The cast and crew of CBGB were shooting scenes about Television over the last couple of days, which prompted me to listen to the band for the first time in a few years.
Television is frequently described as “punk”, but I think that’s a reductive description of the sound. But you can decide for yourself if you listen to a few of tracks embedded at the end of this post.
The 1973 band members were Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Richard Hell, and Billy Ficca. Hell left the band in 1975. (Btw, Verlaine recently played guitar on Patti Smith’s “April Fool” on her new album Banga.)
Television was among the first bands to play CBGB.
Evan Alex Cole plays Richard Hell in the movie, with recent SCAD graduate Max Reinhardsen as Tom Verlaine. (Reinhardsen was excellent in a SCAD stage adaptation of two Flannery O’Connor stories that I reviewed here.) I don’t know who’s playing Lloyd or Ficca.
And then there’s Johnny Galecki as Terry Ork, whose Ork Records released singles by Television, Alex Chilton, The Feelies, and others. He was Richard Lloyd’s roommate for awhile and was openly gay.
And here’s one of those points where counter-culture scenes intersected — New York’s gay scene and punk scene fed off each other. From a 2007 Richard Lloyd interview at Rock Town Hall:
RTH: Tell me about your days setting the scene at CBGBs.
RL: We needed a place to play. A shithole nobody else wanted, and we steamrolled over the owner, who wanted to have country bluegrass, and we created the worldâ€™s most creative rock â€˜n roll club bar none. I mean, is there any â€“ I donâ€™t care for your Cavern Club, Marquee Club, Whiskey-a-Go-Go, Boo-Hoo-Hoo Clubâ€¦ CBGBs is the most famous rock â€˜n roll club to have ever existed and I fucking created it! I was the invisible force behind it, because Terry Ork, my lover â€“ oh, he wasnâ€™t, he just chased me around. I mean, after all, he was Televisionâ€™s manager. Whoâ€™s more interested in the careers of young, delicious-looking men than gay people? After all, Brian Epsteinâ€¦ Any rock â€˜n roll manager is one of two things: either a sleazebag, cigar-smoking asshole businessman or a gay person. Iâ€™d much rather be managed by a queer. Queers are usually nicer than the other critters that run along the surface of the earth trying to play the game of King of the Hill.
Here’s more on Lloyd, Television, and those earliest days of CBGB from Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk:
I have not read the CBGB script and have no idea how or even if it will deal such sexual undercurrents.
Anyway, here’s a selection of Television tracks, beginning with a handful of early recordings before Hell left the band (I think). If nothing else, be sure to listen to the first one, a demo of “Friction”, which also appears on the album Marquee Moon below:
Here’s the full 1977 album Marquee Moon:
Here’s the track list for Marquee Moon:
1 00:08 “See No Evil”
2 03:56 “Venus”
3 07:45 “Friction”
4 12:26 “Marquee Moon”
5 23:04 “Elevation”
6 28:10 “Guiding Light”
7 33:41 “Prove It”
8 38:40 “Torn Curtain”
And check out this great song off Television’s 1992 self-titled album: