Tom Verlaine, Television Frontman, Dead at 73

Tom Verlaine, frontman, guitarist, and chief songwriter of the seminal guitar rock band TVdied at the age of 73.

Verlaine died Saturday after a “short illness,” according to Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith’s daughter. “He died peacefully in New York City, surrounded by close friends. His vision and his imagination will be missed,” said Smith in a statement.

Originally from New Jersey, Verlaine listened to jazz music and wrote poetry as a teenager – which would provide a unique musical foundation when he finally picked up a guitar. In the early 1970s he moved to New York City and, with friends Richard Hell and Billy Ficca, formed a band called The Neon Boys. After finding little success, they recruited guitarist Richard Lloyd and rebranded themselves as Television.

“I saw him play, and I knew he was into it,’” Lloyd recalled of the first time he saw Verlaine perform live at a 2017 interview with consequences. “He has something, but he lacks something, and what he lacks I have. I’m also missing something. What I lack, he has. I know that if we are both of you, you have a history. I knew that right away.”

Television spent three years making their debut album, Marquee Moon. Eventually, the band made a name for themselves at club shows at CBGBs and Maxwells, while repeatedly turning down record label offers. They also parted ways with Hell and he was replaced by Fred Smith.

Marquee Moon finally released in 1977. In a 2017 retrospective for consequencesRyan Bray described the album as a “guitar rock masterpiece,” which “marries artful technicality with the menace and energy of New York’s fledgling punk scene.”

Marquee Moon is pure musical gumbo, a surprising combination of contrasting aesthetics that slashes punk rock grit, shines with jazzy guitar virtuosity, and acts as its own particular muse,” Bray wrote. “It’s smart but strong, technical but accessible. Verlaine and Lloyd make a devastating guitar pair, especially on tracks like album opener ‘See No Evil,’ the sprawling title track, and the more classic-sounding ‘Prove It.’

Over the years, Marquee Moon remains one of the most influential rock albums in history, paving the way for bands like Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Built to Spill, to name just a few.

Followed by television Marquee Moon in 1978 with a softer and more reflective released called Adventure. They broke up later that year, citing creative differences and Lloyd’s drug issues.

Television changed twice, first in 1992 for the release of a self-titled third album and a supporting tour. They reunited for the second time in 2001 and played sporadic shows for the next two decades. They just got around to 2019.

Besides his work in Television, Verlaine released several acclaimed solo albums, starting with a 1979 self-titled release. Other notable titles include 1981’s Dream time1982’s Words from the frontand 1984’s Cover up. He also collaborated frequently with his one-time girlfriend, Patti Smith, who contributed to her seminal 1975 album Horsesas well as the 1996’s It’s gone again and 2000s Gun Ho.

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