Marquee Moon (1977) debuts a surrealistic version of garage-rock, the Rolling Stones or Kinks as reimagined by Salvador Dalí, with earthy riffs that spiral up into ecstatic guitar-solo jaunts. Patti Smith said that Verlaine, the band’s well-read, aloof, willful leader, made his guitar sound “like a thousand bluebirds screaming” — beautiful, piercing, unnatural. But Lloyd, a male hustler who survived shock therapy and heroin use, also likened Verlaine’s distressed singing to the sound of a goat with a slit throat, which doomed their commercial chances.
Marquee’s twin peaks are the long title song, one of Verlaine’s many vividly imaged lyrics about the nearness of chaos, which peaks again and again, like fireworks having sex, and “Little Johnny Jewel,” a rare 1975 single added as a bonus track. Adventure, recorded just 10 months later, is less riled and exploratory but funnier, with a yearning beauty that inspired a legion of art-rock bands, including R.E.M. (who closely imitated “Days”), U2, the Cars, Pavement and Sonic Youth (who turned the bridge of “Marquee Moon” into a career).
Television played their final show in New York on July 29, 1978, though hardly anyone noticed (the original lineup returned for a delicate 1992 record and still tours occasionally), and a month earlier did a San Francisco concert that has been bootlegged and now given an official release. Finishing with a sullen and destructive cover of “Satisfaction,” they sound loose and gravelly, brazenly stretching the long songs to the snapping point. It’s as if they’re burning all their memories in one huge fire before successors can come in and rummage through the ashes.