Marquee Moon

Album: Marquee Moon (1977)
Charted: 30

Songfacts®:

  • Running 9:58, this is Television's magnum opus, renown for the inventive interplay between guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. It's the title track to their 1977 debut album, but the song was years in the making. It started as an acoustic ballad Verlaine put together; the band started playing it in 1974 when they were regulars at the club CBGB in New York City (Television was the first to emerge from that club, which later provided a home base for Blondie, the Ramones and the Talking Heads). They honed the song through live performance and diligent rehearsal, so when they recorded the album in 1976, they had perfected it. The entire album was recorded and mixed in just three weeks.

    When the Marquee Moon album was released in February 1977, the title track was clearly the standout, but not something that could garner radio play in America. It was also a tough sell because the band wasn't known outside of New York, and it didn't adhere to a particular genre: "pop" doesn't do justice to the song's complexity, and it's far from "punk." The album never made the charts in the US, but was later hailed as a classic in a number of surveys.

    The UK was more welcoming: The single charted at #30 and the band made the cover of New Musical Express. Critical acclaim for Television was most robust in Britain.
  • The lyric, written by Tom Verlaine, is rather opaque. He said that he worked on it long and hard, but refused to explain it, passing off the words as "just atmosphere." Said Verlaine: "You don't have to say what you mean to get across."
  • In a Songfacts interview with Richard Lloyd, he said of this song: "It's like a mini-symphony. Towards the end of the song, Tom gets a long solo, and he would often meander through parts of it, but we had it structured.

    I do the song on my own as well, and it's really quite structured: There's a part that's loud and there's a part that's soft, and there's a build-up, then there's a climb - there's actually three sets of climbs - then there's what we call the 'birdies,' and then another section and then the verse comes back in. So it was pretty well structured after that period of time of aching to look for proper parts for it. And there's a great deal of syncopation going on in it with the drums coming in sounding backwards and my part that trills off the one. It's not easy to learn."
  • Early performances of this song usually lasted about five minutes, but it got longer as the years went by. After the song was released, the live renditions would typically surpass the 10-minute running time, sometimes stretching for 20 minutes.
  • Like a story, the song builds to a climax and then returns to the start like returning to normal life after an ordeal, with the opening line section ("I remember how the darkness doubled...") reprised at the end. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jack - Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • The single release was split into two parts because one side of a 45 could not contain the entire song. Part I runs 3:13, Part II is 6:45.
  • Gary Mulholland writes in This is Uncool The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco that he's never been, "entirely sure what a marquee moon was, or what exactly, the song was about." He adds: "But, considering the stuff in the third verse about entering graveyards in Cadillacs, I've always figured it's about rock 'n' roll's relationship with dem nasty drugs and the art of choosing life over death."
  • A few months after the album was released, Television opened for Peter Gabriel on the American leg of his first solo tour. They made another album in 1978, but broke up three months later, returning in 1991 with one last album.
  • According to Richard Lloyd, there are plenty of overdubs on this song, but no effects on the guitars, which were plugged directly into the amps.
  • Tom Verlaine's voice was processed a bit on this song, with some echo and delay to give it a more robotic feel.

Comments: 8

  • Peter Simonson from North London I agree with Mr Mullholland it's a repudiation of the endemic smack scene around CBGBs ex member
    Helll and then member Richard Lloyd both had habits. Narrativeg reads like Verlaine is contemplating copping and goes thru 3 phases waiting, hesitating then gives up "I ain't waiting" as opposed to Lou Reed
  • Ross from Brooklyn, NyMy cliche -- "epic." Agree with others here. I'll add that the guitar interplay of this band is unparalleled -- you gotta hear it....
  • S.d. from Denver, CoThis may be the only rock song about which I can honestly say, I've never heard anything quite like it before or since. So many artists, especially grunge songwriters and guitarists, have pointed to this as an inspiration, but no one has come close to emulating its indescribable quality. "Marquee Moon" is the consummate rock enigma.
  • Malicious Matt from SquatneyAwesome song. I dont know if its ahead of its time though, since I dont think anything better has happened since it was released, to be brutally frank.
  • Alessandro from Bassano Del Grappa, ItalyGreat album!!!!
  • Stacey from Houston, TxFor anyone who has not heard this song or album...download or buy it now! Considering this was created in the 70's...this was way ahead of it's time. Much like Lou Reed's music was in the late 60's. It's a long song..but well worth it!!
    Stacey "Seven" Madding
    -Houston
  • Racine from Truro, MaI usually don't have the patience for songs that are more than ten minutes long, but "Marquee Moon" is an exception because it is so incredible.
  • Griffin from New York, NyThis Song is absolutely phenominal. So is the rest of the album.
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