TOM VERLAINE Frontman and Guitarist in Iconic NYC Band Television, has died at age 73.

Posted: January 29, 2023 in MUSIC

I have woken up to the news of the passing of virtuoso guitarist and singer-songwriter Tom Verlaine. An enormously inspirational figure with his New York band Television. A swarm of bands to form and bloom in the wake of Verlaine and his fabulous group.

The news that Tom Verlaine, singer and guitarist with iconic NYC band Television, had died had been confirmed, tributes had started to pour onto social media from fellow artists. No surprise, as the group’s debut album, “Marquee Moon”, is one of the most influential albums of the the ’70s NYC scene and Verlaine’s expansive style can be head in groups today some 45 years later.

Tom Verlaine, frontman and guitarist in iconic NYC band Television, has died at age 73. The news was shared by Jesse Paris Smith who said he died after “a brief illness.” Verlaine, who was born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey, began studying piano at an early age but switched to the saxophone after hearing a record by Stan Getz. He adopted his stage name in a reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine.

Teenage friends with Richard Hell, they both moved to New York around the same time and played in groups together before forming Television with guitarist Richard Lloyd and became regular performers at CBGB’s and other NYC clubs. (Hell would leave to form the Voidoids in 1975.) He and his school friend, Richard Hell, who shared a passion for music and poetry, moved to New York City separately and in 1972 they formed the group Neon Boys, which comprised Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Hell on bass and vocals, and Billy Ficca on drums. The group lasted a short while then in March 1973 they reformed, calling themselves Television, and recruited Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist. Their first gig was in March 1974. In 1975, Hell left the band and they released their first single with Fred Sonic Smith replacing Hell.

Verlaine, who was the band’s lead singer and did most of the song writing, once dated poet and musician Patti Smith when they were part of the emerging New York punk scene, and they would collaborate many times over the years. Verlaine was considered one of the more skilled musical practitioners to emerge from the now-defunct CBGBs club in New York’s Bowery, where their contemporaries included Blondie, The Ramones and Talking Heads.

Beginning with their landmark 1975 debut single, “Little Johnny Jewel,” Television became one of the most renowned groups on the burgeoning New York underground scene; though lumped together with the punk phenomenon, the band’s complex songcraft — powered by Verlaine’s strangled vocals, oblique lyrics, and finely honed guitar work — clearly set them apart from their peers. The unique guitar interplay between Verlaine and Lloyd, and Verlaine’s reedy vocal style would be Televsion’s signature elements found on their classic debut album, 1977’s “Marquee Moon”, one of the most influential albums of the era. Television broke up not long after the release of their second album, 1978’s “Adventure”, but reformed briefly in the early ’90s and then again in 2001 .

After Television split, he released a string of solo albums, with his song “Kingdom Come” inspiring a rare cover version by David Bowie on his “Scary Monsters” album.

Verlaine soon released a self-titled solo album that began a fruitful 1980s solo career. He took up residence in England for a brief period in response to the positive reception his work had received there and in Europe at large. In the 1990s he collaborated with different artists, including Patti Smith, and composed a film score for “Love and a .45”. In the early 1990s, Television reformed releasing a self-titled third album, and were sporadically active in later years, hailed as a prime influence on the alternative rock of the 1980s and 1990s. to record that one studio album and a live recording “Live at the Academy” released 1992; they have reunited periodically for touring.

Verlaine released his first new album in many years in 2006, titled “Songs and Other Things”.

Tom Verlaine, front man and guitar player with Television. “Marquee Moon”, for me the best guitar album ever released in 1977, was one of the best albums to come out of the New York punk and rock scene of that period. The title track stands out for its innovative guitar work and an incredible solo by Verlaine. That lengthy solo that comes in at 4:52 is a real stoner. The band’s second guitarist Richard Lloyd discussed the unique dual guitar roles in the band: “There weren’t many bands where the two guitars played rhythm and melody back and forth, like a jigsaw puzzle. It was clear between us that I played the lead, or the single-note lines, while Tom was singing, then took over the rhythm if he was going to take the solo. If I was going to take the solo, he’d just keep playing rhythm. The split was supposed to be 50-50, or 40-60, but we had this giant ‘Marquee Moon,’ where Tom gets to solo for five minutes or whatever, but it was so good that I couldn’t argue about it.”

And then he summarized the legacy of that amazing album: “I don’t think of that album as just a collection of songs. I think of “Marquee Moon” as one thing. It contains so many songs that reach you, but there’s no way to separate them. You know, these days, people download a song or two from an album. Well, “Marquee Moon” is not for that. “Marquee Moon” is the whole thing. One thing. Like Mount Everest.”

Mike Scott of The Waterboys tweeted: “Tom Verlaine has passed over to the beyond that his guitar playing always hinted at. He was the best rock and roll guitarist of all time, and like Hendrix could dance from the spheres of the cosmos to garage rock. That takes a special greatness.” He added: Tom Verlaine … first heard on Patti Smith’s “Hey Joe” and “Break It Up”, He played with Smith in 2005 for a 30th-anniversary concert of “Horses” in its entirety, which was later released on CD and Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel”, the most incredible, otherworldly guitar playing. Jazzblown, fantastic, inspired. Never surpassed, never equalled except by himself.”

Stuart Braithwaite of the band Mogwai tweeted: “Devastated by this news. Tom Verlaine was a true great. His role in our culture and straight up awesomeness on the electric guitar was completely legendary. Name 10 minutes of music as good as “Marquee Moon”. You can’t. It’s perfect. Rest in peace Tom.”

“I think what I took from Verlaine was not really his style,” U2’s the Edge told Rolling Stone in 1988, “but the fact that he did something no one else had done.”

Will Sergeant, guitarist of Echo & The Bunnymen, said: “Tom Verlaine’s playing meant the world to me. If I ever played anything that sounded like him I was happy. He set me on my path as a guitarist, thank you Tom.”

Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens: said thinking of Verlaine’s guitar playing this morning – and that’s what really hit me- was the influence of his tone in Seventies Rock. He ended or at least challenged the heavy bluesy thrust of Page/Clapton/Richards. Verlaine’s guitar was loaded but sweet. It sang and soared. It was lyrical. it possesses enormous beauty. It hinted at jazz. It was ethereal and other worldly. And for someone like me, who was not a follower of guitar players and their lengthy solos, here was a guitar player for my age. And you just have to listen to the shape of guitar bands of the Eighties and beyond to hear the legacy of his playing.

Simon Raymonde wrote: A true original. No one played guitar like Tom Verlaine before or since. Sat crossed legged on the floor on his side of the stage in Roskilde as he played in Patti Smith’s band and that was as close to perfection as you can get. A sad sad day. Rest in Peace Tom

Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate wrote, “such an immeasurable influence on me and, of course, on so many of fellow guitarist friends.” Real Estate wrote, “this band would probably exist – but would surely not sound the way it does without Tom Verlaine.”

Marty Wilson Piper of the Church: The other end of the sphere of classic original and inspired guitar players, I played with him most nights on the US tour in 1988 where he opened for the ex-band acoustic and we played “Cortez the Killer” as an encore (electric of course), trading solos. He travelled on our bus and I spent a substantial amount of time in his company which led to me playing guitar (uncredited along with Jay Dee Daugherty) on his 1990 album “The Wonder”. Verlaine was a great inspiration to me as he never seemed to hit the notes that others chose. He was that intoxicating mixture of high competence and risk, emotional and raw, and able to sustain long guitar solos that were always disappointing when they stopped.

Solo albums:

  • Tom Verlaine (1979)
  • Dreamtime (1981)
  • Words from the Front (1982)
  • Cover (1984)
  • Flash Light (1987)
  • The Wonder (1990)
  • Warm and Cool (1992, reissued in 2005)
  • The Miller’s Tale: A Tom Verlaine Anthology (1996)
  • Songs and Other Things (2006)
  • Around (2006)

Blondie simply shared a photo of Verlaine, and guitarist Chris Stein recalled, “I met Tom Verlaine when he just arrived in NYC I guess ’72. He had long hair and came to my apartment with an acoustic guitar and played some songs he’d written. Both Tom and Richard Hell have told me that I auditioned for the Neon Boys but I don’t remember.”

Peter Buck: So lucky he hit our ears…without his

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.