When you think of the staggering influence America's TELEVISION has exerted over so many budding bands and songwriters - it's strange now in the glaring hindsight of 2014 to know that in the eye of the Punk and New Wave hurricane they were largely a British phenomenon. The New York band's 1977 debut LP barely scraped the lower 200 in the USA album charts but stood proudly at 28 in the UK. Both singles off the album - "Marquee Moon" (March 1977 on K 12251) and "Prove It" (July 1977 on K 12262) charted well in Blighty too (30 and 25). Their 2nd album "Adventure" from 1978 even went to No. 7. But none of it seemed to mean zip in the no-chart action States...
Whatever way chart-history judges them - I stare at this LP's rather dull artwork now and still get a sheer tingle of excitement. I've loved this record for nearly 40 years and it still sounds so ludicrously fresh to me when so many others have gone by the wayside. And dare I use that most clichéd of words - this album and their sound as a band is as influential now as The Clash, The Jam and even The Sex Pistols. So it's cool to see this superb expanded and remastered CD do that legacy proud. Here are the green-coloured vinyl details...
Released October 2003 on Rhino R2 73920 (Barcode 081227392024) in a card digipak with an extra flap - the CD pans out as follows (77:27 minutes):
1. See No Evil
4. Marquee Moon
6. Guiding Light
7. Prove It
8. Torn Curtain
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "Marquee Moon" - released February 1977 in the USA on Elektra Records 7E-1098 and K 52046 in the UK.
Tracks 9 to 13 are BONUSES new to CD:
Track 9 is "Little Johnny Jewel (Part 1 & 2)" - the A&B sides of their rare debut 7" single in the USA only on Ork Records 81975.
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 are 'Alternate' Versions of album tracks "See No Evil", "Friction" and "Marquee Moon"
Track 13 is called "Untitled Instrumental"
The 20-page colour booklet has liner notes by noted New York writer ALAN LICHT (even picturing that Ork Records 45 on Page 18) with snaps of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Fred Smith and Billy Ficca and the CBGB's nightclub. The CD repros the Butterfly label of the original Elektra records America LP while the quality-remaster has been carried out by one of my favourite tape engineers GREG CALBI (assisted by Lee Hulko). For more of Calbi's fabulous work see reviews for Supertramp's "Breakfast In America" and Paul Simon's "Graceland". He's also done Bob Dylan (the SACD remasters), John Mayer, Paul McCartney and hundreds more. The audio is fabulous - full of muscle and presence without ever being overdone.
Neither Rock nor Punk - TELEVISION (like Talking Heads) were the very epitome of NEW WAVE and that jagged Yank edge they had seemed exotic to me then and still does. It some respects it's a perfect album - 8 great tracks that all work. It opens with the killer "See No Evil" (lyrics above) emblazoning that Television sound and melody into your heart. "Friction" still has that angry edge while the near eleven-minutes of "Marquee Moon" is stunning. The album finisher "Torn Curtain" has a melodrama that reminds me of Patti Smith's "Easter".
I had though the extras would be filler - but no. The alternate of "Friction" has more guitar work but it's sloppy and not as tight as the finished article - and you can hear why it was dropped for the more polished version. Fans will know that the title track was put out on 7" and especially 12" single in the UK on Elektra K 12252 with a MONO variant of "Marquee Moon" on the B-side (the STEREO album version is on the A). But it's not on here. Rhino have obviously decided to exclude that in favour of the Previously Unreleased Alternate Version (and a good choice it is too). The "Untitled Instrumental" would have made a great B-side - especially if some lyrics had been drummed up for it. Their next platter "Adventure" was good too but just lacked that edge of greatness the debut had.
So there you have it - what a band and what an album.
"...Face to face with a world so alive..." - Verlaine sings on "Venus". Get this slice of New Wave Americana in your life pronto...
In 1977, a friend played me a 12" green vinyl single by a band I'd never heard of. It was 'Prove It'/'Venus' by Television. I taped it (as you did in those days) and discovered that I loved both sides. Before long, I was seeking out this album and played it over and over for days. Television shared a certain attitude with the other fashionable bands of the time, but their music otherwise had little in common with them. This is guitar rock with a lot of solos and no tracks under three minutes. Yet there's still an edge and an energy that sets it apart from the previous generation of rock bands.
There are punky rock songs ('See No Evil' and 'Friction'), dramatic songs ('Torn Curtain' and 'Elevation'), surrealism and wit ('Venus' and 'Prove It'), and a gentle interlude ('Guiding Light'). Then there's the ten-minute, epic title track, which builds layer upon layer and mesmerises you. Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd share rhythm and lead duties, and their seemingly limitless supply of well-crafted and imaginative solos, combining the smooth and the slightly distorted, are a prominent feature of the album.
'Marquee Moon' is 45 minutes of unique rock music. As Tom Verlaine once observed, there are any number of ways to get from A to B on a guitar.
on 22 August 2007
For once I have to agree with all the previous reviews and ratings. This is an absolutely superb album. I have just listened to it twice over for the first time and felt compelled to write. It's that good. Every song is different yet has the same breathtaking musicianship weaving its ways through the whole album. I won't go into details as others have comfortably done that. For me this is the joy of music - up until a few months ago I had never heard of Television. Then, through Patti Smith, I came across Television. Bought it on a whim and loved it the moment I heard it. Now I can't believe it has taken me so long to discover them!
`...I recall - lightnin` struck itself...`
I was oh-so-lucky enough, in 2004, to see Television on a rare British tour, supporting a radiant Patti Smith in Manchester. Patti was terrific, but Tom, Richard, Fred & Billy - the original line-up! - were ecstatically wondrous. They played most of Marquee Moon, their finest hour, and at least one of the jam-packed, beery crowd was swooning with wide-eyed, indeed misty-eyed, delight simply to be in the same room as these semi-legendary musicians. To be in the presence of Tom Verlaine was - well, it felt as special as the time I attended a book signing by crime novelist supremo Elmore Leonard, where he signed my copy of Get Shorty. But I digress.
MM is one of those untouchably great rock albums that transcends labels to create something utterly unique, timeless & eternally memorable. We`re talking Astral Weeks, Blonde on Blonde, Sailin` Shoes, Born to Run...name your poison.
The twin guitars of Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyd (who hasn`t been given enough credit for his contributions - live, he was certainly the equal of TV as a very tasty guitarist) sound like showers of rain. TV has a vocal technique, if you could call it that, which shouldn`t work, but is perfect for this frantic-poetic late 70s New York reinvention of rock music. I remember when I bought the LP in 1977 when I was a mere lad of 26, I`d never heard anything like it. Still haven`t really, except
for Verlaine`s solo album - his best - The Wonder, which remains disgracefully unavailable. (Can`t a mass protest be organised to get The Wonder, Tim Buckley`s Starsailor, Beefheart`s Lick My Decals Off Baby & Neil Young`s Time Fades Away back in circulation? Record companies: pull your fingers out!)
A word about Billy Ficca. There is/was Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Artie Tripp, John Bonham...and Billy Ficca. All idiosyncratic drummers who take your breath away with their audacity, inventiveness & sheer bloody brilliance. Ficca could make a single drumbeat - for example, just after TV yells "Prove it!" on the song of that name - sound as crisp and even as a thunder crack. He can play clusters of drumbeats like Coltrane played clusters of notes on his sax, a complement in fact to the rippling showers of notes coming from the guitars of TV & RL.
Eight unimprovable songs, plus (on the 2003 remastered edition which I`m reviewing) a few extra tracks. Marquee Moon is one of the reasons music can move mountains.
`I see - I see no - evil!`
on 15 January 2011
Yes an absolute classic that still sounds as brilliant as the day it was released. I bought this album soon after it came out and I played it over and over and over (especially Torn Curtain - one of the greatest tracks ever recorded). This album has the genius of "Highway 61", "Forever Changes" and "Astral Weeks", the influence of the Doors and Quicksilver and Neil Young and Patti Smith, but having said all that it's in a class of its own, a unique statement, that even Television couldn't emulate again. I never had any problem with Verlaine's voice: it seemed perfect for this band, for these songs. And the playing takes your breath away. You just want to play this one loud and let it sweep you away.
30 years later, I can't think of any album that's equalled or bettered this: if you can think of any serious contender, tell me please !
on 9 January 2009
An outstanding electric guitar album that has well stood the test of time, I remember first buying this the end of winter 77, a hard up student in London, after seeing Nick Kent's review in NME. I asked the record shop proprietor his opinion, he said - yeah, it's good, his voice is a bit strange though. Let me play some of it for you. And so I listened.
All these years and several formats later I'm still regularly listening to it with that same awe struck thrill I had back then. At the time I was smugly pleased with myself because nobody I knew had heard of them and, still, to this day when people are name checking their favourite albums, this one never gets mentioned, which is a bit strange when you consider that it is unquestionably the finest long playing record ever made.
OK, perhaps a bit over the top there, but let's get to the facts, just the facts. Television is neither a punk nor metal band. Nor are they prog-rock despite the 10 minute long title track. Garage band? Maybe so, but the musicianship & structure of the songs is at odds with that particular genre although the bare stripped back sound is one of 4 guys playing in a room with most of it recorded in one take. Comparisons are futile, however Television have been the inspiration for many subsequent guitar based acts. That instantly recognisable riff from the White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" is a close derivative of the bass part on "Elevation". Other bands of note under the influence of, I would say, early REM & U2, Yo La Tengo, the Blue Aeroplanes, Interpol, the Strokes, and probably Kings of Leon. You can also add to that list David Bowie in his "Scary Monsters" incarnation where he does a cover of one of Verlaine's later songs, "Kingdom Come".
What sets this band apart from the rest is the inventive twin guitar attack of Verlaine & Lloyd that has not been bettered or equalled before or since, although the Stones circa Taylor & Richards era come close, (Green/Kirwan?) In fact I wouldn't be surprised if one of their influences had been Mick Taylor, particularly if you listen to some of the solos on the albums "Goats Head Soup" & "Its Only Rock n Roll". There's a similar kind of languid fluidity and phrasing to their playing, the solos imbued with both melody and plot.
The interplay between the two (Fender Jazzmaster & Strat.)deviates from the conventional bloke rock swagger of lead & rhythm with infantile solos wrought from the top of the fret board at break neck speed. It is the exact opposite with Verlaine the more spontaneous & fluid, whilst Lloyd has a more considered style with all his parts meticulously worked out beforehand. Along with that haunting bass sound, particularly on "Elevation", one of the standout tracks for me, and crisp, precise drumming - listen to that clever counter-beat shuffle towards the end of "Friction" - these are "some of the greatest songs ever" (thank you Nick Kent).
However this album is not just about the guitars. Supplemented by plenty of backing vocals in classic call & response style, Verlaine's voice, nervous, edgy, perfect for these lyrics and these uncertain times - "I sleep light on these shores tonight" - "a whisper woke him up". Oblique, meaningless, elliptical some have said, there's nothing of the "my baby done gone & left me", or the splenetic vitriol of the cartoonish punk bands prevalent at that time, but instead their dark & moody nature adds a rich dimension to the angular spikiness of the songs putting you the listener in a position to imagine a meaning for yourself. "Tears...tears,rolling back the years. Years...years flowing by like tears. The tears I never shed, the years I've seen before" he sings passionately on the closing song "Torn Curtain" (of the original release), a tragic ballad of despair, the anguished cry of an inconsolable man lamenting a lost love and contemplating an already doomed future perhaps, and, as he invokes "burn it down...tears, tears, years, years" the music reaches its crescendo, the notes from Verlaine's guitar cascading with fury & finesse, the sonic, forlorn cry of a hunted whale, and Lloyd grinding out those weird chords amidst the crashing of the cymbals - "when beauty meets abuse". Astonishing.
This case is closed.
on 20 February 2007
So much could have been learnt from Television, but if even Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd could never again get within a million light years of what this album achieved (not even by reforming the original line-up) there's nothing to learn. It was an album that came out of nowhere: Television had been tipped for greatness since 1974 but nothing they did before this album remotely hinted at it. There are not all that many albums that anyone ever calls their Favourite Ever. This is certainly one.
Best guitar-band album ever? I've not heard anything better in the 30 years since and as for before, only maybe the best 12 Led Zep & Stones tracks ever would challenge it - and they're not on one solid single flawless album, are they. (You know, of course, that I wouldn't have mentioned Jimmy Page in 1977 without spitting, but you grow up.) Otherwise the only reference points would be Jeff Buckley's "Grace" - the guitar-heavy, Zep-ish tracks; and a few tracks on "The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads" which hint, sadly, at what Verlaine/Lloyd may have gone on to if their guitar partnership had continued to develop instead of dissolving into, well, two blokes with guitars in the same band like on "Adventure."
Venus, all of it, the most Most MOST perfect guitar song in history;
the moment you nostalgically get, for the 3,000,001st time without tiring of it, that the beat of Marquee Moon isn't where you thought it was the first time you heard the intro;
the recurring bit in Guiding Light where the elegiac guitar solo sounds like it's going to burst into a dual-lead Wishbone Ash thing which is an illusion caused by a couple of guitar notes in the backing but still, 30 years later, I hope...;
the first four notes of the solo in Torn Curtain.
I love Little Johnny Jewel, and for that matter The Blow-Up and numerous bootlegs and the so-called Eno demos and the officially-released 70s live albums. But yes, Marquee Moon is the only album anyone actually needs by Television, or needs on a desert island actually. The extra tracks are not much cop - except LJJ of course; and it will never QUITE be the same again as your precious vinyl copy with Nick Kent's review torn out of the NME in the sleeve - oh, just me? But if you haven't heard this, do. If you like any kind of rock music you're very much more than likely to love it.
I have owned this majestic album since its release in 1977 when, if I recall correctly, legendary NME hack Nick Kent gave it a resoundingly positive review, lauding one of the album's highpoints (mind you, there are no low points) Venus De Milo as having the most sublime melody he had heard since Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man. Whatever, this album is in my top ten albums of all time (currently number 4, in fact, just below Hunky Dory and above The Clash) and sounds as fresh 35 years later, as it did on its release.
I really cannot think of any other album that sounds like this. OK, there are maybe some elements of the Velvet Underground and even, at times, The Doors; and then subsequent to release, Television appear to have influenced bands like Joy Division (and their numerous imitators, Interpol, The Editors, etc), and, I would suggest, sonically at least, The Walkmen. But, for me, the sparseness of the sound and tightness of the playing from Television here is without equal. Of course, the most immediate aural impact that the band have stems from the dual-pronged guitar attack from Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, but for me equally as important and impressive is the virtuoso drumming from jazz-trained drummer, Billy Ficca.
The songs themselves? No weaknesses here, but if I had to choose, the standout songs are the sublime (and aforementioned) Venus De Milo, the simply structured, but emotionally devastating, Elevation (whose title gradually morphs in the vocals into the word 'Television') and, finally, the album's pinnacle, the ten-minute masterwork that is the title song. It is very difficult (quality-wise) to compare the song Marquee Moon to any other extended (10 minute) piece of music from any genre. I might offer the Velvet's extended live version of What Goes On? (rather than Sister Ray), Bowie's Cygnet Committee, Springsteen's Jungleland, Young's Like A Hurricane or even Coltrane's Out Of This World (which makes for an interesting comparison, in fact, given the almost jazz-inflected nature of Verlaine and Lloyd's guitar solos). But, suffice to say, there's nothing really like it.
Sadly, after the release of Marquee Moon the band never got anywhere near this with their subsequent sporadic album releases, with both follow-ups Adventure (1978) and, following a reformation in 1992, the album Television, (perhaps not surprisingly) paling by comparison. The live album, The Blow-Up, is however, worth a listen, containing an epic version of the band's classic first single Little Johnny Jewel and a mindboggling version of Dylan's Knocking On Heaven's Door.
Despite their short-lived career, however, I have always thought that a perfect music career for a band would be to release one masterpiece and then very little (ideally, nothing) else. I think Television pretty much fit this bill - in Marquee Moon, I believe this band released an album that will forever be regarded as a groundbreaking masterpiece.
Not an easy album to forget one's first hearing of since a lot of it seems to hit a bell in one's head and hit it hard. Weak of voice but their witty lyrics are underrated and complement the driving, inventive guitar cleverly as they mine a seam of truculent disdain to the mesmerising, circling sound of the twin leads, one of the great pairings they never equaled again. It is droll stuff, with a few calls-and-responses from the kicker of an opening tack, 'See No Evil' ("Did you feel no?" "Nah, not at all"....and "I understand your distracted urges" could be advice down the years to Tom Miller's seeming hero, Verlaine, who would have done well not to have attacked Artur Rimbaud); so while they may not be Oscar Widle they are madly urbane and wrily funny. 'Venus' is drolly amusing too (guess whose arms they fell into?), 'Elevation' indeed "goes to my head" and the title track seals this as one of THE rock albums and the softer "Guiding Light" is the only track where the force lessens. Without doubt Verlaine didn't quite fulfil the hope that he might be The next Great Thing, but this remains a great album that you should certainly buy. It ain't hippie, it ain't punky (but were the Talking Heads?); however it IS it's a stonking rocker of a disc that you are sure to enjoy. Do purchase it, please.
on 25 August 2004
this is quite rightly critcally lauded.it has everything you would want from a classic album,brilliant instrumentation from a band at the peak of it's powers and superb lyrics from a poet/frontman.
the eight songs on the original album are probably the best eight guitar based songs you will ever hear.you'll get lost in the rippling rushing solos.you'll be anchored to the ground by tight work of the rhythm section.
anyway,this classic album just got better with the inclusion of little johnny jewel,the legendary single.
my advice,buy this cd,even if you have the original.
trust me,i'm a nurse.