Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 9

Marquee_moon_album_cover

Number 9: Television – Marquee Moon (1976)

American punk was, for the most part, vastly different to British punk. It’s widely acknowledged that the Ramones debut is the first recognised punk record, but ten years earlier, the likes of The Stooges and The MC5 were making music so aggressive that it would make Black Flag look like a bunch of fannies, but that’s merely my opinion (To further extend my opinion, I believe that the first punk record was Bob Dylan Live 1966. Discuss.) The U.S. punk scene was arty and spiky, a reaction against the horrific boredom of records made by slurs on the music industry such as Chicago, The Eagles and Supertramp. A venue in New York became famous, you can buy T-Shirts with its logo on in fucking Top Shop. It was called CBGB’s.

The biggest stars of American punk and new wave would play there, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Suicide, The Ramones themselves, and of course Television, the most iconic of them all and possibly the most surreptitiously influential band of the era. Everything about them was perfect, from the skinny angular image to the neat, well-chosen name. Marquee Moon could well be the most musically accomplished album ever made that isn’t a jazz or classical album. It is a punk record that doesn’t contain a single strummed chord. It is a record that plays to the head rather than the heart, the astoundingly visceral lyrics (“My eyes are like telescopes,” “I recall lightning struck itself”) matched so potently by the guitar work of two musicians who were at the absolute peak of their craft. Verlaine and Lloyd’s lines weave together like a scientific diagram of DNA, creating a intricate yet rugged tapestry which is often difficult to take in all at once.

The opening track, See No Evil, is a song that The Strokes have made an entire career out of ripping off, a terse, circular guitar riff which blooms magnificently into a solo after the second chorus. It is the only conventional song on the album. Venus de Milo and Friction both feature guitar work that is the sonic equivalent of watching thousands of fireworks cascading to the ground in perfect time, and Torn Curtain is the soundtrack to a film noir that was never written. To say that Marquee Moon plays to the head is true, but there is warmth and humour here as well, mainly found in Guiding Light, with it’s lighters-aloft guitar break and the line “Never the rose, without the prick.” Elevation, for my money the best track on the album, has the most gripping sense of physical movement of any song ever written, and a heart-stopping change of time signature over the refrain. And one of the best, if not the best, guitar solo of all time. And then there’s the title track. Oh, good lord, the title track.

Your average punk single lasted about two and a half minutes. Admittedly, Marque Moon the song was released across two sides of 7″ vinyl, but it was still breaking ground in the most obscene way. This is a song based on a jazz scale invented in 1958 by Miles Davis, it is ten minutes and forty-two seconds long, it is sung by a man, whose voice, by any conventional measure, is terrible. It has no business being released as a single. It is a masterpiece, and an essential listen to anyone who has an interest in post-war music.

The NME made their 10/10 review of Marquee Moon the front page headline, the only time that has ever happened. The band themselves succumbed to the pressure of being The Best Thing In The History Of The World, and their second album, Adventure, got absolutely slated in the music press, simply for not being as good as their first one. So after playing in front of rabid punk crowds for a couple of years, they ended up supporting Peter Gabriel in sit-down venues to endless booing. A band that featured a really bad singer whose vocals perfectly suited the music, a group of musicians with an almost telepathic understanding, and one of the greatest ever debuts followed by a record that couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. Hmmmm… Mart… have we got one of those?

Best Tracks: Venus de Milo, Marquee Moon, Elevation

Best Moment: 2:43 into Guiding Light. For the most-part, this is a pretty cold album, but this bit is lovely.

Like this? Try: Horses by Patti Smith, 1976

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

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Xavier Dwyer: On Television and Politics

I can still recall a golden spring evening in 1987 when as a six year old I had been playing on the freshly mowed lawn on North Hull Estate. Outside in the sweet air with the rich green of fresh grass stains on my knees my father called me in as it was to time to bath and settle down in front of the television as it was the evening of the 1987 General Election and there was an Election special of Carrott Confidential; a one satirical look at the General Election. It featured Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis just before their rise to fame on ‘The Mary Whitehouse Experience’. Even though I was only six I found the show amusing which said more about the show than it did me and my political awareness at that young age. I can still remember my father sending me off to bed just as the first results were beginning to come in and as he did he said something along the lines of ‘When you wake up tomorrow the world might be a better place’. Of course that didn’t happen. Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party lost the election having returned only 229 MP’s to Westminster.

By the time the 1992 General Election arrived I was nearly eleven and was now enjoying staying up late on Thursday evenings to watch Question Time in the run up to the Election. This was the Peter Sissons era and for me it was the golden age of the show. I remember Neil Kinnock’s rousing ‘It’s time for a change, it’s time for Labour’ speech and again a genuine feeling that life could be all so different when I awoke the morning after the election.

As a child born into a household in which politics was discussed a great deal I am very fortunate. I could enjoy the satire and to a degree the more in depth and ‘dryer’ television coverage such as Question Time or Newsnight. But then I was fortunate.

For many people the language of politics is something completely alien to them and it because of this that voter turn has fallen from a little over 75% in the 1987 General Election to 65.1% in 2010. Many pundits say that the reason for voter turnout falling so rapidly in recent years is due to a wide spread dis-trust of politicians caused mainly by the expenses scandal which was widely publicised in 2009. And there may be some truth in this theory. I have lost count of the times when asking ‘How are you voting in the next election?’ I get the response- ‘Nobody, they’re all the same’. More worryingly in Britain people turn to protest voting. People are of course entitles to do so and exercising your right to vote with a protest vote is better than no forfeiting your right to vote entirely. However, in England that is not necessarily the case as in England we seem to have stumbled upon a culture of negative protest voting. The rise of the UKIP, the BNP and the EDL I feel can be blamed on the despondency that people have for the major parties. In Scotland and Wales this manifests itself by a greater share of the vote for the SNP or Plaid Cymru. Why can’t the English use their protest vote to gain more seats for the Green Party for example? Given more seats in Westminster the Green Party could have a real voice on issues such as climate change for instance. The protest vote could actually be put to some use.

The reason for this is very simple, politics is not televised properly. That is to say that television doesn’t cater in any way for the political novice. Take a look at the politically orientated shows that are currently being aired. They fall into two categories; the high-brow and the satirical. The political novice isn’t going to choose to watch either. When will a major television network make a television show about politics that caters for people with very little political knowledge? Because political knowledge equates to political interest and I feel that currently many people are being excluded from political discourse because no one is willing to make a politically orientated television show that explains the issues to them in layman’s terms. You see there is nothing wrong with making a statement such as ‘I don’t know anything about politics’ and as a society I feel that we are duty bound to inform the uninformed. On the contrary making a statement such as ‘I don’t want to know about politics’ is nothing short of ignorance and these people are probably out of reach.

With the commissioning of a weekly informative television programme that explains the weekly goings on in Westminster in clear and understandable terms I feel that a huge chunk of voters could be brought in to inclusion. A show that doesn’t assume that everyone understands what a Green Paper or even a Cabinet Meeting is could bring people to the ballot box that otherwise would have stayed at home.

I should mention before ending that for a truly insightful view of British Politics switch off your televisions and listen to Radio 4’s Any Questions on Saturday afternoons and Today at Westminster every week night from 11 pm.

Xavier DwyerXavier Dwyer is 31 years-old and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/XavierDwyer1