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Monday, 8 February 2016

Revisiting Marquee Moon - Television (1977)

 Marquee Moon - Television
Produced by Andy Johns and Tom Verlaine
Released 8th February 1977 (US), 4th March 1977 (UK)
UK Album Charts #28
Swedish Album Charts #28

    Billy Ficca – drums
    Richard Lloyd – guitar (solo on tracks 1, 4, 5, and 6), vocals
    Fred Smith – bass guitar, vocals
    Tom Verlaine – guitar (solo on tracks 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8), keyboards, lead vocals

The debut album by New York City's Television was recorded in September 1976 and unleashed to the public in the USA on this very day way back in 1977.

They had begun life in 1972 as The Neon Boys (well Tom Verlaine, Billy Fica and a chap called Richard Hell) but the band folded in 1973 only to rise again from the ashes with a new guitarist Richard Lloyd and a new name, Television. In 1974 they had become regular performers at CBGB's, gaining a loyal following and in 1975 released their debut single 'Little Johnny Jewel' on Ork Records (a label owned by their manager Terry Ork). Soon after Richard Hell left the band (taking with him a whole bunch of songs that would resurface with his band The Voidoids). He would go on to form an early incarnation of The Heartbreakers (featuring former New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan).

(Oh, I forgot to mention, a number of labels were interested in the band around 1974 and they even went as far as recording demos with Brian Eno of a possible deal with Island Records. But Tom Veraline was quite unimpressed with the sound Eno had created and thus the band held out for something better.)

Fred Smith jumped from Blondie to Television taking over on Bass duties (Smith has declared that
"Blondie was like a sinking ship and Television was my favorite band"). Those two bands had played together at CBGB's and would also tour together in Europe in 1977 on a Television headlined tour (though Verlaine was very unimpressed by them saying that Blondie did not suit their show because they were too different artistically).

Signing with Elektra Records in August 1976 was a big deal for them (pretty much all the influential early New York Punk scene bands were signed now) because the label agreed that Verlaine could produce the album as long as he was assisted by a well known recording engineer. Tom Verlaine chose Andy Johns mainly on the strength of the work he had previously done with the Rolling Stones.

A number of tracks recorded for the album were done in a single take, like the title track, which Billy Ficca had assumed was just a rehearsal! Andy Johns had suggested doing another take but Veraline was insistent that they had captured it correctly. In the studio they had written Guiding Light and Torn Curtain and the remaining tracks were ones they played live on a regular basis. No other songs bar the eight that appeared on the album were tested.

The album was a commercial disaster in the States but gained a lot of friends in the UK thanks in part to Nick Kent's review for the NME. It did receive a lot of good reviews in the States though Noel Coppage of Stereo Review likened Marquee Moon to a "stale version of Bruce Springsteen" (I have no idea what he was listening to in order to come up with that remark!).

In 2003 NME named it as the fourth Best Album of All Time. Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time had it at #128.

Marquee Moon is among my favourite Albums of All Time and is Top Five in my favourite Debut Albums of All Time. It's an album I never tire hearing and over the years I cannot even imagine how many times I've played it (have been through four or five copies of it!), but it must number in the hundreds! And I'm off to play it again!

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