Tom Verlaine obituary | Music

The leader of the New York band Television, who died at the age of 73, Tom Verlaine was a key figure in the musicians who made downtown Manhattan a new musical laboratory, including Blondie, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, and the Patti Smith Group. Mid-1970s sound and new style. Each of these groups followed very different musical paths, but their influence became known as the punk movement, and their television debut LP Marquee Moon, released in 1977, was the most admired and It has secured its place among lastingly influential albums. that era.

For Smith’s recent publication, A Book of Days, she chose a 1974 photo. In that photo, she and her then-lover and sometimes collaborator, Verlaine, hold hands in a sweet and rebellious thrift store chic tableau. , a patchwork leather jerkin for him. But among those apprenticing at CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, and other New York clubs, in artistically distressed apparel, rebellious haircuts, and painfully skinny surroundings, No one showed more interest in music than Verlaine.

Television appearances at CBGB, New York, 1975: From left, Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, Billy Ficka (drums), Richard Lloyd. Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Red Ferns

“Attitude,” he once said. Instead, the visionary singer-songwriter-guitarist’s career, which includes his solo albums and appearances, as well as various TV show reunions, offers the perfect blend of musical eloquence and a certain spiritual upliftment. It seemed to represent a constant quest to seek.

As befits a man who appropriated his stage name from the great French symbolist poet, Verlaine wrote memorable lyrics. For example, Marquee Moon’s opening line is: In Venus, another early song, he sang about “how Broadway looked medieval.”

But it was his exploratory guitar solos that spoke to his early interest and deep knowledge of 1960s avant-garde jazz. Somehow he manages to combine the tongue improvisations of saxophonists John Coltrane and Albert Ayler with the sprawling psychedelic guitars of James Burton, Steve Cropper, Dick Dale, and Jerry Garcia and John Cipollina. Improvising, and matching the results to his own time.

Tom Verlaine and Patti Smith backstage at Arista Records, paying tribute to New York City at the 1975 Great Music Festival in the heart of New York City.
Tom Verlaine and Patti Smith backstage at Arista Records, paying tribute to New York City at the 1975 Great Music Festival in the heart of New York City. Photo: Charles Steiner/Getty Images

Verlaine’s tight-knit stage presence was charming, but his personality – his cool demureness, fugitive demeanor, innate suspicion of the motives of others – made him a man of mystery, Worked against the chances of mainstream success. It didn’t look like it was committed.

He was born Thomas Miller in Morriston, New Jersey to a middle-class family who moved to Wilmington, Delaware when he was six years old. After learning classical piano, he switched to the saxophone after encountering jazz and started playing the guitar. At private school Sanford in Hockasin, Delaware, he met a boarder from Kentucky named Richard Myers, and they bonded over a love of poetry and a shared desire to escape the shackles of a controlled institution. . they found themselves. The first attempt ended with both being brought home after being arrested for setting fire to a building in Alabama.

By 1971 they had gone their separate ways to New York, teamed up again on the Lower East Side, changed their names to Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, fought over jobs, and were named Nomme de Plume “Teresa Stern.” “We wrote a poem together under.”. However, Verlaine, who was working as a clerk at the Strand bookstore in the East Village, decided to form a band. He taught Hell the basics of bass guitar and played with drummer Billy Ficka as The Neon Boys before adding another guitarist, Richard Lloyd, and changing their name to Television in 1974. .

Verlaine’s songs, Hell’s compositions (including the anthemic Blank Generation), and the soaring interaction between the two lead guitarists quickly won a following among New York scene-makers. With endorsements from David Bowie and Nicholas Ray, director of Rebel Without a Cause, Smith was another early follower who began to gain prominence, Verlaine in her 1974 I played it on the first single, Hey Joe’s version.

Richard Hell, whose spiky hair and ripped t-shirts inspired the styling of Malcolm McLaren’s Sex Pistols, was already criticized for his heroin-induced unreliability by the time television produced its first single. He was dismissed by Verlaine. His Verlaine song called Little Johnny Jewel was released in 1975 on a label created by their patron, Terry Ork. The following year they signed a deal with his Elektra Records and began production on Marquee Moon. The album was co-produced by Rolling’s Stones, Free, Red, a studio that had worked with Zeppelin and his engineer Andy Johns, who helped Bahrain achieve the distinct sound they were looking for. .

Even if the album’s sales were disappointing by the standards of the biggest rock bands of the time, their music was warmly received by the American and European rock press, as well as by audiences on their first British tour, which featured Blondie as a supporting act. I was. A second album, Adventure, had little impact and the band broke up in 1978 due to disagreements between Verlaine and Lloyd.

Tom Bahrain performing at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2002.
Tom Bahrain performing at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2002. Photo: Hayley Madden/Red Ferns

Verlaine’s eponymous first solo album was released in 1979, followed two years later by Dreamtime, several albums, including Cover, and in 1984 during his brief residency in London. It was completed. His two albums of instrumental work, Warm and Cool (1992) and His Around (2006), demonstrate his talent for creating his poems with film noir-inspired tones. In 1995, he appeared as a guest of Smith’s band on a US tour with Bob Dylan.

Television briefly reformed in 1992, releasing a new self-titled album of top quality, and from 2007 Jimmy Lipp.

Tom Verlaine (Thomas Miller), guitarist, singer and songwriter, born December 13, 1949. Died January 28, 2023

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