Reposted in tribute to Tom Verlaine 3/12/49 - 28/1/23
I heard a song the other day - I can't even remember what or where and it was barely in my consciousness - but there was a staccato guitar in it and it prompted a thought. A fleeting one - one of those that drifts in vaguely and out again quickly, like a faint wisp of smoke. "That sounds a bit like Marquee Moon" went the thought, and promptly disappeared.
But it came back and this time it brought along a random memory - of late Summer 1977, the weather a bit like now, when I had just turned fourteen. I was venturing - half of me tentatively, and the other half of me very brazenly - into a lot of new experiences, most of which revolved around boys and punk. I'd only bought one proper grown-up album so far and was saving my pocket money for more 12" vinyl. What were they, about £2.49, something like that? I couldn't just go out and buy one, it had to be planned. So the cheapo singles bin in Martins was always worth a look in case I could pick up something for 10p, something I didn't have to scrimp for nor plan, but something I could actually take home the same day and play.
A lot of band names were becoming familiar; I was latching on to what I thought 'fitted' the punk scene, but often without having first heard the music. I mean, bands like The Cortinas had the honour of getting their name carefully written on my school science overall in permanent black pen alongside the more obvious ones like Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols et al, even though I hadn't yet heard one track by them (the Cortinas, that is) . I got it wrong sometimes... like, I thought Dead Fingers Talk must be young, new and very raw just on the name alone... wrote that name on my school satchel too... they weren't, though, were they? And it was the same with Television. It was a name which was linked to all this new stuff I was exploring with limited means of doing so, and I imagined that they must be making songs at least as aggressive as White Riot or snarly as Pretty Vacant, whoever/whatever they were. So when I flicked through the cheapo singles bin in Martins and saw the 7" of 'Marquee Moon', I was quick to hand over my 10p and dead excited at the prospect of hearing it.
I remember walkng home with it feeling really chuffed. I had to go past the petrol station which was usually a bit nerve-wracking because there were always some young guys working there and I didn't know quite how to strike that balance between feeling horribly shy and yet also wanting their attention. Just having to walk past was a big deal. Funny how you remember these odd details but I recall very vividly that this time there was a new petrol attendant there, a tall bloke with acne. He smiled at me. Actually he stared. I think I got more of a look than I really wanted. I didn't fancy him at all... but I sort of wanted him to fancy me... I smiled back. Then I immediately regretted it, in case I was giving him the come-on, which I didn't really want to even though my heart was beating fast and oh now I'd never be able to walk past that garage again. It would make it really difficult going into town because that was the main route, I'd have to take that funny detour down the other side of the hill.... oh what was I thinking..... Ha, they were confusing times, those early teens.
Anyway, I got home, unwrapped my new purchase and put it on the turntable on the family stereogram. I was so excited.. hopeful for some thrashing chords, some fierce drumming, hadn't a clue what a song called Marquee Moon might be about, but I'd heard of The Marquee...
Erm, it wasn't what I expected at all. It was weird. And the B-side was more of the same!
So, I had to work really hard to convince myself that I could, perhaps, sort of, like it. Or I could at least grow to like it... one day... maybe. I played it again. My sister came downstairs and said she thought it sounded a bit like Yes. I didn't know what Yes were like but that didn't seem to me to be a good thing.
Well, I kept the single anyway, in my little cardboard box and it stayed there. I did grow to really like it in the end, although I have to admit, it took time. And even now I can't be sure, I wonder if I like it especially because I just can't separate it from that time, that feeling, that age and stage in life, the mood it evokes... the memories. These things are so inextricably linked.
I also got brave and walked past the petrol station again, continuing my ambivalent flirtation with a boy I didn't fancy one bit. I never grew to like him, although even then there was this naive teenage thought process which went along similar lines to my feelings about the record... like, maybe I would if I really tried... should I just keep playing him again in case....?!
Update 29/1/23... I've appreciated more and more in the interim years just how unique, good and influential Tom Verlaine and Television were. RIP Tom.
Great post/ re- post C. MM is one of those songs that when you hit play, you're in for the duration, no way you're going to turn it off before the full thing has unfoldedReplyDelete
Thanks SA (a bit lazy of me to re-post, but that was from a good few years ago). That's a great point about MM, very true.Delete
A lovely bit of writing as ever C.ReplyDelete
"My sister came downstairs and said she thought it sounded a bit like Yes. I didn't know what Yes were like, but that didn't seem to me to be a good thing." So funny.
Another one from our past gone. And you are right, did we end up liking stuff just because it tied in with that stage in life, the feelings, the mood and the memories. Possibly, but just how it should be probably.
Thank you - the Yes comment sums up my response to just about anything that could have been considered 'old' at that time - i.e. anything that had been around for more than about 6 months!Delete
It's all part of the big picture, isn't it - music, places, feelings, faces, all forever connected.
What an excellent post, really capturing the confusion and awkwardness of everything at that age. And RIP Tom.ReplyDelete
Ah cheers Martin. I could write a book on all this stuff, all the confusion, the mixed messages and signals, the fears and the frissons, the identity conundrums and contradictions - yes, awkwardness is the word.Delete
Glad to know it wasn't just me, at least :)Delete
I'm sure it was the same for all but the very least sensitive of people. Hopefully we learn from it!Delete
I think I'm still learning...Delete
I feel sure you don't need to worry!Delete
That's a beautiful piece of writing, C. A fine tribute, worthy of dusting off in Tom's memory. I especially liked the petrol station detour. And the inextricable link between music and memories.ReplyDelete
Oh thank you Rol. Taking an easy route by re-posting from the past, but do you ever look back at old posts and wonder where the words came from?! I seem to be doing that more and more!Delete
A lovely tribute to Tom Verlaine, C, and so much more! I could relate to both elements of the story. There are many times that I've bought a record that didn't immediately floor me and left me feeling bemused or disappointed. You're spot on in saying that sometimes you have to work hard to build a relationship with a song, album or artist.ReplyDelete
As for the petrol station experience, yep, that struck a chord...!
Thanks Khayem. Great that you get it too about these kind of songs - I also think that often it's the 'growers' which are the ones whose appeal endures, it's almost as if they had to earn their place and once they did it's there forever. Likewise with some of the songs I've really loved on first hearing, I can then sort of lose interest in them surprisingly quickly too (not always - but it has happened). It's about the slow burn perhaps.Delete
Glad you liked the awkward memories too!
A great post C.Well worth a re-post.ReplyDelete
10p - what a steal!
Cheers, CC - and yes, 10p - a bargain even back then.Delete