Digging: Television

Television: Marquee Moon
Elektra (1977)

Marquee_moonThe reinvigoration of Post Punk and New Wave in recent times can be traced back to only a handful of bands, one of them being Television. They were barely a blip on music history’s radar but Sonic Youth, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Talking Heads and The Ramones have all sighted Television as an influence at some point; this is the beginning, kids.

Listening to Marquee Moon now, it’s not easy to see what the fuss was about. I mean, it’s a great record, but it’s hard to understand why the 1970s underground considered it so innovative. You really need to place yourself amongst the bloated Led Zeppelins of the era to appreciate how out-there the frail tapestry of Marquee Moon’s guitars and Tom Verlaine’s self-conscious yelp must have sounded.

Television stripped their guitars of distortion and paired rock n’ roll antics with the experimental rhythm of the Free Jazz scene. It was sacrilege for the electric guitar to sound so delicate, while the miasma of high-hats and snare pops ran rings around the bombastic drumming of stadium rockers like John Bonham and Bill Ward.

Marquee Moon isn’t sexy or threatening; it’s nervous, jangly and aimed at your heart rather than your hips. The guitar work is utterly striking, the way Tom Verlaine and Richard Loyd’s licks dance around each other, never a driving force but always niggling away at your psyche. Lyrically Marquee Moon is full of self-doubt and reservation, an introspective product of teenage nerds holed up in their bedrooms writing songs about falling into the arms of Venus de Milo.

Television might not sound as innovative these days, but Marquee Moon has stood strong against the test of time. Plenty of today’s rock, punk and new wave revivalists wish they could make a record as catchy and smart as this, but there aren’t many who can.

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