When: Sat., Feb. 4, 9 p.m. 2017
I was in high school when Richard Lloyd released his first solo LP, Alchemy, in 1979. To me, he was already a guitar hero through his work with Television, the recently broken-up New York band led by Tom Verlaine and associated with CBGBs and the birth of punk. Merely owning a copy of Alchemy made me feel deeply cool inside. The title track, with its luminous riff and Lloyd's offhand, reedy voice "talking about alchemy and things that explode" was the epitome of New York hip. Hearing that Lloyd was playing a gig, I convinced a friend with a car to drive us across the bridge from Jersey to Hurrah, a dance club that also hosted punk and new wave shows. I had heard that Lloyd had a serious heroin habit, but wasn't prepared for the reality of it. He was a mess that night, and so was the music.
Television had sealed its place in the rock firmament with a single album of unimpeachable brilliance, 1977's Marquee Moon, which both embraced the punk spirit through adventurous eclecticism, lyrical nihilism, and hatred of hippies, while indulging in such un-punk aspects as extended guitar soloing, intricate song construction, and an overall cerebral air. The two competing guitar sensibilities contrasted in fascinating ways: Verlaine's work pointillistic, gradual, and mysterious, against Lloyd's driving rhythmic lines and muscular solos. In true Velvet Underground and Big Star fashion, Marquee Moon didn't sell many copies, but those who did hear it, like U2's The Edge, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, went on to shape the next decades of rock music.
Lloyd managed to survive what many of his musical peers and fellow scenesters could not, eventually getting clean in 1984. In 1992 Lloyd rejoined Verlaine and the other members in the first of a few Television reunions, which have usually ended in acrimony. He's also put out solo records of original material, occasionally summoning the thrills of the Television years such as on the nine-minute "Field of Fire," a staple of his live repertoire.
Happily, the Lloyd who has emerged after the notorious era is open-hearted and approachable. For years, he's taught guitar lessons to dedicated students in New York as well as to people like Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, and he keeps an active dialogue with legions of fans and guitar freaks on his website. Onstage, he puts all those years of guitar playing on full display as he breaks out a mix of old and new solo material as well some barbed gems by Lloyd's very first band—the one that hit a home run that still hasn't stopped traveling. —David Klein