it’s not that relevant the number of artists who have said goodbye to Tom Verlaine on Twitter as the stature of these artists and, above all, the depth of some of the messages. Leading Television and solo, the late songwriter, guitarist and singer was a major force in modern popular music and had a tremendous impact on several generations of post-punk creators, the condolences demonstrate.
Neils ClineWilco guitarist and one of the most creative instrumentalists of the last few decades, writes: “It was crucial for me, my music and my playing. [Su influencia] it goes beyond music: it is an aesthetic, a vision, an ATMOSPHERE. I could write so much. Right now I only bow to beauty, the enigma of Tom Verlaine.”
Vernon Reid (Living Colour), another guitar adventurer, describes Verlaine as “a guitarist of bravado, nuance, rarity and formality”, thus bringing to the table the dualities of his style, both aggressive and poetic. And he adds: “I hear hints of the influence of [Robert] fripp and de [Steve] Howe [guitarrista de Yes] in pieces of his music, against punk orthodoxy”. For this reason, he considers him “the MOST punk”.
Will Sergeant, one of the great post-punk guitarists with Echo and the Bunnymen, cuts to the chase personally: “Tom Verlaine’s way of playing was everything to me.” And he continues: “If I ever played something that sounded like him, I was happy. He put me on my path as guitarists, thanks Tom.”
It is no less forceful Michael Stipesinger of REM “I have lost a hero -he tweets-. You introduced me to a world that turned my life upside down. Forever grateful.”
The perfect song
Chance: Robert Foster (Go-Betweens) chose ‘Venus’, from Television, as the most perfect song of all time and dedicated an accurate gloss to it in ‘The Guardian’ on January 1st. Regarding ‘Marquee Moon’ (1977), the album on which the song appears and which he bought at the age of 19, he believes: “It combined all the fanciful cool rock of the 60s -extraordinary guitar work, lyrics from another world- with the crunchy production of late ’70s rock and a quality of songwriting that many iconic ’60s bands simply didn’t quite match.” On ‘Venus’: “It was a pop song, but it had all the fire and lyricism of the band’s other numbers. It was a fabulous rock song and a fabulous pop song at the same time. Perfect, I thought. A song could be highly melodic yet challenging”.
We return to Twitter after Verlaine’s death last Saturday. FleaRed Hot Chili Peppers bassist: “I’ve listened to ‘Marquee Moon’ a thousand times. And I mean HEARD it, sitting still and dim lighting, taking it all in. A wonder every time. I’ll listen to it a thousand more times. Tom Verlaine is one of greatest rock musicians of all time, had an incalculable effect on John’s playing [Frusciante, guitarrista de los Peppers] and mine”.
The musician (Big Black, Shellac) and producer (Pixies and Nirvana, without going any further) Steve Albini develops a juicy thread in which two ideas stand out: how innovative and inspiring the music of Television was and the freedom it conveyed. Regarding the second idea, Albini points out that the group dispensed with “the crutch of the structural scaffolding on which other bands depended”.
Five monsters in one go
Mike Scott (The Waterboys) does not hesitate to describe Verlaine as “the best guitarist of all time”, a musician who “as Hendrix could go from the spheres of the cosmos to garage rock”. And he remembers with amazement the solo guitar that Verlaine recorded for his song ‘That was the river’. “He once heard the skeleton of the song,” he tweets, “made up a killer ‘riff’ and designed its harmonica kite tail. He did five takes, each one a monster.”
This article could be extended to infinity. Chris Stein, Clem Burke (both from Blondie), Brian Eno, Edwyn Collins, Wendy Smith (Prefab Sprout), Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles), Billy Idol y Tim Burgess (The Charlatans) are other artists who have expressed their pain, admiration, gratitude or memories online.
On an emotional level, it disarms Kate O’Riordan (bassist for The Pogues and singer with Shane MacGowan from ‘Fairytale of New York’) with a short video recorded at the corner of Bowery and Bleeker, in New York. There was the CBGB. That’s where it all started.