. . .
One of the reasons that Adventure wasn’t as good as Marquee Moon was that Television was without Richard Lloyd for part of the recording. That’s because he was in the hospital for five weeks with a heart ailment that stemmed from his heroin habit.
And, of course, Verlaine decided to carry on without him, with the upshot being there were three songs on Adventure that basically didn’t feature Lloyd at all: “Carried Away,” “The Fire” and “The Dream’s Dream.” And coincidentally, those three songs have always been my least favorite songs on the album, even though I had no idea until this year that Lloyd didn’t play on them. At least not consciously.
Which isn’t to say that Lloyd didn’t get at least one major showcase on Adventure — in fact, had they included the too-boogie-by-half title track (which like Led Zeppelin with “Houses of the Holy“, they left off the album), he would have have been two — the utterly awesome “Ain’t That Nothin’,” which is either my second or third favorite Television song, and a shining example of everything that made them such a great band.
Anyways, “Ain’t That Nothin'” starts off with a two-note inversion of the “See No Evil” riff, with Verlaine, Billy Ficca and Fred Smith in perfect lockstep, while Lloyd riffs chords around them. Once this is all established, Verlaine starts singing:
Pushin’ a furnace
You’re workin’ too hard
You’re setting things off
All over the yard
You play with your top
‘Til your eyes start to spin
And you shrug your shoulders
Ask me where I’ve been
The travel fulfills you
But the distance, it kills you
And with Lloyd’s guitar stinging in the background, it’s time for another great call-and-response chorus, with Verlaine joining Lloyd and Smith on the response.
Oh, no (Ain’t that nothin’)
Why don’t… (Tell me somethin’)
Tragedy (Ain’t that nothin’)
Why don’t… (Tell me somethin’)
While “Ain’t That Nothin'” is probably the song that is most structured like a Marquee Moon song, two things mark it as an Adventure song: Verlaine’s overdubbed organ, and the (relative) slickness of the vocals on that chorus, which after the second one, Lloyd takes his first solo, and it’s a pretty great one — spinning over Verlaine’s Kinksian power chords — great enough that had it been the only solo, “Ain’t That Nothin'” would still have easily been my favorite song on Adventure. But it wasn’t the only solo. Not even close.
Anyways, after that solo, “Ain’t That Nothin'” does a quick reset, leading into the final verse.
A thousand commands
It ain’t worth a shot
That target is sand
But I love disaster
Oh, and I love what comes after
“But I love disaster / Oh, and I love what comes after” is quite possibly my favorite Tom Verlaine couplet, because it leaves you to wade through disaster’s aftermath, and wonder why he loves it so much. Maybe he loves it because it sounds like the rest of the song, because after that couplet, “Ain’t That Nothin'” shatters into a reflecting pool of ringing guitars, with a Billy Ficca stutter-roll leading directly into Richard Lloyd’s amazing psychedelic corkscrew guitar solo, which basically invents the Paisley Underground — especially the Rain Parade — right there on the spot, and continues to whirlybird around the outro, which features a true call-and-response.
Oh, I was building some ruins (Ain’t that nothing)
Wrestling with my arms (Ain’t that nothing)
Saw you runnin’ to the freezer (Ain’t that nothing)
Girl, it’s such a loss (Ain’t that nothing)
Well, I took a sip of life and death (Ain’t that nothing)
Oh, just a sip of life and death (Ain’t that nothing)
It’s never enough, no no (Ain’t that nothing)
As Verlaine fixates on “it’s never enough,” Lloyd continues spin cartwheels around and over the vocals, “Ain’t That Nothin'” goes from great to spectacular, and that’s not just this version: both of the official live versions — from The Blow Up and Live at the Old Waldorf — turn into rave-ups, and even the shortened single version that you can find on the Adventure CD reissue has maybe even tougher guitars through. It’s just a spectacular guitar song, despite the fact that Verlaine wrote it on the piano.
And yeah, while that tough-sounding version was released as a single, it went nowhere on either side of the pond, though Adventure was a top ten album over there, making it to #7 after Marquee Moon topped out at #28.
“Ain’t That Nothin'”
“Ain’t That Nothin’ (Single Version)”
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