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Music / Marquee Moon

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I ain't waitin', uh-uh.

Marquee Moon is the 1977 debut album from New York City-based new wave/punk band Television, released through Elektra Records. Though guitarist/vocalist Tom Verlaine claims to have written the songs intending to make a pop album — "a bunch of cool singles" — Marquee Moon gives Verlaine and Richard Lloyd plenty of space for extended solos and riffing, ending up as a Post-Punk take on a Grateful Dead jam-fest.

Marquee Moon was a massive critical favorite, finishing in third in the Village Voice's 1977 Pazz & Jop poll behind Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols and Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True. Strong reviews and a successful tour alongside Blondie made a hit of the album across the pond, but stateside things went differently as a tour alongside Progressive Rock stalwart Peter Gabriel had the band well out of its element, gathering very little steam before Elektra Records pulled support.

Although sales have never caught up to its reputation, Marquee Moon remains an acknowledged classic and a major influence on Alternative Rock guitar, cited by figures like The Edge, John Frusciante and Michael Stipe.


Side One

  1. "See No Evil" (3:56)
  2. "Venus" (3:48)
  3. "Friction" (4:43)
  4. "Marquee Moon" (9:58)note 

Side Two

  1. "Elevation" (5:08)
  2. "Guiding Light" (5:36)
  3. "Prove It" (5:04)
  4. "Torn Curtain" (7:00)

Bonus Tracks (2003 Remaster)

  1. "Little Johnny Jewel (parts 1 & 2)" (7:09)
  2. "See No Evil (alternate version)" (4:40)
  3. "Friction (alternate version)" (4:52)
  4. "Marquee Moon (alternate version)" (10:55)
  5. "Untitled Instrumental" (3:22)note 

Elevation, don't list to my tropes!:

  • Above Good and Evil: Or possibly Straw Nihilist, depending on how seriously they took the lyrics to "See No Evil":
    I understand all (I see no...)
    destructive urges. (I see no...)
    They seem so perfect. (I see no...)
    I see... I see no... I see no evil!
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Occurs in "Prove It":
    Now the rose, how it slows
    You in such colorless clothes
  • Album Title Drop: "Marquee Moon"
  • Coming of Age: An interpretation of "Venus". The narrator describes how infatuated he was with his relationship, even though it was empty (how would one "fall into the arms of Venus de Milo"?). Afterward, once Richie suggests dressing up, he declines, having been changed by the experience.
  • City Noir: "Broadway looked so medieval" indeed.
  • Epic Rocking: Most of the album. "Elevation", "Guiding Light" and "Prove It" are all over five minutes. The Title Track clocks in at 9:58 (or 10:47 on the CD reissue), and "Torn Curtain" is exactly seven minutes. And the Rhino CD reissue adds the non-album single "Little Johnny Jewel", which is 7:09.
  • Face on the Cover: A picture of the band, in this case a photocopy with skewed colors, giving it a surreal air.
  • Growing Up Sucks: "Friction"
    I don't wanna grow up, there's too much contradiction.
  • Hardboiled Detective: "Prove It" is from the perspective of one.
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • "Prove It"
    Fantastic! You lost your sense of human
    It's too "too-too" to put a finger on
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    • "Marquee Moon"
    I spoke to a man down at the tracks
    And I asked him how he don't go mad
    He said "Look here junior, don't you be so happy
    And for Heaven's sake, don't you be so sad!"
    • "Venus"
    I knew there was pain but pain is not aching
    • "Guiding Light"
    I woke up and it was yesterday.
  • Impersonating an Officer: "Venus"
    Then Richie, Richie said
    Hey man let's dress up like cops,
    Think of what we could do!
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Used in "Friction" for especially punny effect:
    I start to spin the tale
    You complain of my dic... tion
  • The Night That Never Ends: "Guiding Light":
    Do I, Do I?
    Belong to the night?
    Only only
    Only tonight.
    All the ladies
    Stay inside.
  • One-Word Title: "Venus", "Friction", and "Elevation".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Tom Verlaine's yelping on this album is one of the quintessential examples.
  • Post-Punk: Like punk rock, their harmonies eschewed traditional rock and blues. But their complex arrangements and extended jamming also eschewed punk's Three Chords and the Truth attitude. Interestingly, this album came out six months before Never Mind the Bollocks did. In other words, post-punk was well underway even before punk hit the mainstream.
  • Record Producer: Andy Johns & Tom Verlaine. Hiring Andy Johns led to a bit of misunderstanding behind the scenes. He assumed that Television hired him for the huge, compressed drum sound that was his trademark, so he set the drums up for that sound before the band arrived at the studio. When Television arrived, they had to convince him that they hired him for the guitar sounds from the albums he produced—and that they wanted no compression or reverb on the drums.
  • Re-Cut:
    • The Title Track had to be cut down from 10:47 to 9:58 on the original release due to the space limitations of LP records. The song would later be restored to its full length on CD reissues.
    • Both "Venus" and "Guiding Light" are split into two parts on the 8-track release due to the restrictions of the four-track format.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The lyrics are styled after Romantic poetry. Storytelling is somewhat surreal as a result.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Technician Versus Performer: Lloyd is a straightforward Hendrix-influenced guitarist placed directly up against the emotional, avant-garde style of Verlaine.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: "Friction" about feelings that lead to friction.
  • Unbuilt Trope: A punk album with long songs and guitar solos? If the album had been released a few years earlier or had more keyboards it might have been classified as a Progressive Rock album. Consequently, retrospective analysts categorize Marquee Moon as one of the first Post-Punk albums, blending progressive rock tropes with a punk rock base.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The album's lyrics were inspired by impressionist literature, and as such jumble words and phrases together with the intent of evoking emotion rather than telling coherent narratives.