They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Today, Tom Verlaine celebrates the day his parents named him Tom Miller. But we, the music nerdery, celebrate it as the birth of the man who (legend has it) opened CBGB’s doors to what would become punk when he talked Hilly Kristal into letting his band Television play. Though not quite a household name, Television is indisputably seminal. More punk in attitude than sound, Television began life as the Neon Boys, with Verlaine and Richard Hell as the leading lights. In time, the Neon Boys transformed into Television, adding Richard Lloyd to the mix on rhythm guitar. With tangoing guitars, they took downtown NYC by storm. Television recorded disappointing (to Verlaine) but intriguing demos with Brian Eno, Hell left the group, and then, finally, they produced the album that would solidify their legend, Marquee Moon. The band broke up soon after their follow up, Adventure, and Verlaine launched his solo career.
Television has reunited intermittently over the years, releasing an album of new material in 1992 and irregularly touring during the aughts – most recently, anointing the new Rough Trade store in Brooklyn with a performance (sans Lloyd, who quit years ago). For three decades, covering Television songs has been a right of passage for a certain stock of rockers, which should shock no one considering the awe in which many guitarists hold Verlaine and Lloyd’s fretwork. Here are five covers for the man who fell into the arms of Venus de Milo.