IT WAS 25 YEARS AGO TODAY

The birth of the New York new wave
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The beginning of a new era in New York's musical history could have been witnessed on 31 March 1974 for just one dollar. A young band from Manhattan took the stage at the tiny CBGBs (Country, Bluegrass and Blues) club in the Bowery on the Lower East Side. And according to Hillie Kristal, who had opened the club in December 1973, "they were awful. They were loud and messy and it wasn't quite together. Hardly anyone came".

Television went on to become the inspiration behind the American New Wave - the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads were swept along with them - and the British punk scene. The band grew out of the Neon Boys, formed by former school friends Tom Verlaine (guitar) and Richard Hell (bass) with drummer Billy Ficca. Guitarist Richard Lloyd joined, and they became Television. Hell's hallmarks were safety-pins and pogoing: they wrote anthems such as "(I Belong to the) Blank Generation".

Kristal booked Television for three days at a time, doing two sets a night: "They were different but interesting. They didn't care about what everyone else was doing, they were just doing their thing, and they started doing it better and better. I loved them." The next year, they started doing it with Patti Smith, opening for the poet/singer four nights a week. Hell left in March 1975, but the band's status and influence remained immense.

For the British singer Edwyn Collins - leader of Orange Juice, the early1980s Glasgow indie band - the first airing of the "Little Johnny Jewel" single on John Peel's radio show was like "preaching to the converted". "There was a fanzine around at that time called Ripped and Torn," he says. "If you look in issue 3, there's a mention of a `New York band' forming in Bearsden. They were the Nu-Sonics. A few weeks later we started playing live. We became Orange Juice."

Television's ground-breaking album Marquee Moon (Elektra), with its unsurpassable 10-minute title track, was released in 1977; it failed to chart in the US, but made No 28 in the UK. By then the UK's punk scene had taken on Television's influence - and Hell's iconic attitude and clothing - then spat on it. Collins remembers that "every guitar band at the time was influenced by Marquee Moon. But it was quickly superseded then by things that were far more `out there'. When the younger British groups came along they were much more exciting."

Television split up in 1978 - though they briefly reformed in 1993. Verlaine has had a distinguished solo career; Hell wrote a rock-novel two years ago. But would Television (and punk) have happened without CBGBs and that first, non-illustrious gig? "Would CBGBs have happened without Television, the Ramones, Patti Smith...?" asks Kristal. "Television were great forerunners, the catalyst for a lot of other bands. But I just let them play. If I deserve any credit, that's the only thing."

MAEVE WALSH

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