5 Indispensable Tom Verlaine Recordings
Posted on February 1, 2023
It’s been a rough few weeks for guitar heroes. First we lost mainstream rocker Jeff Beck; now comes the news that downtown proto-punker Tom Verlaine has died at the age of 73.
Verlaine’s band Television was a fixture in the 1970s New York City punk scene, even though they didn’t sound like anybody else there – or, really, anybody else since. If the other bands performing at CBGB’s knew how to play their instruments, most tried to keep it to themselves or bury it in distortion; Television foregrounded its virtuosity in keening guitar solos that chimed with bold clarity. Other bands sang about bondage and sniffing glue in songs that careened past in a three-minute rush; Verlaine named himself after a nineteenth-century French poet and wrote the deliberately paced ten-plus-minute “Marquee Moon.” He built the chorus of the song “Venus” around a defiantly unhip dad joke – admittedly, as told by a dad with an undergraduate art history major. (The Venus de Milo doesn’t have arms, get it? Get it?)
Verlaine never found mainstream success – it’s not clear that he wanted it – but his influence is pervasive, especially on the alternative and college charts. Real Estate covered the Television song “Days” and last year’s critically acclaimed Alvvays album Blue Rev included a song called “Tom Verlaine.” Here are five opportunities to see what all the fuss was about.