Most people know Verlaine as the leader of the band Television, who in 1977 released Marquee Moon, one of the greatest albums of all time. If you haven’t heard it, get on that immediately. I’ve never been a real guitar guy, even though I’ve been playing the instrument for nearly ten years. I don’t care how fast Eddie Van Halen can play, Stevie Ray Vaughn is a shlameil, Hendrix is ok, more often than not Eric Clapton is just alright (the exception being his work on Layla And Other Love Songs), Steve Vai is lame and Yngwie Malmsteen is just dumb, but Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd’s guitar playing on Marquee Moon blew my fucking mind. And they’ll blow yours. Hear it. Immediately.
It’s not the speed or technicality of their playing, it’s the inventiveness. It’s like they approach playing lead guitar in a way that’s not descended from blues or jazz or anything you might be familiar with, but outer space music or something. And apparently legendary Atlantic Records guy Ahmet Ertegun even said about the band, “that isn’t Earth music.” So yeah. Whatever it is though, it is fucking cool, and you can hear its influence when you listen to The Strokes, Razorlight and others.
For most people that’s where the story ends, but even after Television’s so-so second album Adventure, Verlaine still went on to make a lot of great music. Dreamtime and Flashlight were two of the first vinyl records I ever bought. You can still find them easily for very cheap at used record stores and they’re both great albums with Verlaine’s signature playing, symbolist lyrics and great great songs like “The Scientist Writes A Letter” or “Without A Word”. Nearly all the other records he released range from good to excellent. The man just makes really great music, and even his last album, 2006′s Songs and Other Things shows he’s still got it.
And if, like me, all that still doesn’t satisfy the newfound craving you have to hear more of Verlaine’s work, check out Patti Smith’s song “Break It All Up” on Horses which he co-wrote and plays on, or his work with The Million Dollar Bashers on the I’m Not There soundtrack.