Richard Lloyd Won't Pander to Television Fans (or to Interviewers)
"I'm not Bruce Springsteen. I don't slide across the stage on my knees."
Published Mar 13, 2023On January 28 of this year, heartfelt and profound tributes to Tom Verlaine poured out near minutes after news broke of his death. Yes, it's a product of social media's culture of immediacy. But more importantly, it's a testament to how effortless it was (and still is) to fall in love and find meaning with Verlaine's proto-punk co-creation, Television.
But none of this seems to make an impression on Richard Lloyd. "I'm not gonna talk about Tom," the proto-punk elder barks to Exclaim!
A self-described recluse living in Chattanooga, TN — a lifetime away from his New York foundations — the guitarist clearly isn't looking to the internet to reinforce his pioneering band's legacy.
By convincing Hilly Kristal, the neophyte owner of an East Village club called "Country, BlueGrass, and Blues" (or CBGB for short) to start booking Television, Lloyd lit a fire. The door was now open (figuratively and literally) for acts like Blondie, Talking Heads and Ramones to take artistic custody of the club and usher in a new, snottier rock epoch.
Although Television's 1977 debut LP, Marquee Moon, is now accepted as a masterpiece, it originally only made a commercial mark in the UK, reaching 28 on the country's Official Albums Chart. Nonetheless, Verlaine's profound lyrics, along with his and Lloyd's visceral guitar sound, influenced scores of taste-making followers in North America, from Athens, GA's R.E.M. to Toronto's the Diodes. Even Canadian indie phenoms Alvvays pay tribute to the group with their 2022 song "Tom Verlaine." Taken from their acclaimed album Blue Rev, vocalist/songwriter Molly Rankin admitted to Seattle radio station KEXP that her band was "trying to channel a little bit of Television."
"I don't really care about anybody naming their song "Tom Verlaine," Lloyd retorts to the quote before cooling off to add, "I mean, that doesn't throw me; it doesn't upset me either. It's like, that's another planet, and that's fine."
He continues, "It used to upset Tom a lot. I think he thought people were stealing his ideas, and I suppose they were in a certain sense, but you can't steal an idea. It's just an idea. So it's an honour that I've made my bones in the music business."
It's clear that Lloyd despises the entire interview process, at one point offering up this gem: "Can you just ask questions without the lead up? I don't want to sit here listening to you!" But his demeanour transforms from prickly to slightly-less-prickly when discussing his recent club tour, with stops at Toronto's Bovine Sex Club on March 15 and Hamilton's Mills Hardware the following evening.
In a fleeting moment of joy, Lloyd offers an unprompted (albeit imperfect) spelling of his bandmate's last names, "L-e-a, uh, I can't spell it… n-a-r-d? Yeah. L-e-n-a-r-d on bass and Kevin T-o-o-l-e-y on drums." But you can't blame him for boasting about his live band. David Leonard, once a session guitarist for Chuck Berry and Cyndi Lauper, has been a live staple since he was recruited for Lloyd's now-out-of-print 1987 solo LP Real Time. Kevin Tooley, aside from his work with Lloyd over the past 30 years, has drummed on late-era works from Klaus Nomi and Julee Cruise.
While Lloyd seems hellbent on deflating the Television myth, his live show tells a different story. Playing the same set every night — "I don't change it every night and I don't play forever" — nearly half of the songs on his recent setlists consist of Television songs and covers of early influences like the Velvet Underground and the Byrds.
"I am doing some Television songs and, you know, I can play a lot of them without…" Lloyd trails off, seemingly defensive of the fact that he's taking over Verlaine's vocal parts on live renditions from Marquee Moon and its 1978 follow-up, Adventure. "And I do fine, because my parts on the record were that strong."
Crammed with aforementioned classics like "Foxhole," "See No Evil," and "Friction," alongside material from his solo work, Lloyd's live show is a thrill for those who want to relive the guitarist's glory days — but with one standout exception. No "Marquee Moon." In perfect form, Television's greatest achievement (appearing on countless "greatest songs" lists) is conspicuously absent from Lloyd's live oeuvre.
Across the spheres of punk and alternative rock, Richard Lloyd has done it all. Now at 71 years of age, he's justifiably earned the right to define himself by what he won't do; speak about his deceased bandmate, listen to interviewers talk, and pander to his audience.
"I'm not Bruce Springsteen. I don't slide across the stage on my knees. If somebody wants to do that, that's great. That's not how I roll."