Television – “Marquee Moon”
[Marquee Moon – 1977]
By 1977, punk rock had gone mainstream and started to lose some of its sneer. Then a handful of guys from Delaware steered it into a different place entirely and altered the course of rock history.
Tom Verlaine (born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey) moved to Wilmington at six and met future bandmate and punk icon Richard Lester Meyers, aka Richard Hell, at Sanford School before running away to New York. Wilmington drummer Billy Ficca later joined them.
After some early positive buzz, their band Television became a fixture at CBGBs in lower Manhattan, alongside acts like the Ramones, Blondie, Iggy Pop, and Patti Smith.
But Television’s 1977 album Marquee Moon was nothing like the squared-off, straightforward brand of punk to which most were accustomed. Verlaine and bandmates operate more like a string quartet than a punk band, weaving together tight, jittery guitar rhythms and countermelodies that somehow connect like puzzle pieces. Today it’s hailed as a masterpiece and an important musical bridge between punk and new-wave.
The titular song is a nearly 11-minute epic that somehow gets better as it goes on. All jagged and moody, Verlaine wails about ominous darkness doubling and lightning striking itself—in between lengthy guitar interludes.
It’s a song that was so far ahead of its time, people are still trying to figure it out, much like the trendsetting state that incubated its creators.