Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Top 102 albums. No. 77. Marquee Moon

Top 102 Albums. No 77.
Marquee Moon - Television

Given the day that's in it and the fact that this album has the magic '77 attached to it I thought I'd try to link both. At first I was trying to think of early punk with a christmas twist but then I thought of this and it then seemed like the perfect fit. And then I realised that this is almost a Christmas concept album as I will now show in a track by track exploration.

Track 1. See No Evil
It may not be carolled on snowy winter evenings but surely the opening song is the cry in every child's heart to Father Christmas - See No Evil, keep me off the naughty list. And every track on Marquee Moon is bejewelled with guitar chords hung across the night. It's like having the stars as fairy lights.
Track 2. Venus
It's written from the point of view of someone who has found themselves shunted into the contradictions maturity brings but wishing they could turn back. "I knew there was pain, but pain is not aching."  But there are always "the arms of Venus De Milo".
Track 3. Friction
And what could be more Christmassy than the tension between not wanting to grow up and the fears of the darkness ahead. It's almost as if Tom Verlaine is beseeching in his charismatic transatlantic drawl to be allowed to go on believing in Santa Claus.
"Well, I don't wanna grow up
There's too much contradiction"
Track 4. Marquee Moon
Here Verlaine dramatises that point where youth hesitates before taking part in the great drama that will be their life. The attraction of the non-existent is still strong. Reality still feels like a step too far and is described as a cadillac ride to the graveyard. No wonder the sound of sleigh bells seems to offer greater hope.
"I was listening
Listening to the rain
I was hearing
Hearing something else."
Track 5. Elevation
Here faith seems to rise like Santa's sleigh and become almost an abstraction.
Track 6. Guiding Light
This lament is a plea to once again be led by Rudolph, Verlaine crying out for answers, hoping against hope that it will stay Christmas but worried that the truth he is unwrapping is too unpalatable to bear. He formulates the questions but doesn't seem to want to know the answers.
"Tell me who sends these
Infamous gifts."
And whatever about knowing once he would prefer to live with the knowledge than face the end of innocence once more.
"I woke up and it was yesterday.
Do I again face this night?"
Track 7. Prove It
This is it, when the  child decides it's time to ask the hard questions. Dramatised as a detective story. It all started when "A whisper woke him up".
Track 8. Torn Curtain
And that moment of revelation comes when you realise that Kris Kringle walks with a familiar if not familial step. Surely it is still the first and greatest expose, the "Torn Curtain" that separates the child from the adult.
"Torn curtain, reveals another play
Torn curtain, such an expose"

If you haven't yet heard this album "Why not?" Why do you think that other abstract concept gave you ears?


  1. Great piece; starting to see this (much loved) album in a new, tinselly kind of light... Funny to think that I was just complaining that Television was always crap at Xmas...
    This album gave dignity to dueling geetars.

    1. This album is almost like part of my own subconscious. It's insinuated itself that deeply. This album and The Blow Up, the ROIR live album (which was cassette only back in the day) which also showcases those guitar duels between Verlaine and Lloyd.

    2. (Belated) great choice, Séamus, and an album I appreciate more as a soon to be old geezer than I did back when this came out as it's really grown on me over time. Wouldn't want to live without "See No Evil," "Venus," "Marquee Moon" (of course) and "Prove It," but much of my favorite Television is on various homemade "limited edition live shows" (hint, hint) I've heard/collected over the years. Probably would have put this somewhere around #25 on my list give or take a few spots if I were making one. Anyway, keep these hits coming!

    3. Hi Richard, I also love some of their live recordings, particularly The Blow Up which was released by ROIR, originally on cassette only. Mine wore out. The versions of Little Johnny Jewel and Can't Get no (Satisfaction) are great.

    4. I see I'm repeating myself in the comments. Age. Also meant to say that it would be top thirty for me if I was trying to put them all in order, but I can't do that. I just write about whichever one pushes itself forward that day. Have a few saved for the top ten though.