Marquee Moon by Television


I don’t like rap music. I like new country but I’m not that fond of country and western. I like rock music but I’m not a fan of rock’n’roll. I like R’n’B as it used to be but not R’n’B as it is now. I don’t like dance music but I used to dance to music. Actually, I used to stand around and sway a bit and occasionally I might do an impersonation of Chubby Checker. (I only realised a few weeks ago that the name Chubby Checker was a piss take of Fats Domino).

Genres of music. It’s a bit ridiculous to spend every day writing about music but being critical of the accepted ways in which music is described. There is no check list to determine whether or not I like music. There’s no questionnaire to fill in with a conclusion at the end telling me to like or dislike something. It’s all to do with emotional connection or resonance. Peter and I had a good discussion on Friday about our favourite Eighties albums and we both concluded that however good one of those albums might sound, none of them would mean as much to us as an album released in 1967 when we played the record to death and, in some important and permanent way, defined our youth. Rob and I chatted about this on the phone earlier today. I don’t really understand his love of Focus and he can’t connect with The Moody Blues but maybe our appreciation of those albums is tied in to the feelings that we had at the time – where we were psychologically. Many people stop listening to new music in their twenties and only play the songs from their teenage years. Sixties radio is still very popular with people of my age. Maybe there is an emotional pressure to revisit our most formative years. That might be complete rubbish. I have no idea.

Where was I? Oh yes, genres of music. “Marquee Moon” by Television was described by Mark Weingarten of Entertainment Weekly as “the masterpiece of the 1970s New York punk rock scene” which includes Richard Hell, Patti Smith and The New York Dolls. While Television may well have mixed with these other bands and might have appeared at the same venues as them, their music bears no resemblance to any of them. There’s no snarling vocals, there’s much great musicianship, the lyrics are concerned with Lower Manhattan, boats, docks, caves and waves. The Sex Pistols were singing about the fascist regime of The Royal Family, Patti Smith was singing about the irrelevance of Christianity, Richard Hell was allowing you to fill in your own blanks to describe your generation in whatever terms you wanted but Tom Verlaine was singing about listening to the rain in a storm. The Damned were releasing singles with three tracks and a total running time of under five minutes; The Ramones released an album with fourteen tracks and a total running time of under half an hour but Television were releasing ten minute singles (split over two sides) with two long guitar solos.

I think that the reason that this album is associated with punk is that it was part of the movement away from the much derided self-indulgent prog-rock and into music with more pop sensibility. Jethro Tull’s “Thick As A Brick” consisted of one forty five minute song; Yes released a live triple album consisting of only thirteen songs. Instrumental virtuosity was valued above all else. A more interesting movement was the “post-punk” music performed by Joy Division, Talking Heads and The Cure and it is easy to imagine that “Marquee Moon” was a big influence on these bands.

The album is full of great music. Tom Verlaine’s vocal style is more sneering than snarling and the twin guitars of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine provide the sonic backdrop to every song. Whereas Richard Lloyd’s guitar work (later to be heard on the magnificent “Altered Beast” by Matthew Sweet) consists of hard, slightly jarring notes, Tom Verlaine’s guitar is more melodic, swooping and luxurious. In the title track, it’s Richard Lloyd who plays the recurring hook which allows Tom Verlaine’s superb guitar solo to soar and take us on a journey to a parallel universe where there is no virus, no Trump, no Tories, no BREXIT – just happiness, exhilaration and wonder.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

4 thoughts on “Marquee Moon by Television

  1. It is a strange record. And one that becomes stranger with age. I played it at work this week – what was the reason? I can’t recall. But I was drawn to it again and fell a little more in love with its sinewy ways. Great post. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting. It is difficult to disassociate the enjoyment of specific music with the feelings you had and situation you were in when first hearing it. Having railed against the Wishbone Ash debacle with the masses turning your mind, I now want to advocate for Jethro Tull after the vicious assault above. My formative years were spent listening to a few records over and over again on a mono turntable in a friends house, and taping some on my reel to reel. Stand Up, Benefit, Aqualung and Minstrel in the Gallery were great albums, but to your point, maybe my view is influenced by the part they played in my life. Later on, I liked Broadsword and the Beast, though they never recaptured the early magic. Or is it that I had moved on? Suggest revisiting Benefit.

    Keep up the thought provoking articles.

    Liked by 2 people

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