Iterations: Telvision’s “Marquee Moon”

Iterations: Telvision’s “Marquee Moon”
Television - "Marquee Moon"

One of the greatest <insert term here> ever. No matter what you put in that phrase – “Songs”? “Recordings”? “Title tracks”? “Performances”? – it would be accurate. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd’s interlocking guitars and alternating solos are just epic and a clinic in awesome. Effusive much? Yes, but I can’t not hear that opening riff and not bliss out just a little. So let’s pay a little tribute starting with the original off the 1977 album to which it gives its name.

Aside: it blows my mind that the track was released as a 7″ in 1977 split across two sides.

Richard Lloyd left Television in 2007 and was replaced by Jimmy Rip. I love Lloyd’s playing but Rip does the job, as shown in this live performance at New York’s Bowery Ballroom in December 2017:

In the years Television was off the air (1978 to 1992), Verlaine carved out a pretty prolific solo career and naturally his signature song remained a fixture of his live sets. Here’s him performing it for a live broadcast in Madrid at TVE studios in September 1984.

And now some covers – for such a legendary song, it hasn’t been covered much for pretty obvious reasons – it’s long and requires some serious guitar chops to either pay it proper respect or reinvent it. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles did a pretty good job of it as a bonus track on the second volume of their Under The Covers cover album series.

It probably seemed a no-brainer that Luna – a band very indebted to Television in their guitar dynamics and a fan of covers – would have taken a swing at “Marquee Moon” but it took them until the COVID pandemic, when they were all locked down at their respective homes, to finally do so. And make a video for it as well. Though honestly I’m not sure if I’ve accepted Sean Eden’s choice to play it on a P90-equipped Gibson SG rather than his Fender Jazzmaster, but maybe that would be been just a little too on the nose. Nice touch having longtime bassist Justin Harwood, who left the band in 200, play on it.

A far less expected cover – and one of my favourites random tracks ever – is the Kronos Quartet crafting a gorgeous all-string version of the song as part of the Rubáiyát compilation in 1990 saluting the 40th anniversary of Elektra Records.

And finally, bringing it all back home, here’s Patti Smith accompanied by Richard Lloyd transforming the song into spoken-word poetry by focusing not on Verlaine’s guitar but his words at the closing night of New York’s CBGB’s in 2006, where they all got their start in the ’70s.

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