Guitarist Tom Verlaine of the influential 1970s punk rock band Television has died at age 73. The New York Times reported Verlaine’s death in Manhattan on Saturday, January 28, which was announced by Jesse Paris Smith (daughter of Patti Smith), who stated Verlaine died “after a brief illness.”
Born Thomas Miller in Denville, New Jersey on December 13, 1949, Verlaine was raised in Wilmington, Delaware. He met Richard Meyers (Richard Hell) as an adolescent and forged a friendship while attending the Sanfor School boarding academy.
Verlaine dropped out of school and relocated to New York City, where he reconnected with Hell. The pair first formed the Neon Boys in 1972 but the group disbanded by 1973. A new group calling themselves Television soon reformed. Around this time they played their first of many concerts at the legendary New York City punk club CBGB.
Television established themselves among the influential mid-1970s New York City punk scene that included bands like Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith Group, and Blondie. Verlaine and Television’s early following was built around performances at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. This period also saw Verlaine and fellow NYC punk musician Patti Smith form a romantic relationship.
Hell left Television in 1975 and went on to perform with Johnny Thunders’ group The Heartbreakers and to form Richard Hell & The Voidoids. Verlaine continued Television with Fred Smith taking on bass duties.
Verlaine, Smith and drummer Billy Ficca recorded Television’s outstanding debut album, Marquee Moon, which was released in 1977 and featured Hell on four of the eight songs, including the standout title track. Verlaine wrote the songs on Marquee Moon (Hell earning one co-write) and he co-produced the record with Andy Johns. Marquee Moon achieved critical acclaim and is among the most influential and popular albums of the era.
A second television LP, Adventure, recorded and released in 1978, was the final album issued by the band before breaking up. Verlaine reformed Television in the early-1990s and a third, self-titled, and final album was released in 1992.
Verlaine’s own self-titled debut solo album was released in 1979. He continued issuing solo albums through 1992’s Warm and Cool. In 2006, Verlaine returned with two solo albums released by Thrill Jockey, Songs and Other Things — Verlaine’s first vocal release since 1990’s The Wonder — and its instrumental companion, Around.
Verlaine participated in the supergroup Million Dollar Bashers, whose roster included John Medeski, Wilco’s Nels Cline, Smokey Hormel, Tony Garnier and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo. They contributed to the soundtrack to the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic feature film I’m Not There.