"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Television: Marquee Moon" by Bryan Waterman

I have strong memories being a total Television obsessive before hearing one note of their music. Their visuals got me. A band looking this cool, I knew had to sound great. When I first bought the single "Johnny's Little jewel" it was like a dream coming to life. I knew this song was an odd choice for a single, and the author Bryan Waterman brought this up - but then again, one can tell by the visuals that Television were never going to play by the rules. If Tom Verlaine and company were animals, they would be under-fed house cats. Totally proud, and happy in their own world. But once they find food, they're going to tear into it like wild animals. 
And their music conveys that tension to me. When I heard the first note of "See No Evil," the opening song to their album "Marquee Moon" it was like being stabbed by electric guitars in a dark alley. Very violent, and very poetic. To this day, and many years after, it still gives me goose bumps. And "Marquee Moon" is perhaps one of the great rock albums ever. I want to say the greatest of the greats, but ..... is that too dramatic of a statement? 
As a music movement (which it wasn't really) the CBGB years were magnificent. I don't know if it was in the NYC water system, but it seems like the early to mid- 1970's brought out the genius of various folks there. The Ramones of course, but also Richard Hell, who is equally brilliant as Verlaine. The fact that both of them were in the same band drives me insane. Its too good! Besides Hell needed to have his own outlet -and he too made an incredible classic album "Blank Generation." 
And these two guys - Verlaine and Hell - were (or are) incredible poets. But focusing on "Marquee Moon," it is such a beautiful record with stunning songs. The ultimate guitar rave up album, but with the touch of "French Symbolic Poetry" thrown into the mix. But what Verlaine adds (besides his name) is a contemporary POV that is haunting and deeply romantic. But passionate in a very very cool way. 
Waterman's book is a good one. He touches on all the greatness in the band, and his focus on the lyrics is much needed. You may have read all the gossip in "Please Kill Me," but this is a much more reflective look into the mystique and wonder of Richard Lloyd, Fred Smith, Richard Hell, Billy Ficca, Patti Smith, and Tom Verlaine.

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