Tom Verlaine, the incalculably influential guitarist for the seminal punk band Television, turns 64 today. Born Thomas Miller on December 13, 1949, Verlaine nicked his nom-de-rock from a French Symbolist poet before he formed Television with bassist Richard Hell (later replaced by Fred Smith), drummer Billy Ficca and co-guitarist Richard Lloyd. Verlaine and Lloyd pioneered a tense and atypical style of interwoven guitar improvisations that discarded much of the rock rulebook - indeed, in a movement as obsessed with back-to-basics simplicity as punk, it’s amazing that a band as unabashedly committed to really, really long guitar solos as Television was embraced at all, let alone revered. The band released two indispensable albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure. I don’t imagine DM has too many readers who aren’t at least glancingly familiar with these albums, but just in case, feel free to listen to Marquee Moon in its entirety here. I’m pretty sure that with just one attentive listen, you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Television, Marquee Moon, full album
Television called it quits in 1978, though there was a seemingly requisite reunion album in the early ‘90s, and occasional reunion concerts continue, even as recently as a couple of weeks ago - see below. Verlaine embarked on a sporadically edifying solo career shortly after Television’s demise, and his last two albums were Around and Songs & Other Things, both released by Thrill Jockey in 2006.
For a side of Verlaine that’s hard to hear in Television, check out this 120 Minutes interview from 1990, followed by a pair of lovely acoustic performances.
More Tom Verlaine (and Television, too) after the jump