The tragic thing about Tom Verlaine is that he never got the acclaim he deserved in the U.S.
The upside is that he got that and more in England, where his innovative and critically acclaimed music has been accepted by fans for what it is: pure genius.
(photo courtesy of pitchfork.com)
Verlaine was one of the founding members of the New York City punk movement. A regular at the Big Apple’s historic CBGB’s club in the 1970s, Verlaine teamed with old school chum Richard Hell to spearhead a new direction for popular music.
While CBGB’s mates the Ramones took a minimalistic approach to punk, Verlaine delved into the more creative realms shared by contemporaries like the Talking Heads, Blondie and Willy DeVille.
After founding the Neon Boys with Hell – later of Richard Hell and the Voidoids – the two formed Television. Although short-lived, the band’s two releases marked a hallmark in American music. The band combined the dual guitar work of Verlain, born Thomas Miller, and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd. It was magical.
Television’s first release, Marquee Moon, was dubbed by Rolling Stone magazine as “one of the all-time classic guitar albums.”
Initially released in 1977, the album was re-released in 2003, with Spin magazine noting that the album was “the first punk jam album and a thing of swooning, brawny loveliness.”
The band’s second album, Adventure, also won critical acclaim, but again failed to gain the band commercial success.
After Television broke up in 1978, Verlaine released his first solo album, Tom Verlaine. Again, he proved to be a master at critical acclaim, but lacked the large-core following in the U.S.
However, his popularity in England prompted Verlaine to relocate to the U.K.
Verlaine continues to tour and record there, where Television remains a highly respected innovator of American punk and eventual New Wave music.
Verlaine’s latest solo release, Songs and Other Things, released in 2006, did well in the U.K., even if he’s all but forgotten in the U.S. to all but a small core group of loyal fans.
He remains a cult icon for afficionados of the 1970s punk craze who have come to appreciate Verlaine’s continued innovation and the evolution of his music.
Too bad most music fans didn’t get it. It’s not too late to jump on board now.
(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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