Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TV Dinner

On this date in 1977, Television released their debut album, Marquee Moon.

As far as influence, Television is more seminal than a Jenna Jameson video. Who knew this little New York band, the 'house band' of CBGB's (and first to play the legendary venue), a band that only released two studio LP's would have left such an indelible mark on pop music.

Tom Verlaine's dreamy, self absorbed lyrics? Richard Lloyd's searing six string assaults? Fate's hand in being in exactly the right place at the right time? I recall lightning strike itself.

They were touted as a punk band, but they were anything but. What they were was the first 'alternative' band. They were different. Different than bands before them and different from their peers. Where do they really fit? Window lickers riding the little yellow bus of rock and roll.

Formed in '73, during the decade of pretentious prog rock and grandiose cock rock, Television stood out. When he closest thing to alternative was a skinny British transvestite rock star singing about a skinny British transvestite rock star, and a skinny American transvestite singing about heroin to college kids, Television offered an alternative.

So, you have the ingredients: Verlaine and grade school buddy Richard Hell. Restless kids from Delaware. The mix: one part Richard Lloyd, dash of CBGB's, shake well and serve with a burgeoning New York music scene. Makes a nice cocktail. I've gone back to the bar on this one since I was growin' hair down there.

Musically accomplished, Television was more akin to extended, free form Dead-like jams, then two minute Ramones blasts. Different. Alternative. It's easy to get lost in the epic opus that is 'Marquee Moon'.

Back to the influence. REM, U2, Replacements (although Big Star might edge them out), and current bands like Wilco to name just a few. Check the homage factor on some of the Wilco tracks. And a peroxide-coiffed Michael Stipe belting out 'See No Evil' back during their Reagan-era heyday.

Although this album is 31 years old, it's fresh ever time it gets a spin. Punk? Attitude, yes. Sound, not so much. Different 31 years later? Absolutely.

When you leave a mark, a big, nasty greenish-yellow bruise on rock, it's hard to reconcile Television as being part of any blank generation.

I'm just sayin'.

Television- Marquee Moon.mp3

Television- See No Evil.mp3

Television- The Dream's Dream.mp3

Wilco- Spiders (Kidsmoke).mp3

Wilco- At Least That's What You Said.mp3

Television- 'Foxhole' 1978

R.E.M. 'See No Evil' 1985


TCB Walsh said...

Before today, I didn't see the connection b/w Television and "Wilco's Spiders (Kidsmoke)." I guess I wasn't paying attention.

TCB Walsh said...

By the way, given Television's strong CBGB connection, how long before the Hall of Fame committee deems them worthy of their hallowed display cases?

TCB Walsh said...

Great REM clip - I don't remember ever seeing Mr. Buck do background vocals before.