Guitarist Tom Verlaine, the influential co-founder of television, has died at the age of 73

Guitarist Tom Verlaine, the influential co-founder of television, has died at the age of 73

Tom Verlaine of Television performs at the Bowery in Manhattan on May 18, 2006. Verlaine, whose band Television was one of the most influential to emerge from the New York punk rock scene, died in Manhattan on January 28, 2023.Rahav Segev / The New York Times News Service

Tom Verlaine, guitarist and co-founder of seminal proto-punk band Television, who influenced many bands while playing New York’s ultra-cool CBGB’s music scene alongside the Ramones, Patti Smith and the Talking Heads, has died. He was 73.

He died Saturday in New York surrounded by close friends after a brief illness, said Cara Hutchison of the Lede Company, a public relations firm.

“Tom Verlaine has gone beyond what his guitar playing always suggested. He was the best rock and roll guitarist of all time and like Hendrix he could dance from the realms of space to garage rock. That takes a special size,” Mike Scott of The Waterboys tweeted.

Although television never achieved much commercial success, Verlaine’s jaggedly inventive playing within the band’s two-guitar attack influenced many musicians. Television released their breakthrough debut album ‘Marquee Moon’ in 1977 – including the nearly 11-minute title track and ‘Elevation’ – followed by their second album ‘Adventure’ a year later.

“‘Marquee Moon’ has become something of an indie rock holy grail over the years. It was a clear influence on artists like Pavement, Sonic Youth, The Strokes and Jeff Buckley,” wrote Billboard magazine in 2003.

Growing tensions between Verlain and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd led to the breakup of Television after their second album “Adventure”. The group would reunite for a self-titled 1992 album for Capitol Records and sporadic live performances.

“We wanted to tear everything apart even more, away from the showbiz theatrics of glitter bands and away from the blues and boogie,” TV co-founder Richard Hell wrote in his autobiography “I dreamed I was a very clean tramp. “We wanted to be austere, hard and torn, like the world was.”

Verlaine has released eight solo albums, his most commercially successful being his 1981 solo album “Dreamtime”, which peaked at number 177 on the Billboard album chart. He often served as an accompanist for former lover Patti Smith.

Tributes online included those from Susanna Hoffs and Billy Idol, who said Verlaine created music that influenced the American and British punk scenes. Smith shared the tribute on Instagram, posting a photo of the two together with the caption: “Goodbye Tom, in the air Omega.”

Born Tom Miller — he later adopted the surname of 19th-century French poet Paul-Marie Verlaine after meeting Hell, born Richard Meyers, at prep school in Delaware. They were tall, skinny, sardonic kids who dropped out and went to the East Village, where they worked in bookstores and wrote poetry together.

“He was known for his angular lyrics and pointed lyrical edges, his sly wit and his ability to stir every chord to its truest emotion,” his publicist said. “His vision and his imagination will be missed.”

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