The Ones That Nearly Got Away: Television, Marquee Moon
If ever I had an on-again, off-again relationship with an album, it’s Marquee Moon by Television.
Kronos Quartet introduced me to the band when they covered “Marquee Moon” for the compilation album Rubáiyát.
I didn’t get around to listening to the actual album till the early 2000s, when file sharing and a record store job made access to music easy. At the time, the likes of Interpol, the Killers and Franz Ferdinand were repackaging Joy Division, Duran Duran and Gang of Four (respectively) to much acclaim.
Television was a commonly cited influence and a gap in my knowledge of pop culture. So using my employee discount at Waterloo Records, I bought a copy of Marquee Moon.
I eventually sold it back to the store because I needed cash, but I had miscalculated my attachment to the album.
Marquee Moon had the disadvantage of being a garage rock influencer, and my tenure at Waterloo eventually soured me on the genre. That is, my co-workers played way too much garage rock, and I dislike it to this day.
But the album had already sunk its hooks into my subconscious. Over the subsequent decade and a half I would not own it, certain riffs would play in my head. The stuttering open of the title track, for one. The cadence on the word “Evil!” another.
If I encountered a track from Marquee Moon playing in the wild, I would start humming along as if the album had always been a part of my youth. It was an odd reaction to a work I relinquished but was unwilling to reacquire for more than what I originally paid.
I would eventually spot a used copy of a remastered version, and I’ve welcomed Marquee Moon back into my collection. Then I played it in its entirety and remembered why I may have let it go.
Marquee Moon was not designed for the compact disc format. The epic length of the title track makes sense as a conclusion to Side A, but it’s less effective when building to a mid-point. On CD, the subsequent tracks seem to lose steam. On vinyl, it feels like a reset.
Tom Verlaine’s voice is an acquired taste. The Kronos cover of “Marquee Moon” seemed to lack a clear melody. Listening to Verlaine’s delivery serves as an explanation.
But it’s tough not to be lured in by the guitar interplay between Verlaine and Richard Lloyd or by the funkiness of Fred Smith’s bass lines.
I may not feel much sentimentality for Marquee Moon, but I’m certainly charmed by it.