I had one of those "Oh Sh**" moments yesterday. A friend told me he managed to see Television live on their 2013 tour. I was happy for him, especially thinking he must have traveled to Australia or the UK to see them. And then a few seconds later after searching on Google I was heart broken to realize Television had played in San Francisco, my own back yard, just two weeks ago. And somehow I missed it. WTF?
If you're not familiar with Television, let me just be clear before we go any further. Television is one of the greatest bands ever. This is not hyperbole, it is simply a fact. They are also, sadly, somewhat obscure. They were the first band to play at CBGBs, put out the brilliant debut "Marquee Moon" in 1977, followed up with an almost as good second album the following year and disbanded, seemingly at the height of obscurity. In the most recent 35 years they toured sporadically. They toured in support of a third album in 1992 and did a few dates in 2001 and 2007.
Of all the bands I listened to from the punk / new-wave '70s and early 80s, Television is head and shoulders above all the others. Yes, I love the Clash, The Stranglers (whom I finally saw live this summer), the Jam, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Elvis Costello. Television simply blows them all out of the water. What made Television unique was the ferocity of two guitars fluidly alternating between intertwined rhythm and lead parts. Television, like The Velvet Underground, had a relentless, driving sound, but with a greater musicality. And like The Velvet Underground, Television never sold a lot of records, but their impact on future bands was huge.
If there is one Television album to buy, it is of course "Marquee Moon", their debut. But there are also two excellent live albums. "Live At The Old Waldorf" from San Francisco 1978 was recorded for radio and captures the band at their edgiest. "Live At The Academy 1992" features the band on their brief reformation from a concert in New York. It's polished, even a bit laid back in parts and absolutely wonderful. Both have excellent sound and are well worth it even for the casual fan. There are still a few remaining dates on the tour in the UK at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival (11/23, 11/24) and in New York (11/29, 11/30). Meanwhile, I will be listening to both live albums all weekend and hoping to see the band sometime in 2014.
There are some quite decent videos from the concert in San Francisco on YouTube. Yes, it's a bit shocking to see the band is 35 years older than the mental image I have in my mind. But the music is tight, the vibe is good and how I wish I had been there.
- Television: Wikipedia, Marquee Moon, The Wonder, YouTube
- Amazon: Television, Marquee Moon, Live At The Old Waldorf, Live At The Academy 1992
- Reviews: Live @ The Independent, The Roundhouse, The Guardian, The Standard, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian