RICHARD LLOYD (Television) – ” Countdown “

Posted: January 23, 2019 in MUSIC
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Nothing beats meeting your heroes especially when they’re happy to share their secrets. In the late 1960s, then-teenaged Richard Lloyd, Television co-guitarist and new wave pioneer, managed to get backstage and into the dressing rooms and inner circles of people like Jimi Hendrix and John Lee Hooker. He asked questions, took mental notes, and absorbed lifelong lessons about the guitar. He put those lessons to good use, too, and developed an alternative, holistic approach to the instrument. That approach was enhanced by his left-brain orientation, plus his never-ending spiritual quest.

Lloyd also studied the teachings of mid-20th-century mystical teacher George Gurdjieff, and those studies—in addition to the impact they’ve had on his spiritual life—transformed his understanding of music. The result, which you can check out in a series of instructional videos and columns that appeared in Guitar World about a decade ago (now on DVD as The Alchemical Guitarist), is a complex, pattern-focused, vertical approach to the instrument based on an idiosyncratic understanding of the major scale.

Lloyd came to prominence in the mid 1970s withNew York band Television, a group he founded with Tom Verlaine, Billy Ficca, and Richard Hell in 1973. (Fred Smith replaced Hell on bass in 1975.) Television, along with the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, and others, were integral to New York City’s burgeoning punk scene. That scene—which, except for a few bands like the Ramones, wasn’t really punk—was based out of CBGB, a club on the Bowery. The black-walled rectangular-box-shaped venue supported a smorgasbord of styles, like new wave, post punk, and art rock, that dominated the Top 40 in the ’80s, albeit in a more plastic, synth-drenched incarnation.

But those sounds in their pure, distilled form were Television’s home. Television was a guitar band—no wailing synths or bad hair for them—and their debut, 1977’s “Marquee Moon”, is an iconic testament to the early, pre-sellout days of new wave. Lloyd and Verlaine shared guitar duties and crafted tight, interwoven parts, and the band was a huge influence on later acts like the Pixies, Sonic Youth, R.E.M, and many others. Lloyd’s tone with Television, while often overdriven and warm, sounds sharp and somewhat stark when appreciated in context—and given his roots and early association with Hendrix, it was a clean break with the past.

Lloyd left Television for the first time in 1978, after the band released its second album, Adventure. They reunited in 1992, and Lloyd stayed in Television until 2007. Along the way, he’s worked with other artists, including Matthew Sweet and X’s John Doe, released solo albums, and established himself as a sought-after teacher and alternative-rock elder statesman. His new solo album, The Countdown, is a collection of fuzzy, mid-tempo rockers that, along with the paperback edition of his 2017 memoir, Everything Is Combustible, was released in November.

“Before, everything was sacred about music. Personally, I think it still is something sacred, because you’re dealing with vibrations, and the universe is made of vibrations.”

John Lee Hooker once gave him advice about guitar playing—specifically about learning how to play one string at a time. Lloyd walked into the dressing room and sat down. Eventually, he took notice of me and he said—he pointed his finger at me, and he said, “And you, young man, what do you do?” I said, “I play guitar.” He said, “Are you good?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “No, no, no. You’re great. I can tell. Come over here and I’ll tell you the secret of playing the electric guitar.”

Then he cupped his hands and he whispered in my ear, “Take off all the strings but one and learn the one string up and down and down and up and bend it and shake it until the women go ‘oooo.’ Then put two strings on and learn two strings up and down and down and up.” I went home, but I didn’t take the strings off. I couldn’t afford to take them off—I didn’t have a replacement set. But I did practice what I call vertical knowledge, which is up and down pitch on a single string, a great deal. Jimi Hendrix had also suggested that to us—that we learn the neck that way.


To learn the single string. In fact, some of Jimi’s solos … like on “May This Be Love,” are all on the B string. The entire solo. There’s another one that’s all on the G string: “I Don’t Live Today.” Except for the last note, it’s all on the G string. It’s a very cool way to play. My solo on “Elevation” [from Marquee Moon] does the same thing on the G string. It goes up in A minor from the second fret to the 17th fret.

A lot of the guitarists in the New York City bands that you came up with were so different: Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, the Ramones. The scene was that everybody played original music and no covers. That was the basis of it, and there were an amazing number of bands who did not sound the same: the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television, Mink DeVille, the Shirts, the Dead Boys … there were tons and they all sounded different, which was fantastic. Pretty much everyone got signed, that’s right. It took three years for Television to get signed. A lot of the bands had been signed, but we kept turning record companies down. We didn’t want to have a producer come in and we didn’t want to have to make a record on a $2 budget. We waited and went with Elektra because they had Love, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and the Doors.

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