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Appreciating the Music of Television

TelevisionHeartonastick Tom Verlaine performing at Central Park Summerstage, 2007.

There are certain artists one wishes one could outgrow. They belong to one’s youth, after all, and perhaps they should remain there, along with all the other youthful things one is relieved to have outgrown. But for me, the music of the CBGB’s-era band Television, and in particular its singer and songwriter, Tom Verlaine, is one of those youthful enthusiasms which (so far, anyway) threads its way through my life with embarrassing persistence. Occasionally it disappears for long periods while other, more novel interests take hold, but then, like mosquitoes in Spring, back it comes, nipping at the senses as tenaciously as always, only in this case the result is intense pleasure rather than irritation and blood marks.

Television was, or is — no one seems to be sure of its exact current status — the band best known for inaugurating the CBGB’s scene in the mid-1970’s; for having to this day a small but ferociously loyal group of devotees; and for having been eclipsed, at least in terms of popularity, by other bands of that era such as Talking Heads, Blondie, The Ramones, et al. Even by the monstrously egotistical standards set by most rock stars, they seemed weirdly indifferent to fame and record sales, but like the Velvet Underground their musical influence remains pervasive and lives on in a variety of formats which now include amateurishly filmed but invaluable concert clips put up on YouTube.
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