Television‘s avant-garde tune “Marquee Moon” from the 1977 album of the same name may have inspired countless indie bands to emulate its sparse, angular style of “rocking,” but there will never be a song with this much space and interplay to contain a unique double guitar hook like this again. People call it post punk, but it was written right in the middle of that whole New York scene with the Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads, so call it whatever you want. I call it a classic—a worthy addition to The Great Songs.
Also—as much as I enjoy air guitaring to all 9 minutes of “Freebird,” I’ll take Television’s 10+ minute opus over Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Southern rock anthem any day. In one of the rare instances when having it on vinyl kinda sucks (even though it sounds so warm and fuzzy), the original vinyl LP faded out the song to 9:58. On CD reissues, its been restored to full length.
The key here is feeling. This isn’t guitar masturbation to show off what good musicians the band are. There’s a point. There’s a deliberate quality to it all: The guitar interplay with the rhythm section weaves in and out. A serene quality soon gives way to obscure lyrics about life and death; lyrics that stoke the imagination like the guitars do.
There’s the line about how “lightning struck itself,” “the kiss of death, the embrace of life,” and right after the song’s narrator gets out of the Cadillac in the graveyard (more death symbolism—what it means I’m not sure, but it conjures up some great imagery), the guitar orgasm begins.
Slowly at first—it sounds like the strings are being bent in all kinds of strange directions. It becomes furious, but retains this beautiful melodic quality throughout. The solos are from singer/guitarist Tom Verlaine and guitarist Richard Lloyd, with Lloyd’s solo coming after the second chorus and Verlaine after the third.
“Marquee Moon” is a true original from one of the New York late 70s CBGB scene’s best and most original bands. It’s also one of the most influential rock records you’ll never hear on mainstream radio. Britain’s NME ranked the album “Marquee Moon” #4 on its 2003 list of the Greatest Albums Of All Time and now its part of The Great Songs. What an honor!
The Great Songs series so far: