Tom Verlaine: a very reluctant Television star
He may be nonplussed by the fuss over 1977’s ‘Marquee Moon’, but he is happy new generations remain receptive
Stay tuned, Television fans
Despite his lack of enthusiasm for commercial prospects, there are, he says, several plus points awaiting the thirsty Television fan. These include the inclusion live of unrecorded songs, actual new recordings – “we’ve got about 12 tracks recorded for a new release, but we’re not sure when they will be really finished. We also worked out three more new songs for a recent tour of Japan” – and, aptly enough in the light of the previous comment, a renewed commitment to playing live.
“Japan is my favourite place to play at the moment,” says Verlaine with real enthusiasm. “No one videos the shows on their cell phones; they just like to listen, so they’re very good audiences to play to, and to improvise to. Recently, we played some small, seated venues there. It was all very non-rock. I could actually hear my voice on stage.”
Alongside queries about Marquee Moon, does he also tire of answering questions about the mid-to-late 1970s punk rock heyday of New York City?
“To be honest, there’s not a lot of memories about that time, and I never run into any of the people that played there. That said, I do still see Patti Smith a few times a year – in fact, recently I did a mostly poetry show with her; there were no drums, just her voice, guitar and her daughter on keyboards. It was very cool and great fun.”
We can detect dangerous levels of lethargy travelling across the ether, but we’d still like to ask about how, when he journeyed from Wilmington, Delaware, to New York in 1968, he changed his surname from Miller to Verlaine, and how, some year later, he developed into a rock music lyricist of elegance and worth. Finally, a question that draws more than a few words in reply.
“Growing up in Delaware,” he says, “I had minimal exposure to literature. When I came to NYC in 1968 I got a job in a giant used bookstore. The salty older guys working there, many of whom were writers, would toss books at me saying, ‘Here, kid, read this.’ I remember reading The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller’s book about his time in Greece, and some very good translations of the poets Federico García Lorca and Antonio Machado.
“The writer I liked the most back then, however, was Gérard de Nerval, a French poet and essayist. Maybe because I could sympathise with his unrequited love- madness – for lack of a better term – and how he was able to write through that or accompanied by that.”
And that’s it. He’s off the promotional duty hook. Verlaine breathes an audible sigh of relief. Where is he off to now?
“I’ll see if I can pick up a good second-hand book. You can’t beat a good second-hand book.”
Television play Dublin’s Vicar Street on November 21