Thursday, April 13, 2006

Can You Be "Post-Punk" BEFORE Punk Existed?

Here's what I don't get: the Wikipedia article on Television's MARQUEE MOON (Released in 1977, but was Recorded in 1975) states, "The introspective mood of the album, and the careful, instrumental virtuosity of Verlaine and his band were arguably one of the first manifestations of the 'post punk' movement." Wow, since most people date "punk" back to The Ramones in 1975 (or 1974 at the earliest), I'd say "post punk" happened pretty damned quickly!

Or, maybe instead of getting twisted up in our underwear trying to categorize everything, we should just acknowledge this album for what it is: a great rock album. Now, it is of some note that it was a great rock album based on a twin guitar attack and solid rhythm section with minimalist production at a time when "glam rock" was supposedly king. But, "post punk"? I don't know. I've also seen Television referred to as a "punk" band, and that doesn't make much sense to me either.

Oh, well, enough of that shit. Here's the deal: THIS ALBUM ROCKS! It even managed to make # 128 on the Rolling Stone "Top 500 Albums" list. But, to quote Wikipedia again, "Despite critical acclaim, the album never achieved more than a cult following in the United States at the time of its release, but rose to #28 in Britain." SEE! I told you before that if a New York band only sold in the UK that would be fine by Rolling Stone. I know those bastards a little better than you thought...

"See No Evil" (3:58)
"Venus" (3:54)
"Friction" (4:45)
"Marquee Moon" (9:58)
"Elevation" (5:10)
"Guiding Light" (5:37)
"Prove It" (5:05)
"Torn Curtain" (7:10)

Television (at least on this album) was Tom Verlaine (lead vocals, gutar, keyboards), Richard Lloyd (guitar, vocals), Fred Smith (bass, vocals), Billy Ficca (drums).

The opening riffs of "See No Evil" are grabbers. Strap in. Whether Verlaine is singing (with what I think is a very cool vocal affectation) about Venus De Milo, friction, or elevation, the songs are all guitar masterpieces. Some (e.g., "Friction") are somewhat noisier. Some (e.g., "Marquee Moon") are more wandering and expansive. But, the interplay of Verlaine and Lloyd on guitar is as good as I've ever heard. Think "Down By The River"...sort of. Honestly, I can't think of anything else from that era that sounds like Television. They had their own sound.

This was not merely a lead guitarist/rhythm guitarist arrangement. But, it was also not two or more guys each waiting their turn to solo (Think "Free Bird" or "Hotel California"). No, this was, as far as I'm concerned, the PERFECT interplay of two electric guitars. "Elevation, don't go to my head."

Rabid T, if you're out there, I feel like I need a little help on this one. What am I missing? I don't feel like I'm describing this as well as I should be. This is a hard one for me. The lyrics are somewhat simple, but not in a bad way. They aren't particularly "quotable", though. The song structures are relatively simple, tight, solid rhythms (bass & drums), but with intricately interwoven guitar parts. Tom Verlaine lays down some freakin' genius guitar solos. I hope at least my enthusiasm is coming through, even if I'm not being very articulate.

Bottom line: If nothing else, check out the streaming audio!!!! MARQUEE MOON is an essential for anyone who enjoys electric guitar.


Blogger rabidt said...

Is it that your "senses are sharp, but your hands are like gloves?" I don't know how to get a grip on this one either. But, I know a good source for help. British writer Nick Kent wrote a classic album review for this when it came out. See the review at:

One interesting thing is that this transription of the review doesn't end with perhaps the best part of the whole thing. I was going to quote this here, anyway. It should end, "They are one band in a million; The songs are some of the greatest ever. The album is Marquee Moon."

Kent makes some interesting comparisons: Love, Dylan, the Byrds, Syd Barrett, "Nuggets"-type 60's garage, but even he can't quite convey what the music sounds like. (Correctly, his connections to these are not merely "sounds-like" comparisions.). In many ways, his reviwew comes off primarily as enthusiasm, too. Faced with this lp, not much else to do, I suppose.

Some musical comparisons I can make that aren't referenced in the review: Michael Bloomfield on the Paul Butterfield Band's "East West," specifically the title track. Also, in spite of the fact that Television was often referred to as the "Grateful Dead of punk" (yuck), I do hear some Garcia in Verlaine's playing. I would reference "Live Dead," see "Dark Star." (Yes, a scoop here on Haahnster's Hallucinations, rabidt is going to admit to having heard, and even enjoying a Dead lp.) Not sure if these are on the top 500 list; if "East West" isn't, well motherf*ck RS on that one, too. If you haven't, you gotta check that one out, Haahnster.

Back to the Garcia thing for a sec, though. Kent rightly states re: Verlaine - "Simply, he can solo without ever losing the point." So, let's not dwell on the Garcia connection for too long.

One of the greatest things I ever read about Television came from a magazine interview w/Verlaine when they did the first reunion around '93. It was something to the effect of "Everyone talks about the guitars, but our whole sound is based on how our drummer plays the hi-hat." I think he might have been over-simplifying in order to make a point, but the drums on this lp are unbelievable! And, focusing on the hi-hat alone is certainly a worthwhile excursion.

Now, to play this. If I think of anything else, I'll add it.

10:56 AM, April 13, 2006  
Blogger rabidt said...

Wait a sec, the Kent review for which I provided the link is different, and much longer than the version of it that I have previously known. I had it as part of the Da Capo Book of Rock 'n Roll Writing. It's an edited version there, I suppose. But some of the content that is in this edited version is just plain different. The comment about "not losing the point," is in the Da Capo version, but not in the online version. Oh well.

In a more thorough read of the online one, I see the comparison to Barry Melton. I've only heard a cut or two that includes his work, but this seems spot-on, and worth more investigation. Melton and that era of Country Joe & the Fish are big time faves of Bevis.
And, this reminded me of John Cipollina. "Happy Trails" by Quicksilver is another one that could easily be connected to "Marquee Moon." Another one to catch the stream of, if possible.

11:14 AM, April 13, 2006  
Blogger rabidt said...

Ok, I'm home today - daughter is off school today - so, I've got extra time. Looking over the top 500 list, I came up with this (another one Kent references in the online article): #479 Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. Check the stream on this one - head for track 2 - "Cavalry Cross." The intro is classic guitar work. This studio version does not include the extended guitar solo in the middle which is always part of the live versions, so check the bonus tracks on this - #13 is a live "Cavalry Cross" that is certainly a relative of "Marquee Moon."

More to come, probably, but I'm being called away now.

11:39 AM, April 13, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Awesome info! Keep the thoughts/suggestions coming.

As the one responsible for introducing me to this album in the 1st place, I was hoping you could help.

After I get over my shock (regarding the Grateful Dead revelation--and I do mean REVELATION), I just might try to check something out. But, I'd better wait for a really open-minded day...and I don't seem to have many of those lately!

1:32 PM, April 13, 2006  

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