I get ideas
I get a notion
I want a nice little boat made out of ocean.
I first heard Marquee Moon after listening to (and loving) The Velvet Underground, The Clash, The Pixies, David Bowie, Joy Division, and The Undertones. However, I had never heard anything like the complex guitar melodies and complementary cerebral lyrics of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. The strange beauty of Television’s album Marquee Moon defied comparison for me and still captures my imagination with each and every play back of the album.
Television released Marquee Moon in 1977 after years in the punk scene in New York with the likes of Patti Smith and Brian Eno. However, Verlaine and Lloyd did not conform to the standards of rock. Television was different. They created their own punk sound (eliminated the remnants of blues sounds and poser notes) and inspired those who listened to them to go beyond punk. To embrace a sound, but to also go beyond it. They inspired artists to create.
The album is a masterpiece of guitar rock. It has a sense of freedom and curiosity that other albums can not convey to me. Long guitar solos permeate the album, and the interplay between Verlaine and Lloyd’s guitars beams with energy and raw enthusiasm (and fractured bones?). Verlaine’s voice is simply, viciously, and imperfectly an extension of this sound.
The first song on this eight track album is “See No Evil”. This is not the usual opening of a ’70s punk album. It is not calling for a political revolution like “London Calling” or a punk anthem like “Personality Crisis” by The New York Dolls. Instead, it is a back and forth between Lloyd’s structured and crushing notes and Verlaine’s fluid attachment to reality.
‘Marquee Moon’ is truly the standout song of the album and diminishes the impact of all the songs that follow (to my dismay because I love ‘Elevation’) . This 10 minute and 40 second song begins with quirky, anomalous beats throwing themselves at you. Verlaine’s voice interrupts the weaving guitars until the middle of the song where the crisp, alien riffs of Lloyd are juxtaposition to Verlaine’s molten bursts and ambient textures.
I remember the light of darkness doubled,
I recall lighting struck itself.
I was listenin’, listenin’ to the rain,
I was hearin’, hearin’ someone else.
I’m in the high point of my night, I feel so impressive, life,
All this time with the Marquee Moon, but just waitin’.
I may not be a punk. Personally, I prefer to listen to the indie rock stylings of Broken Social Scene and the distorted spirituality of T.Rex; however, Marquee Moon was a formative album for me. I felt inspired after listening to it for the first time. It gave me structure and coherence navigating from The Small Faces to Interpol. It was the first album to change my perception of music.