|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.|
Television was an American rock band from New York City, most notably active in the 1970s. The group's most prominent lineup consisted of Tom Verlaine (vocals, guitar), Richard Lloyd (guitar), Billy Ficca (drums), and Fred Smith (bass). An early fixture of CBGB and the 1970s New York rock scene, the band is considered influential in the development of punk and alternative rock.
Although they recorded in a stripped-down, guitar-based manner similar to their punk contemporaries, Television's music was by comparison clean, improvisational, and technically proficient, drawing influence from jazz and 1960s rock. The group's 1977 debut album, Marquee Moon, is considered one of the defining releases of the punk era.
Early history and formation
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 March 11, 1973. A 7-inch record featuring "That's All I Know (Right Now)" and "Love Comes in Spurts" was released in 1980.
On March 12, 1973, the group reformed, calling themselves Television and recruiting Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist. The name, devised by Hell, was a pun on 'tell a vision' as well as a reference to reclaiming the dominant media of the era. Their first gig was at the Townhouse Theatre, on March 2, 1974. Their manager, Terry Ork, 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.
Departure of Richard Hell and debut release
Initially, songwriting was split almost equally 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 the songs and occasionally refused to play Hell's songs, such as "Blank Generation", in concert. This conflict, as well as one of their songs being picked up by Island Records, led Hell to leave the group and take some of his songs with him. He co-founded the Heartbreakers in 1975 with former 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.
Television made their vinyl debut in 1975 with "Little Johnny Jewel" (Parts One and Two), a 7-inch single on the independent label Ork Records, owned by their manager, Terry Ork. Lloyd apparently disagreed with the selection of this song, preferring "O Mi Amore" for their debut, to the extent that he seriously considered leaving the band. Reportedly Pere Ubu guitarist Peter Laughner auditioned for his spot during this time.
Marquee Moon, Adventure and break-up (1977–78)
Television's first album, Marquee Moon, was received positively by music critics and audiences and entered the Billboard 200 albums chart – it also 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." Critics have since ranked the album number 83 on cable music channel VH1's 2000 list of the 100 Greatest Albums of Rock and Roll and number 128 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was ranked number two in 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 of AllMusic 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's second album, Adventure, was recorded and released in 1978. Softer and more reflective than their debut album, Adventure was well received by critics despite modest sales. The members' independent and strongly held artistic visions, along with Lloyd's drug abuse and lack of commercial success, led to the band's break-up in July 1978. Both Lloyd and Verlaine pursued solo careers, while Ficca became the drummer for the new wave band the Waitresses.
Television reformed in 1992, released a self-titled third album and have performed live sporadically thereafter. After being wooed back on stage together for the 2001 All Tomorrow's Parties festival at Camber Sands, England, they played a number of dates around the world on an irregular basis.
In 2007, Lloyd announced he would be amicably leaving the band after a midsummer show in New York City's Central Park. Due to an extended hospital stay recovering from pneumonia, he was unable to make the Central Park concert. Jimmy Rip substituted for him that day and was subsequently asked to join the band full-time 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 interview, the band confirmed that an album with about ten new tracks was close to being finished, but as of 2023, that album has not surfaced. In the 2010s, the band kept on touring performing Marquee Moon in its entirety; they notably did European tours in 2014 and 2016. In New York in October 2015, the band performed a four-song show that lasted an hour: Village Voice reviewed it saying the highlight of the set was a new number "Persia", dubbing it "a pulsing, rhythmic exploration lasting close to 20 minutes, to which each member of the band contributed in equal strength".
Verlaine died on January 28, 2023, at the age of 73.
Musical style and influences
As with many emerging punk bands, the Velvet Underground was a strong influence. Television also drew inspiration from minimalist composers such as Steve Reich. Tom Verlaine has often cited the influence of surf bands the Ventures and Dick Dale on Television's approach to the guitar, and he has also expressed a fondness for the bands Love and Buffalo Springfield, two groups noted for their dual-guitar interplay. Television's ties to punk were underscored by their late '60s garage rock leanings; 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 John Cipollina's. Tom Verlaine has downplayed the comparison, citing The Ventures as a more apt reference point.
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.
- Billy Ficca – drums (1973–2023)
- Fred Smith – bass, vocals (1975–2023)
- Jimmy Rip – guitar (2007–2023)
- Tom Verlaine – lead vocals, guitar, keyboards (1973–2023; died 2023)
- Richard Lloyd – guitar, vocals (1973–2007)
- Richard Hell – lead vocals, bass (1973–1975)
- Marquee Moon (Elektra) (1977) #92 AUS, #23 Sweden, #28 UK
- Adventure (Elektra) (1978) #7 UK
- Television (Capitol) (1992)
- The Blow-Up (ROIR) (1982)
- Live at the Academy, 1992 (Ohoo Music) (2003)
- Live at the Old Waldorf (Rhino Handmade/Elektra) (2003)
- The Best of Television & Tom Verlaine (EastWest Japan) (1998)
- "Little Johnny Jewel, Part One" b/w "Little Johnny Jewel, Part Two" (Ork) (1975)
- "Marquee Moon Part 1" b/w "Marquee Moon Part 2" (Elektra) (1977) #30 UK
- "Marquee Moon (Stereo)" b/w "Marquee Moon (Mono)" (Elektra) (1977)
- "Venus" b/w "Friction" (Elektra) (1977)
- "Prove It" b/w "Venus" 12" 45 (Elektra) (1977) #25 UK
- "Foxhole" b/w "Careful" (Elektra) (1978) #36 UK
- "Glory" b/w "Carried Away" (Elektra) (1978)
- "Ain't That Nothin'" b/w "Glory" (Elektra) (1978)
- "Call Mr. Lee" (Capitol) (1992) #27 Billboard Modern Rock Tracks
- The Blank Generation (1976)
- Meagher 2015.
- Jon Pareles (September 18, 1983). "OLD AND NEW ACTS IGNITE A FOLK-ROCK COMEBACK". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2023.
- "Marquee Moon - Television | Song Info | AllMusic".
- Attie, Eli. "Rhino, Getting With the Television Program". Washington Post. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
- Hughes 2015.
- Murray 2015.
- "Television Bio". Rolling Stone. 2017. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
- Simpson 2013.
- Erlewine ST. "Television". AllMusic.
- Schinder & Schwartz 2008, p. 541.
- Waterman 2011, p. 18.
- Waterman 2011, p. 25.
- Wallace & Manitoba 2007, p. 254.
- Waterman 2011, p. 103.
- Nelson, Elizabeth (April 13, 2022). "Lightning Struck Itself: Television's 'Marquee Moon' in Eight Phases". The Ringer. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
- "The Wonder – Tom Verlaine, Television and Stuff: Television Gigs – Gigography". The Wonder. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- "Hilly Kristal". Interview. No Class Now. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Waterman 2011, p. 63.
- Thompson 2000, p. 683.
- Waterman 2011, pp. 95–101.
- Wallace & Manitoba 2007, p. 55.
- Waterman 2011, pp. 108–109.
- Waterman 2011, p. 13.
- Waterman 2011, p. 17.
- Trakin 1977.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Marquee Moon – Television – Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- Waterman 2011, p. x.
- Emerson 1978.
- Heylin 2005, p. 270.
- Huey, Steve. "The Waitresses | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
- Thompson 2000, p. 684.
- Lloyd, Richard. "Richard Lloyd – Matters: News". richardlloyd.com. Archived from the original on April 24, 2008. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- "Television Concert Setlist at Beco 203, São Paulo on July 7, 2011". Setlist.fm. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- "Big Audio - Big Audio # 83 - Especial dia mundial do Rock com Television - 13/07/2011". July 13, 2011. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
- "I Television a Milano suoneranno tutto "Marquee Moon"" (in Italian). ondarock.it. January 10, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
"I Television a Milano suoneranno tutto "Marquee Moon"" (in Italian). rtl.it. March 22, 2016. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
"fantômes à la Philharmonie de Parisp" (in French). telerama.fr. April 4, 2016. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
Next to the Velvet Underground exhibition, two concerts were face to face this weekend reminding rock to its souvenirs. Television played his classic Marquee Moon without warmth (En marge de l'expo Velvet Underground, deux concerts confrontaient ce week-end le rock à sa mémoire. Television a rejoué sans chaleur son classique "Marquee Moon"
- Rose, Caryn (October 9, 2015). "Television Thrill Brooklyn's House of Vans With 20-Minute Soundscape". Village Voice. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
- Keepnews, Peter (January 28, 2023). "Tom Verlaine, Influential Guitarist and Songwriter, Dies at 73". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 28, 2023. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
- Waterman 2011, pp. 22–24.
- Murphy C (2014). "The Story of Television 'Marquee Moon'". Classic Album Sundays. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
- Waterman 2011, p. 95.
- Bangs 1979.
- Wizon 1992.
- Handa 1996.
General and cited references
- Bangs, Lester (1979). "Free Jazz / Punk Rock". Musician. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- Emerson, Ken (June 1, 1978). "Television Adventure Album Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- Handa, Al (May 1996). "Television: Marquee Moon". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
- Heylin, Clinton (2005). From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1-55652-575-3.
- Hughes, Josiah (April 27, 2015). "Television Announce Vancouver Show". Exclaim!. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
- Mitchell, Tim (2006). Sonic Transmission. Television: Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell (1st ed.). New York: Glitter. ISBN 978-1-90-258816-2. * Meagher, John (May 31, 2015). "Music – Television: NYC's art-punk pioneers". Irish Independent. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
- Murray, Noel (May 28, 2015). "60 minutes of music that sum up art-punk pioneers Wire". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
- Schinder, Scott; Schwartz, Andy (2008). Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends who Changed Music Forever. Vol. 2. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-33847-2.
- Ramone, Marky; Herschlag, Richard (2015). Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-8775-0.
- Robb, John (2012). Craske, Oliver (ed.). Punk Rock: An Oral History. United Kingdom: PM Press. ISBN 978-1-60486-005-4.
- Simpson, Dave (November 17, 2013). "Television". The Guardian.
- Taylor, Steven (2003). False Prophet: Field Notes from the Punk Underground. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6668-3.
- Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. San Francisco: Miller Freeman. ISBN 978-0-87930-607-6.
- Trakin, Roy (1977). "Marquee Moon review". SoHo Weekly.
- Walker, John (1991). Ira Robbins (ed.). The Trouser Press Record Guide (4th ed.). New York: Collier. ISBN 978-0-02-036361-3.
- Wallace, Amy; Manitoba, Dick (2007). The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-919-0.
- Waterman, Bryan (2011). Television's Marquee Moon. 33⅓. Vol. 83. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4411-8605-8.
- Wizon, Tod (1992). "Television". bombmagazine.org. BOMB Magazine. Archived from the original on January 6, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2016.