Standing Under the Marquee Moon: Tom Verlaine’s Lifelong Musical Adventure | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Cover of 1981's Dreamtime

Standing Under the Marquee Moon: Tom Verlaine’s Lifelong Musical Adventure

The Iconic Musician Passed Away on Saturday

Jan 30, 2023 Bookmark and Share

On January 28, 2023, the man born as Thomas Miller in Denville, NJ (known to the world as Tom Verlaine) and raised in Wilmington, DE passed away at the age of 73 after a short illness. No cause of death has been announced. After meeting fellow boarding school student Richard Meyers while still in high school, the two of them moved to New York City in the early ’70s and eventually formed a band called The Neon Boys, with Miller changing his name to Tom Verlaine on guitar, Meyers (who changed his name to Richard Hell) on bass, and Verlaine’s Delaware acquaintance Billy Ficca on drums.

On March 12th, 1973, they reformed with additional guitarist Richard Lloyd and officially changed their name to Television. After Hell was kicked out in 1975, he was replaced by Fred Smith (previously a member of an early version of Blondie) and that solidified Television’s classic lineup. The band signed to Elektra Records and after an unsuccessful attempt to record with Brian Eno (the session produced demos which were only officially released decades later), they released 1977’s stunning Marquee Moon. It’s considered one of the most important and influential debut albums of the last 45 plus years. That was followed by 1978’s more understated and slightly more produced, but just as great, Adventure, before breaking up with both Verlaine and Lloyd going on to solo careers and Ficca joining The Waitresses (whose leader Chris Butler was a fan of his drumming in Television).

In the ’80s and ’90s, Verlaine released seven solo albums to minimal sales, but continued critical praise and retained a cult following. One such fan was the late Jeff Buckley, who recruited him to produce his never completed second album before his death in 1997. Another was the late David Bowie, who covered “Kingdom Come” (from Verlaine’s 1979 solo debut LP, though it had also been performed live with Television, but not recorded) on his great 1980 album, Scary Monsters.

A short-lived Television reunion ensued in 1991 with the band producing a self-titled third full-length album (once again well received but with a minimal chart impact) and then after another reformation in 2001 playing live sporadically throughout the next two decades, with guitarist Jimmy Rip (who has also played on Verlaine’s solo recordings) replacing Lloyd in 2007.

Additionally, Verlaine’s music has profoundly and deeply influenced artists as disparate as R.E.M., Echo and the Bunnymen, Sonic Youth, Pavement, along with younger artists such as Real Estate (who have covered the immortal “Days” from Adventure, ground zero for ’80s jangle pop) and too many others to name, with many of these artists already paying tribute in the days since his death was announced. A profound fan of literature, Verlaine (who got his stage name from French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine) could be found looking at the $1 paperbacks outside of the Strand bookstore regularly and was also a semi-regular at Academy, one of New York City’s longest-running record stores. A New Yorker until the end, the city has now sadly lost another one of its old, legendary characters as well.

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