I think the late ‘70s were the final stronghold of true creativity in the history of music. And to me, few bands encapsulate that brilliance of thought and execution like Television.
The band was formed by two guitar players who had poetic aspirations. They went by the names of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. The two friends had a real connection that time and again would let them elaborate intertwined guitar parts in which both instruments were playing a recognizable lead. They were to be backed by drummer Bill Ficca and bassist Fred Smith. And in addition to being the principal tunesmith, Verlaine was also going to assume lead vocal duties.
Despite being one of the first bands to gain notoriety for its live shows within the pre-punk American scene, Television was to be one of the latest to release an album. When it did finally materialize, though, it was worth the wait. “Marquee Moon” included the incendiary live track and seven other songs that were to act as a blueprint to many of the most successful bands of the ‘80s and beyond. Their second album (“Adventure”) followed shortly, and it showed a more experimental side to them. It was deemed as a good album, but the first one was (and is) held in more esteem. However, neither album met with strong sales in the United States, and Television disbanded after touring to promote “Adventure”.
The repercussion of their work, though, was felt almost immediately. Even U2’s The Edge has cited Television’s albums as one of the main influences in his guitar style and the sound of U2 overall. Even when the band had been unsuccessful commercially in the US, it did achieve both reasonable sales and recognition all over Europe.
The band was to reunite in the year 1992 and a self-titled album ensued. It definitely kept their reputation untarnished, and the subsequent live appearances brought them to a younger audience. They were to keep playing sporadically, and Richard left amicably in the year 2007. He was replaced by Jimmy Ripp. Television is currently recording a fourth album of original compositions.
I can think of many ways to silence somebody who questions the creativity at play at the tail end of the ‘70s. However, the most resounding and unforgettable one is spinning Marquee Moon. The record holds such an intricacy and an intellectual depth that it won’t come across as an act of defiance to the one who claimed otherwise. Any song on the album makes it clear what happens when imagination meets expressivity. It is art that closes every distance which could separate a music lover from another. And I think it is the most beautiful musical testament from the year 1977. Of course, other bands left marks which might be more noticeable and (in certain senses and places) more compelling and far, far more enjoyable. But still waters run deep. And will do so forever.