Forty years after their debut album Marquee Moon was released, Television is back to playing live shows in New York City.
I was seventeen when I first heard Television. I had been binging on punk rock literature of the 1970s when I was recommended Richard Hell’s autobiography, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp. This one stuck out to me, not because I was a die-hard Television fan (yet), but because of Hell’s descriptions of that era in New York. It was all happening back then and every story intertwined; CBGB’s, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, The Ramones, Blondie, Jonathan Richman. Hell’s autobiography is full of raw accounts of his friendship/rivalry with Tom Verlaine, his love affairs, his creative process, and his heavy drug use that ultimately led him to quit the music scene indefinitely.
Maybe it’s easy to glorify that era some forty years later as a young person living in New York, but I for one believe -and I think others would agree- that those seemed to be the golden years of New York punk rock. Richard Hell left Television in the mid 1970’s and took with him his signature unapologetic punk style, leaving the band in the hands of Tom Verlaine, who’s cleaner and more technical sound carried the band forward.
When I heard Television was playing a show in my neighborhood at Elsewhere Hall (7/31), I knew this could very well be one of my only chances to see them perform live.
Alan Licht opened the show playing a nearly continuous set of repetitive humming guitar chords that left the packed venue eagerly awaiting Television. Tom Verlaine walked on stage followed by guitarist Jimmy Rip (Richard Lloyd’s replacement), bassist Fred Smith, and drummer Billy Ficca. Immediately I was struck by their old age, forgetting for a moment that it was not 1973 and the band on stage was not the Television I had imagined; made up of young boys in ripped t-shirts and leather pants. No, it’s 2018, and even the most legendary rock stars age just like the rest of us.
Opening with hardly no introduction, they began by playing their well-known songs from Marquee Moon including “Venus” “Elevation” “Torn Curtain” and an unreleased song, “I’m Gonna Find You” that never made it onto their first album. They included a few tracks from their second album Adventure released in 1978 and their eponymous third album released in 1992. Their set was rhythmic, each song drawn out to accommodate Verlaine and Rip’s guitar solos. They ended the night by playing “Marquee Moon” and proved that, forty years later, their music continues to resonate with the same skill and precision that it did in the time of CBGB’s, Richard Hell, and the golden era of New York punk rock.