It usually falls to the Other Chap to wax lyrical about the musical arts, but as this is not much about lyrics and is a long way from traditional music, Graham feels qualified.
It was Spring 1977 when this lady first came to London …. Debbie Harry, fronting the band Blondie, was – as Graham thought at the time– pure sex; though given his likely age at the time, he probably did not express that to Nanny, who must have taken him along…
However, it is as good an excuse for a photo as any – even though she is not the actual subject of this piece. That honor belongs to the band she was supporting – the much-vaunted Television.
Television had a lot to live up to …
… to the point that when an audience member yelled out “Prove It!” Graham was hard pressed to tell whether it was a request for a track from the album being promoted or a challenge to live up to pre-tour hype.
But prove it they did (except to US audiences – the album did not sell well there). The point was driven home to Graham only a couple of days ago, and even on preparing this piece. The memory of that concert lingered, yes, as did the “whatever happened to…”, but to stumble across them again and find the Wikipedia piece using terms such as
… one of the greatest albums of all time and a foundational record of alternative rock … innovative post-punk instrumentation on Marquee Moon strongly influenced the indie rock and new wave movements of the 1980s
was a real surprise. Even more of a surprise was re-hearing this track –
and reading the comments describing what was going on, and how innovative this was in musical terms.
… painfully beautiful… some of the nastiest guitar licks you’ll ever hear… the way the guitarist ended his climb up the scale to the top only to continue with the low notes at the bottom was an innovation for rock … Factor in the astonishing guitar coda & you have something virtually without parallel in rock.
And Graham just thought it was a great number. He does know quality when he hears it.
… now if only Television had melded into this album the energy of previous collaborator Richard Hell – seen here at CBGBs, the incubator for so much great music.
A great reminder too that 40 years ago, the response to a bleak society was not despair, but anger. And what an anger it was.
… but let us not get into that right now - because sometimes he is this chap - generally while the other chap is generally - well - the other chap. Anyway, John remembers well the mighty trilogy of albums delivered by Tom Verlaine and his band. And right there … you see how us chaps come at this from very different viewpoints. To this chap Tom was the Television man. And did not need a ‘Richard’. Well - ok - he did have ‘a’ Richard … but he didn’t need the ‘Hell’ version.
John has long held that there are certain musicians that fall into the category of ‘The Musician’s Musician’. Examples in his humble would include the likes of Roy Harper, Lou Reed, Richard Thompson, to name just a few … and I just know that you have your own ideas. These are musicians that whatever their fame level / success commercially, somehow seem to punch well above their weight in terms of their influence.
Tom is on that list.
Further John does not include Mr Hell in that category, Then again, he is happy to move into a discussion on same.
tho it looks like the other chap doesn’t … we will see.
I would argue that ‘your average listener’ knows nought of Tom V - nor indeed Richard H. (And by average, here’s a measure - pull someone aside and ask if they know of Pink Floyd - and they will probably be able to associate Waters and Gilmour. Likewise a Genesis reference will pull up Phil Collins … moving to the smaller bands … Sex Pistols … maybe you will get John Lyndon or Johnny Rotten - now ask them which they prefer - again - average listener - how many will reply they are the same person?
When it gets to Television … three albums and gone, well that hardly cuts the ice through the popular zeitgeist - let alone fame. BUT through his extensive solo work - he is there. ‘bigly’. But this is not to explore that - so let’s move on, exceptionally and to highlight this eye opener from The San Francisco Chronicle, just this week, filed under ‘Public Eavesdropping’ … overheard in Cole Valley by Steve Heilig ..
“My mom, like, constantly plays Paul McCartney songs. … He was, like, in a band called Wings, like, 100 million years ago.”
.. as if proof was needed of the challenges we as a society face.
Anyway, to my point, Mr. Verlaine (and Television) to my mind remain a significantly under-rated and definitely in the category of musician’s musician. Mr Hell need not apply ( I know - I know ) - and also being credited by the hugely influential Malcom Mclaren ..
… as a source of inspiration for the Sex Pistols’ look and attitude, as well as the safety-pin and graphics accessorized clothing that McLaren sold in his London shop, Sex.
.. you knew there would be didn’t you?
Back to the other chap’s point about anger 40 years ago. Anger takes many forms …. and this chap firmly believes that ‘punk’ as most people describe and remember it was a late 70s thing.
This chap would argue that it was in there that Punk peaked. And yes in the 80s you still had punk bands but The New Romantic Movement was emerging in the UK and over in the US Talking Heads were starting to take hold. Arguably (because isn’t everything arguable) The Heads were influenced - but classic punk was the Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, Television and their hey days were behind them in the early 80s.
And yes - the late 70s were indeed turbulent times and the loudness and noise of the punk revolution screamed to be heard - and they were. And then they went away - and with odd exceptions like Billy Bragg are no longer around.
But … as a blast - check out the top album in the UK at the begining of 1977. ‘Animals’. ‘Pink Floyd’. The anger is absolutely there. It is not loud and screaming and musically violent like Punk - but listen. It is clear.
.. still, in the words of Mr. Lydon, Anger is an energy…
… and this chap would not disagree.
He suggests that anger has always been with us.
But … why does it have to be loud?
loudness doesn’t win - take note ‘President’ Trump
And 40 years later - to the year - it is still there. And so is the band. And so are the musicians … still standing up and being counted.
Roger on Resisting Trump - click through - crank it up and listen - STUNNING …. Forty Years Later . And just as applicable to the abomination we have in the Whitehouse today as to the UK situation back then. Actually - let’s save you the click through ….
… did I get a little political there?
Actually - no. No I am not.
Because while Talking Heads were direct contemporaries of Blondie, Televisions and the Ramones, all CBGBs alums and often playing on the same bill, they took their own routes as Punk ran its course. Chris and Tina talk about that in this episode of the PBS series History of Rock and Roll
aah yes … hands up if you remember Tom Tom Club !!!
And in the clip below, there’s Debbie Harry channelling (?) Stevie Nicks (not that this Chap is complaining…) But more interesting in that same clip is what came along in the 80s – Punk’s Indian Summer, out of the Pacific North West, with grunge, feat. Nirvana.
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