Television Performs ‘Marquee Moon’

marquee_moon_album_coverListen to this song by mid-70s proto-new wave giants Television. It’s ‘Marquee Moon’, an epic length slice of alternative rock before there was such a thing as alternative rock. This song is an achievement in sound, and unique in its placement in the pantheon of biggest songs in the world. The song is the title track to the 1977 album, Marquee Moon, a record that stands for many as a rosetta stone for multiple strains of rock music from the end of the 70s to the present day.

In some ways, the song and the band that created it both epitomized and undercut the shift rock music made in the mid-70s. The rock scenes on the east coast at the time were going through a sea change. New voices like Patti Smith and Richard Hell & the Voidoids were adding angular textures and unglamourized presentation that drew attention to the music in a way that stadium rock was too big to deliver.  And Television stood among them.

Yet, at the same time, Television wasn’t a band to be found on a small scale either. In this song alone, you can hear the sheer size of what they were building up, and committing the possibly unexpected move of including long instrumental passages even if it was in a new paradigm.

Here’s the thing about the solos on this song; they are not in place for the musician playing them, but rather for the song itself, the overall atmosphere. Somehow, it pulls from a tradition of rock soloing, yet stands as something new, too. The instrumental passages here are all about the song, not the playing. It is a subtle achievement, but a vital one. And it would go on to effect how all rock soloing would evolve, from Gang of Four, to Joy Division, to the Smiths.

Guitarist, songwriter, and leader Tom Verlaine, along with guitarist Richard Lloyd, bassist Fred Smith, and drummer Billy Ficca added virtuosity into the CBGB punk scene, and made something new, although the seeds were only just being sown. The band released singles in Britain where they were championed by NME writer Nick Kent, and where they had a direct effect on bands coming out of British scenes. The fruits of their labours would become most apparent by the late 70s and early 80s, after Television themselves would be overshadowed by their followers and relegated to cult status.

The enormity of this song, and album off of which it comes cannot be underestimated. Not only does it burn just as bright as any historically important document, it also stands as the river’s source for punk, post-punk, modern progressive rock, and indie-guitar rock that would follow it from the mid-70s to the present day. If this is the first time you’re hearing it, I envy you.

Here’s where to read more about Marquee Moon the album.


The Beatles Perform on the Ed Sullivan Show – Feb 9, 1964

It was the performance that launched a thousand beat combos; the Beatles performed five songs on the celebrated Ed Sullivan Show on this day,1964. Those songs were:

  • All My Loving
  • Till There Was You
  • She Loves You
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • I Want to Hold Your Hand

Part of the greatness of the event was the record breaking audience numbers who tuned in: 73 million viewers. The little studio held a grand total of 728 seats, even in the face of the 50 000 ticket demand. And poor Frank Gorshin (who would later find fame as the Riddler on the Batman TV series…) who was on the show as an impressionist had no chance to make any sort of, um, impression. Even Davy Jones, who sang “I’ll Do Anything” from the musical Oliver that same night would have to wait a year or so to join the Monkees before he could get the kind of love these four guys from Liverpool were getting.

The Beatles 1964 The show was all about the Beatles, whose hit in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ alone had preceded them to the States, spearheading what became the group’s success, embodied in what was called Beatlemania. And Beatlemania wasn’t just all about girls screaming and fainting. That night, all transportation was in gridlock. The TV sets of the nation were held captive by the curious as well as the devoted. And criminal activity across the continent? – fegeddaboudit! According to urban myth, even the criminals stopped their nefarious activities to tune in.

The group would appear on Sullivan’s show a number of times during the decade, initially in person on this single historic date as well as on film. But, the excitement of that first night was a revolution; not just for the Beatles or for pop music, but for television, and for the culture as a whole. Bands were formed because of this appearance – it was a historical event, gone well beyond the light entertainment of Sunday night’s past. And, as mentioned, everyone watched; everyone. It drew people of different circumstances, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds together, a glimpse at a possible future when it was possible for the world to stop for an instant in order to appreciate something that was intrinsically good. It is with a sense of bittersweetness to me that such an event of this kind will probably never happen again. But, maybe that’s another reason to celebrate it.

Here’s a clip of the Beatles, performing their monster hit ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ the song that did what no other song from a British act at the time had done – break in America!

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan

[EDIT: February 9, 2011. Apparently, this event doesn’t belong to history, it belongs to SOFA entertainment. Therefore, no clip. Sorry, kids.]

[EDIT: February 9, 2012. I can assume that this clip of the Beatles first press conference at JFK, in 1964 will not be taken down since it was uploaded by the official Beatles YouTube page. But, in this era of corporation technophobia, who knows?]