Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Music Box: Television (UPDATE)

For reasons that are unclear to me -- and my poor neighbors -- I've been on a major Television kick lately. Ever since I first read about them in Blondie's autobiography, "Making Tracks," I'd been fascinated with this pioneering New Wave band that had come and gone before I even knew what New Wave was. But when I finally got my hands on the two albums they'd recorded before disintegrating amid tensions between the band's dueling guitarists -- Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd -- I was quickly able to see what all the outlandish praise was about. One listen to Television's poetic lyrics set to sparse yet deceptively intricate dual-guitar rock and I was hypnotized, wondering how I had not known about this band all along. (I was in good company. The band never sold many records, but have consistently been cited on lists of most influential bands of the era.)
   While their debut, "Marquee Moon," is considered their masterpiece (with its title track, "See No Evil," "Friction" and the gentle "Guiding Light," how could it not be?), I've recently begun to favor the follow-up, "Adventure," on the grounds that "Glory," "Days," "Careful" and "Ain't That Nothing'" are every bit as good as anything on the first. Not to mention I have a long history of favoring sophomore albums -- from Blondie's "Plastic Letters" to Belly's "King" and dozens in between. When I mentioned this recent pro-"Adventure" stance to a friend of mine who was part of the '70s New York music scene, he said he could see my point, and explained to me that when he used to see Television live back in the day, he thought the chorus of the song "Foxhole" was saying "Fatso! Fatso!" and that they used to perform the song "Adventure," which didn't even appear on the 1978 release. (It's been added to the brilliant CD reissue, BTW.)


"Prove It" was released as the second single from Television's 1977 debut album, "Marquee Moon."

But after sharing these fun Television memories, he also mentioned that Richard Lloyd -- who struggled with drug addiction and other health issues for decades -- has recently fallen on some even harder times. He said Lloyd's wife had kicked him out, and Richard was all but "living" in the Music Building in his room on the 12th floor -- the very floor where Madonna and her band rehearsed in her earliest days. ("What do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Homeless.") Madonna says she squatted in the building on and off for about four years in her 20s.

I dug up the almost-quaint 1998 MTV special in which Madonna takes her pal Rupert Everett on a tour of her old haunts and found her revisiting Room 1205. (Could those cigarette butts be Richard's?) Although she was slipping into her dreaded British accent around that time (spending too much time with Rupert, my lady?), it was filmed during the "Ray of Light" era and is really the last time I found Madonna to be charming and borderline self-effacing. Her personality really shines through and you can get a little feeling for her sense of humor. (Best part: Rupert Everett asks her if she can imagine herself "Mick Jagger's age, 50 years old stomping around onstage" and she replies emphatically, "I do not!")


 Although drugs were ultimately Lloyd's downfall, seeing Madonna wistfully look back at where she came from while another person I've idolized since my youth -- who is also considered highly talented and influential, yet never made much money from his work -- is reduced to squatting in her old rehearsal space at age 57 still seems cruelly unfair. Here's hoping Lloyd can turn things around. I know Television still performs live once in a while, and I'm not looking to see Jimmy Ripp standing in for him, although I might settle for a cameo by Richard Hell. 

 UPDATE: Please read the comments for information purportedly from Richard Lloyd's current girlfriend.


Sheila said...
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Sheila said...
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Boaz said...
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Boaz said...


I am a long term student of Richard's and have a studio in the Music Building the floor beneath Richard's as well.

First of all, I can tell you first hand that whomever you got your information from is lying to you and libeling Richard.

He does not squat in the studio upstairs, and he does not do any drugs (oh, to be along for the ride in those days!)

In fact Richard continues to make and release solo records every few years that are better musically than a lot of the Williamsburg hipster bands that get so much attention (you should check them out.) His guitar playing crushes all those skinny jean wearing pussies.

He also released a Jimi Hendrix cover album that is sublime, since he is one of the few living people left who had direct access to Hendrix guitar sex magic.

Richard is a legend and very esoteric, yes, but he's managed a very comfortable lifestyle for musicians these days. And shares his light selflessly with others. But that makes a much more mundane blog post doesn't it??

You should watch who you get your info from and where you put it, before you get yourself in trouble young man.

Kevin Doyle