful" – 12" single (UK Elektra K12287 1977 red vinyl)
- "Glory" b/w "Ain't That Nothin'" – 7" single (USA Elektra E-45516 July 1978)
Filmography[edit source | edit]Edit
- The Blank Generation (1976)