Marquee Moon is the best album of the 70s.
That may be a bold statement, even a bit arrogant, and Iím sure many people will disagree with
me. And thatís fine because, after all, this is only my opinion.
Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Verlaine, Television released itís debut album Marquee
Moon in 1977. This may seem as insignificant as throwing a candy wrapper on a landfill, but
consider what was going on musically in Ď77. Sure, the whole punk thing had exploded, but there
were really only three groups that had any impact after the initial blast. The Ramones were still
doing their souped-up, lightning fast bubblegum, the Clash were perfecting their
political/reggae/rockabilly sound, and the Pistols were still slogging it out, but even they would
self-destruct a year later. And on the other end of the spectrum you had the mainstream and the
latest hits by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac (both of which had released monster albums the
previous year), as well as Elton John, James Taylor, etc. All good artists in their own right, but
nothing really challenging or fresh. Perhaps the only real excitement was waiting to see what
Bowie would do next.
Enter Television. The band had been playing regularly and had developed a following at CBGBs
in Manhattan. They stood out from the other bands that played CBs. They werenít as fast as the
Ramones, as quirky as the Talking Heads, and they didnít have the raw sexual energy of Blondie
or Patti Smith. Instead, they played music that occasionally bordered on pop, but was always
brought back by the amazing guitar work of Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, and the somewhat
unconventional song structures.
Marquee Moon begins with "See No Evil". A simple staccato chord in the beginning almost has
you wondering if this isnít a punk record after all. But then the guitars slide in and you realize
youíve been duped! What follows is a driving song propelled by the drums and locked in by the
bass. And of course the guitars bring it all to near-transcendence. (check out whatís happening in
the right speaker of your stereo. The melody there is just inescapable) Just when you think it canít
get any better, Richard Lloyd rips out a solo from somewhere in the stratosphere. And this is just
the first track folks.
Another song worth mentioning is "Venus" which is kind of in the same vein as ďSee No EvilĒ
except it kind of turns into a pseudo march. But again, the guitar interplay between Verlaine and
Lloyd is the real attraction.
And of course thereís the 10-minute epic title track which Iím not even going to try to describe.
I could give a detailed description of each song, but Iíd rather focus on the overall feeling of the
record, which to me is the main factor. This album is the sound of New York City. Again, Iím sure
people will disagree and raise the argument "Well what about Lou Reed?" And Iíd have to agree.
For all intents and purposes, Lou Reed is New York. Thatís just a fact. But Televisionís New York
isnít Reedís New York necessarily. While Verlaineís lyrics are no less gritty and streetwise,
Marquee Moon isnít nearly as nihilistic and inherently depressing as Reedís work can be (i.e.
Berlin). To experience New York through Marquee Moon is to go blazing full-tilt through the
streets of downtown Manhattan in a wondrous wide-eyed daze, overstimulated by all the lights
and frenetic activity thatís all around you, past dark alleys and seedy bars, tenements and all-
night convenience stores with too much fluorescent lighting, and not in the scary, bad
neighborhood kind of way, but rather a beautiful communal bohemian kind of way. And loving
every minute of it. Television has managed to blend the intense desperation of the Bowery with
art gallery sophistication into one complex, yet simple, musical vision. And it really works. Thatís
why, for my money, Marquee Moon is the best album of the 70s. Do yourself a favor and check it
Written By: Tim B.