Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Everything Is Combustible" by Richard Lloyd (Beech Hill Publishing Company)

ISBN: 978-0-9976937-6-8 Beech Hill Publishing Company

The band Television means a lot to me.  Even before I heard a  note of their music, they had great importance to me.  I saw a photo of the band when Richard Hell was in it, and I was intrigued by their visuals.   I liked the haircuts and their clothing.  It was no frills and all attitude.  I must have been around 18 or 19 when Television hit my consciousness.  Not long after, but for sure after Hell left the band, I purchased their single on Ork Records, Little Johnny Jewel" at my local punk rock record store, Bomp Records in the Valley.  I heard a sound that matched their vision.   To this day, and we're talking 40 years later, Television is still a mystery to me. 

 I have read a lot of books regarding the New York music explosion of the 1970s, including "Please Kill Me" (an excellent book) and various memoirs by musicians of that period (all of them are pretty good).  Still, what is Television?  And on top of that, who is Tom Verlaine"   Richard Lloyd who was one of the remarkable and fascinating characters that came out of the  "Please Kill Me" book and even more important, a brilliant guitarist in Television.  Verlaine and Lloyd were the bookends, and Billy Ficca (drums) and Fred Smith roamed between those two.   Verlaine was and is the primary composer for Television (Hell, when he was in the band, shared songwriting duties, and is brilliant), but that group is constructed like a piece of architecture.  Lloyd was part of the building blocks to build this magnificent sound that is Television. 

"Everything Is Combustible" is a remarkable memoir, due that Lloyd is a good prose writer and a fascinating guy.   Very straightforward, yet metaphysical in his approach to his life, and even with his addictions.   He has a mind like a scientist, who wants to analyze the things and people in front of him or in his sights.   One of my favorite parts of the book is when Lloyd tries to look at his drug addiction clearly and showed frustration when a medical doctor tries to get him to a 12 step program.  At the time, Lloyd wasn't interested in quitting drugs; he just wanted to know in detail the nature of addiction and how it affects the brain/body.  In such fashion, he reminds me of William S. Burroughs. To investigate the 'unknown' and somehow try to make it more 'known.'  

Lloyd writes his memoir as if it's an original science paper.  When he attaches to something, he doesn't let go, until Lloyd masters whatever he desires.   His guitar obsession is singular and it's his devotion to the instrument that made him such a remarkable musician.   He's egotistical in a sense he knows what he can do, yet his appreciation of other artists are quite open and in its way, a strong focus on him as well.  He casually knew Jimi Hendrix as a teenager.  I gather he wanted to know what made him such an iconic and fantastic musician.  He doesn't look at Hendrix as a fanboy but like a scientist studying in a laboratory.   For the mystery part, that is still a mystery to me.  The reader gets facts regarding the inner-workings of Television, but what made Tom Verlaine be such an odd fellow?  Richard Hell in his memoir wrote about Verlaine, and they were great friends, yet, I didn't feel Hell could penetrate the mystery that's Tom Verlaine.  Lloyd doesn't get any closer to Verlaine's character, but you do get great stories about him not using luggage, but laundry or store bags to keep his clothing.  The fact is Verlaine is a very strange being and somewhat guarded.  One gathers he is a control freak and wants to be in control of Television, but what was it in his background that turn him out that way?  Lloyd doesn't answer that question, nor do other memoirists/music historians. 

"Everything Is Combustible" is a must-read for those who are fascinated with the CBGB's New York rock world.  For whatever reason, or what was breathed in that Manhattan air, concerning that generation of musicians, they left a lot of great literature for us to read (and music too) and for us fans to comment on. Lloyd's book is pretty wonderful in that sense.  Superb read. 

Post a Comment