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(Originally posted to FB 1/7/22.) As a teenager in the 80s, I would occasionally read mention of this mythical band TELEVISION, apparently a profound influence on the post-punk bands I loved. A few years later, I finally found a copy of Marquee Moon at Berkeley’s amazing Amoeba Records. (And finally I knew who that guy Tom Verlaine was(!), who I’d seen open solo acoustic -actually I think he was solo Electric with no backing band- for The Church in ’86.) This was many years before they opened stores in Hollywood and San Francisco; Berkeley was the One. Pre-internet, I would find these gems by reading mentions in rock magazines, fanzines, and word of mouth. Living in San Francisco while in art school, every few months I would take pilgrimages across the Bay, via the BART train, to Amoeba in Berkeley.
I was really into Marquee Moon, liked most of Adventure, and most of their 1992 reunion album. I was ecstatic about the prospect of seeing them live in SF at the Great American Music Hall. It didn’t matter that my friends didn’t know what I was talking about, and I’d have to see them on my own. They did not disappoint, that show stands as one of the best live shows I’ve experienced (and I’ve been to a LOT).
Naturally with no further Television records to explore, leader Tom Verlaine’s solo catalog was next. I especially enjoyed the first two, the self-titled debut (as a Bowie fan, I recognized “Kingdom Come,” which Bowie covered on Scary Monsters) and Dreamtime. Thank you to the Amoeba clerk, who noticed my interest in the early CBGBs scene, and steered me to Richard Hell and Blank Generation! I had not at that time read even a mention of Hell being a founding member of Television, much less anything about The Neon Boys.
In ’94, while living in New York, as I was tracking down Hell, I also wrote to Verlaine’s manager c/o a Manhattan studio he was recording at. I included a copy of this Portrait Journal entry, asking if I could drop by to get him to sign the original art. The manager responded, expressly asking me to NOT drop by.
I only saw Television the once, but I’ve seen Verlaine perform a few times since… 2 or 3 times in the 90s as lead guitarist in Patti Smith’s group. On one of those occasions, on an off night from Patti’s tour, I saw him at Hollywood’s tiny Viper Room, backed by Patti’s rhythm section. Another outstanding show! It would have been easy enough to bring my Portrait Journal and ask him to sign, but I didn’t bother. I just went to enjoy the music. Sometimes you’re not meant to meet these guys.
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