Tom Verlaine (born Thomas Miller, December 13, 1949 – January 28, 2023) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, best known as the frontman of the New York City rock band Television.
Verlaine was born Thomas Miller to a Jewish family in Denville, New Jersey on December 13, 1949. He moved to Wilmington, Delaware, with his family at age of six. He began studying piano at an early age, but switched to saxophone in middle school after hearing a record by Stan Getz. Verlaine initially was unimpressed with the role of the guitar in both rock music and jazz, but was inspired to take up the instrument after hearing the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” during his adolescence, at which point he began a long period of experimentation to develop a personal style. A later musical influence of Verlaine’s became jazz musician Miles Davis’ electric-period recordings, particularly the Japanese LPs Agharta (1975) and Dark Magus (1977), which he was able to obtain as imports.
Verlaine also had an interest in writing and poetry from an early age. As a teen, he was friends with future bandmate and punk icon Richard Hell (Richard Meyers) at Sanford School, a boarding school which they both attended. They quickly discovered that they shared a passion for music and poetry.
After one failed attempt, Verlaine (with Hell) succeeded in escaping from school and moved to New York City. He then created his stage name, a reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. He is quoted as having said that this name was inspired by Bob Dylan’s name change and was a way of distancing himself from his past. He and Hell formed the Neon Boys, recruiting drummer Billy Ficca. The Neon Boys quickly disbanded after failing to recruit a second guitarist, despite auditions by Dee Dee Ramone and Chris Stein. They reformed as Television a few months later, finding a guitarist in Richard Lloyd, and began playing at seminal punk clubs like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. In 1975, Verlaine kicked Hell out of the band for his erratic playing and behavior, and they released their first single with Fred Smith replacing Hell. Verlaine dated poet and musician Patti Smith when they were both in the burgeoning New York punk scene. Television released two albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure, to great critical acclaim and modest sales before breaking up in July 1978.
Verlaine soon released a self-titled solo album that began a fruitful 1980s solo career. He took up residence in England for a brief period in response to the positive reception his work had received there and in Europe at large. In the 1990s he collaborated with different artists, including Patti Smith, and composed a film score for Love and a .45. In the early 1990s, Television reformed to record one studio album (Television) and a live recording (Live at the Academy, 1992); they have reunited periodically for touring. Verlaine released his first new album in many years in 2006, titled Songs and Other Things.
Verlaine died in New York City on January 28, 2023 after a brief illness, at the age of 73.
Verlaine was in discussion with Jeff Buckley to produce his second album before Buckley’s death by drowning in 1997.
Verlaine guested as guitarist on numerous releases by other artists, including the album Penthouse by the band Luna. He played on Patti Smith’s Grammy-nominated “Glitter in Their Eyes” from her 2000 album Gung Ho. This was not the first time Verlaine had collaborated with one-time romantic partner Smith; four years earlier, he played on the song “Fireflies” from her 1996 album Gone Again, and in the 1970s he played guitar on her debut single “Hey Joe” and on “Break It Up” from her debut album Horses. He also co-wrote the latter song with Smith. He played with Smith in 2005 for a 30th-anniversary concert of Horses in its entirety, which was later released on CD.
Verlaine was part of the Million Dollar Bashers, a supergroup also featuring Sonic Youth musicians Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Smokey Hormel, and keyboardist John Medeski. Their work appears on the original soundtrack to I’m Not There, a biographical film reflecting on the life of Bob Dylan.
In 2012, Verlaine collaborated with former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha on his second solo album Look to the Sky. (wikipdia)
Dreamtime is the second solo studio album by American musician Tom Verlaine, originally released in 1981. “Without a Word” is a rewrite of “Hard On Love,” an unreleased Television song performed live in 1974 and 1975. (wikipedia)
Tom Verlaine’s second album as a solo artist after disbanding Television is not groundbreaking or innovative as much as it is consistent. What is distinctive about Dreamtime, aside from its thick guitar fortifications, firm stance, and unwillingness to modify a sound he believed in, are the issues surrounding the making of these recordings. The first session was marred by the usage of poor quality reel-to-reel tapes, barely yielding only half an album. Other songs had to be re-recorded with different players, due to the original band’s unavailability. There’s also a strong connection with Patti Smith, who Verlaine toured with when leading Television. First session bassist Fred Smith, also from the original Television group, keyboardist Bruce Brody, and drummer throughout, Jay Dee Daugherty, are major contributors to the uniform texture of the tunes. It’s hard to pin down a single highlight, but several rank as distinctive. “Without a Word” is molded in the classic Television style, with repeat guitar lines from Verlaine and Ritchie Fliegler, “There’s a Reason” is self-explanatory and prototypical, while “Fragile” revises Byrne’s distant vocal foresight, with Verlaine claiming someone “stole my secret,” and further adds the repeat guitar hooks.
“Penetration” is likely the rave fave, at once propelled, strutting, and plodding with the sparest of diffuse guitar, and inferences — sexual or otherwise — galore. “Always” sports the kind of cooled, ambiguous message under no frills rock & roll, with Verlaine exclaiming he has a clue on “the best kept secret in town.” Then there’s “Down on the Farm,” with vocals evocative of Dave Thomas and his stressed out style, the slow funky R&B elements of “Mary Marie” enhanced by the organ work of Bruce Brody, and a choogling Creedence Clearwater Revival ramble during the mainly instrumental jam “The Blue Robe.” Perhaps the most advanced track, “A Future in Noise” epitomizes the disarmed CBGB’s vibe with slightly built intensity, resolutely controlled. Not so much a set of tidy, trimmed concepts when one listens closely, as it is a vision of an artist laying it all out from the bottom of his heart. Many would easily admit Dreamtime is Tom Verlaine’s shining hour. (by Michael G. Nastos)
Bruce Brody (keyboards on 02., 03. + 10.)
Jay Dee Daugherty (drums 01., 02., 05. + 09. )
Ritchie Fliegler (guitar)
Donnie Nossov (bass on 03., 04., 07., 08. + 10.)
Fred Smith (bass on 01., 05., 06. + 09.)
Rich Teeter (drums on 03.,04., 07., 08. + 10.)
Tom Verlaine (vocals, guitar, bass on 02.)
01. There’s A Reason 3.39
02. Penetration 4.00
03. Always 3.55
04. The Blue Robe 3.47
05. Without A Word 3.16
06. Mr. Blur 3.22
07. Fragile 3.26
08. A Future In Noise 4.13
09. Down On The Farm 4.48
10. Mary Marie 3.22
11. The Blue Robe (alternate vocal version) 4.19
12. Always (live) 9.25
All songs written by Tom Verlaine.
Thank you very much.