An Australian audience will witness a first in October, when Television perform Marquee Moon, their classic 1977 debut, in full at a festival in Melbourne. Meanwhile, 16 songs frontman Tom Verlaine and the band recorded in December 2007 await vocals and mixing, though a release date is still not scheduled.
"It might happen before we all die, I don't know," Television drummer Billy Ficca tells Rolling Stone of the unheard tracks, recorded over a week in New York. "It's sort of laying there."
Until then, those hoping to catch Television's first U.S. shows in six years – in San Francisco, Athens and Austin, in November – can expect to hear "a whole bag of new songs" in addition to selections from the band's three albums, says Jimmy Rip, who replaced guitarist Richard Lloyd in 2007. For now, Marquee Moon will be played in its entirety only at the Release the Bats festival in Melbourne, on October 26th. London-based festival promoter All Tomorrow's Parties approached Verlaine with the idea earlier this year.
"I never thought Tom would do it," Rip told Rolling Stone in a phone interview from Buenos Aires, where he lives and plays with another band, Jimmy Rip and the Trip. "But every time you try to predict Tom, you're gonna be wrong. And he said yes." Verlaine was unavailable for comment.
A handful of dates this fall include stops in New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and the U.K. Those scheduled in the U.S. will be Television's first since since playing Central Park in 2007. That summer show generated interest among the group to record its first material since the original lineup released its last album more than 20 years ago. They booked the week between Christmas and New Year's at the now-defunct Stratosphere Sound in Chelsea.
"As soon as I found out who it was, I was like, ‘Cancel everything, we're doing this,'" says Geoff Sanoff, who engineered the sessions, noting that Verlaine favored low-powered amplifiers. "It sounded amazing. It was so clean and so crisp. As soon as you set them up playing, they just sounded like Television."
Yet Rip says he cannot compare the new songs – many of which Verlaine has assigned the working title of "Wingnut" – to anything from Marquee Moon, Adventure or Television. "Tom's pretty adamant about making a real effort to make something new each time," he says. "It doesn't make for super-fast work, but it's definitely an admirable goal."
Beginning in 1974, Television honed its act for two years in New York at places like CBGB and Max's Kansas City before recording Marquee Moon. Richard Hell, who with Verlaine and Ficca formed the pre-Television group the Neon Boys, left Television prior to its record deal and later founded the Heartbreakers and the Voidoids. Lloyd and bassist Fred Smith cemented the Television lineup, and they released their masterpiece in February 1977.
Though it never sold well in the U.S., the record spent 13 weeks on the U.K. albums chart, based on the success of "Prove It" and the title track. "Marquee Moon" is something of an anti-song, 10 minutes of disciplined disorder, lacking melody and a chorus and brimming with dueling guitar solos from Verlaine and Lloyd. The band recorded it only once.
"I wanted to do another take," Ficca says. "My bass drum wasn't anchored down, it was sliding away from me, so I was chasing it with my right foot. But I guess it was good and all. It all worked."