Tom Verlaine, Singer and Guitarist of Television, Dead at 73 – Rolling Stone

Tom Verlaine, singer and guitarist for Punk Legends Television who produced the band’s 1977 masterpiece Markie MoonDied at the age of 73.

Jessie Paris Smith, Patti Smith’s daughter, confirmed Verlaine’s death from “a brief illness.” Rolling Stone on saturday “He died peacefully in New York City surrounded by close friends. His vision and his imagination will be missed,” Smith wrote.

“It’s a time when everything seemed possible,” Patti Smith wrote in an Instagram tribute, which included a photo of her and Verlaine. “Farewell Tom, on Omega.”

Born Thomas Miller, Verlaine (who adopted his surname from the French poet Paul Verlaine), was a high school classmate with fellow punk icon Richard Hale, with whom he later formed his early bands. Arriving in Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the dawn of punk, Verlaine and Hale first teamed up for the short-lived act Neon Boys before co-founding Television with guitarist Richard Lloyd in 1973.

Verlaine and Television grew their sound as one of the main acts at legendary punk clubs like CBGB — establishing the venue’s earliest residency — and Max’s Kansas City. Patti Smith — who once compared the sound of Verlaine’s guitar to “a thousand bluebirds screaming” — was in the audience for one of the first televised shows in 1974, and when the Patti Smith Group debuted at CBGB’s the following year, it split the bill with television.

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Hale would soon leave television to join fellow punk act Heartbreaker. With Verlaine and Lloyd taking the reins, the duo developed a guitar sound that merged punk riffs with jazz interplay. After making his recorded debut with the 1975 single “Little Johnny Jewel,” Television released what was to be his masterpiece — and one of the greatest albums of the punk era. Markie Moon, the centerpiece of which was the album’s twisty, mesmerizing title track. (The album was Rolling Stone (The review called it “the funniest and boldest” of the series of 1977 releases by CBGB bands such as Blondie and The Ramones, but also “the most disturbing.)

“When the members of Television happened to be in New York, at the dawn of punk, they played an incoherent, growing mix of styles: the noirish howl of the Velvet Underground, the brainy art rock, the double-helix guitar sculpture of Quicksilver Messenger Service,” Rolling Stone wrote of Markie MoonNumber 107 on our list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

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“The Ramones’ debut was as exhilarating in its brutal simplicity as it was in its lyrical ambition, Markie Moon still amazes,” Rolling Stone wrote “‘Friction,’ ‘Venus’ and the powerful title track are at once jagged, desperate and beautiful. For punk credentials, don’t forget the secret electricity and strangled existentialism of guitarist Tom Verlaine’s voice and songwriting.”

Television’s classic lineup would release one more album during the seventies, in 1978 adventure, before Verlaine began his solo career. As Patti Smith wrote, Verlaine displayed “his sharp lyricism and sharp lyricism, a sly wit and an ability to move each string to its truest feeling” on his album. (Classic Television lineup of Verlaine, Lloyd, bassist Fred Smith and drummer Billy Fikka reunited for one last album – 1992 television.)

In 1979, Verlaine released his self-titled solo album, which included the song “Kingdom Come”, recorded by David Bowie a year later for that icon’s 1980 LP. Scary Monsters and Super Freaks. As a solo artist, Verlaine remained prolific over the next few decades, moving seamlessly from post-punk explorations to entirely instrumental EPs and silent film scores to collaborations with Smith and other former CBGB denizens.

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“Tom Verlaine once complained that he never wrote about the two strongest dreams of his life, ‘because the language of dreams is difficult to transcend.’ That may be so, but Verlaine still manages to come closer to solving that problem than anyone else in his medium.” Rolling Stone Writing about Verlaine’s 1982 solo LP, Front words. “As with his entire body of work, there’s something so inspired yet effortless about Verlaine’s songs that you wonder if he’s writing them … well, in his sleep.”

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In a 1988 interview Rolling Stone, U2’s the Edge cites Verlaine as one of his main influences. “I think what I took from Verlaine wasn’t really his style but he did things that no one else had done,” he said. “And I loved it; I thought it was valuable.”


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