Television playing for free? At the Central Park Summerstage? On Saturday, June 16? How crazy are you if you miss this?
I mean that — the original two Television albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure, are two high points of late-1970s rock music, and bandleader Tom Verlaine’s first solo album — cleverly titled Tom Verlaine — is salted with enough leftover Television concert staples like “Kingdom Come” and “Breaking In My Heart” to qualify as the unofficial third Television release. (The official third release, which came out in 1992, sounds less like the band than a weak Verlaine solo record.) Guitar junkies owe it to themselves to hear Verlaine and his foil, Richard Lloyd, throw themselves into one of the live raveups that were the band’s concert trademark.
If you wanted to play a rock version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” Television would allow you to make lots of connections. Legend has it that Tom Verlaine was the one who convinced Hilly Kristal to open CBGBs up to bands like the Ramones and Blondie, and original bassist Richard Hell quit the group to form Richard Hell and the Voidoids. (If you want to know why Richard Hell couldn’t cut the mustard, check out this YouTube video of him trying to learn “Venus.”) Replacement bassist Fred Smith was also being courted by Blondie, but he decided Television had better commercial prospects — not, as it turned out, a very astute career move. Verlaine himself was an early addition to Patti Smith’s gallery of rail-thin rock and roll boyfriends, and he played on her first album, Horses.
The albums should be your first stop, but here’s a clip of Television playing “Foxhole” on The Old Grey Whistle Test. The Summerstage show, incidentally, runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and features two support acts, Apples in Stereo and Dragons of Zynth, that I’m told are heavily influenced by Television. We shall see.