Television was an American art-rock band from N.Y.C. that released the single “Little Johnny Jewel” on Ork in 1975, followed by two albums on Elektra: Marquee Moon (1977) and Adventure (1978). They were the first rock band to play the Bowery dive bar CBGB, which became the epicenter of the Lower East Side band boom (Talking Heads, Blondie, The Shirts, Richard Hell & the Voidoids).

Members: Tom Verlaine (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Richard Lloyd (guitar, vocals, 1973-2007), Billy Ficca (drums), Richard Hell (bass, vocals, 1973-75), Fred Smith (bass, vocals, 1975-present)

Television sprung from a creative kinship between Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, who met at Sanford School in Hockessin, Delaware.

Verlaine was born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey, in 1949, and moved to Delaware at age seven. He first played piano, then switched to saxophone after hearing Stan Getz. Initially unimpressed with rock guitar, he changed his mind when he heard “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones.

At Sanford, Miller befriended fellow pupil Richard Myers (b. 1949, Lexington, Kent.), who had similar interests in French poetry from the 19th century. They each escaped Sanford and reconnected in New York City. Miller adopted the surname Verlaine (after Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine) and Myers became Richard Hell.

In late 1972, they formed The Neon Boys with drummer Billy Ficca (b. 1950), also from Delaware. With Verlaine on guitar and Hell on bass, they demoed two joint-credited originals, the spiky “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” and the fuzz-laden “Love Comes In Spurts,” both injected with Verlaine’s drone-picking. Stylistically, they echo mid-1960s American garage-rock, a style on the brink of a comeback. (Both songs were finally released on a 1980 Hell maxi-single.)

In late 1973, they hired guitarist Richard Lloyd (b. 1951), a Pittsburgh native who mentored under Hendrix protege Velvert Turner. Lloyd’s roommate, aspiring manager Terry Ork, took them under his wing. The new four-piece named itself Television. Hell, now steeped in existentialism, designed a look for the band: frazzled hair, ripped clothes, leather jackets. After months of intensive rehearsals, they made their live debut on March 2, 1974, at the Town House Theatre on W. 44th St.

In early 1974, Ork persuaded CBGB owner Hilly Kristal to give the band a residency. Despite Kristal’s initial intent to host country, bluegrass, and blues (hence the CBGB acronym), he agreed. Television became a resident act at the Bowery spot, courting a new breed of neighborhood showgoers. They also played Max’s Kansas City at 213 Park Avenue South, which soon became another NYC hotspot. Within months, the scene encompassed a slew of new acts: The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Shirts, Talking Heads, and Mink Deville.

In March 1975, just as Television courted interest from Island Records, Hell quit the band over conflicts with Verlaine. Hell felt squandered by the setlist, which favored Verlaine’s material. Verlaine, more committed to technical mastery, had grown weary of Hell’s wild stage antics. They replaced him with bassist Fred Smith, fresh off a stint with newcomers Blondie. (That spring, Hell formed the Heartbreakers with ex-New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. In 1976, he formed Richard Hell & the Voidoids.)

Television made their vinyl debut with the single “Little Johnny Jewel” (Part One and Two), released in October 1975 on Ork Records, their manager’s namesake small-press. Verlaine composed the pensive epic, which runs 7:10 when played in sequence. The twitchy guitar-work that runs throughout has echoes of Sonny Sharrock and the Magic Band.


  • “Little Johnny Jewel (Part One)” / “Little Johnny Jewel (Part Two)” (1975)
  • Marquee Moon (1977)
  • Adventure (1978)


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