. . .
Television were actually broken up before I heard a note of their music, and whether or not failure of Adventure to make any inroads here in the U.S. was a factor, Richard Lloyd’s high-profile junkiedom — he was literally doing smack with Anita Pallenberg, then the girlfriend of Keith Richards — was definitely a factor as well.
But it wasn’t like the members of Television quietly faded away or anything: drummer Billy Ficca joined The Waitresses, who were conceived by Tin Huey’s Chris Butler and fronted by Patti Donahue, whose speak-singing enlivened the notorious “I Know What Boys Like” and the sublime “Christmas Wrapping.”
Meanwhile, in 1979, both Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyds issued solo albums, the former self-titled and the latter called Alchemy, both of which had Fred Smith on bass. Lloyd’s Alchemy got the record company overdub treatment — he was still in no shape to fully protest the horrible keyboards & synths they added — and despite some strong tunes and OK vocals, Alchemy was more of a wasted opportunity than anything else, almost a betrayal of the promise of the title. And speaking of wasted, Lloyd wouldn’t release a second solo album until 1985’s import-only Field of Fire.
Meanwhile, Tom Verlaine’s self-titled solo album was fucking amazing, as was the follow-up, 1981’s Dreamtime, and in my headcanon, they’re the third & fourth Television albums. After than, though, not so much. I’ll get more in-depth on all of this when I get to Verlaine’s solo career later in the year (hopefully) , but suffice it to say that the albums he released after 1981 all had some great songs, but none of them sold shit, to the point that 1990’s The Wonder has never had a U.S. release.
The point is that by the early 1990’s, everybody involved was ready for a reunion, ready to capitalize on a fan based that had only grown as the music they originally created got recreated throughout the 1980s. I don’t think they were quite as venerated as Big Star or The Modern Lovers, but they had an advantage in that everybody was still alive and willing to play the music. So they went into the studio and came out with the self-titled album, which I felt was pretty underwhelming: more like a late-period Verlaine solo album than the second coming of the band who recorded Marquee Moon.
That said, there were still some great songs on it, especially the opener, “1880 or So,” which started with a chiming Verlaine riff that doubled back on itself, while Lloyd played a counterpoint lick around it and Billy Ficca’s straightforward beat.
O rose of my heart, can’t you see
I don’t belong to misery
Though she speaks fine with subtle art
Such misery clothes the rose of my heart
And so while “1880 or So” was more of a song where the verses where just something that the guitars commented on, when those guitarists are Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, you’re going to get some really great shit, if they’re on. Which they both were, playing circles around each other, even during Lloyd’s solo.
That said, live, “1880 or So” must have been an early highlight, as they extended it and even added a rave-up, just so show that they could make their newer material work onstage, as well.
“1880 or So”
“1880 or So” Live on Later With Jools Holland, 1992
“1880 or So” Live in Rio, 2005
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