We recently spoke with guitartist Richard Lloyd from the seminal CBGB band Television. His recent memoir is a "must read" and we asked Richard "Five Questions" about his book Everything Is Combustible, his solo and freelance work, and, yes, Television. Here's what Richard had to say.
Your book is a one of a kind memoir, with a kind of a combination of Beat/Zen/Punk stream-of-consciousness style. It’s sort of sequential, but not really. Did you have a narrative in mind that you constructed, or did you just start writing extemporaneously?
I wrote down a number of little stories. I was planning on the book to be many chapters, and each chapter would be a significant event in my life. And so they weren’t chronological at all. I’ve been telling stories all my life, and from memory, I just gathered stuff up. It took about..I mean I was writing it for a number of years before I sought a publisher. I tried to get people to help me sort of sort through it all, what’s called a “amanuensis” — someone who jogs your memory and writes down things that you say. But I couldn’t find one that would help me.
I asked David Fricke at Rolling Stone and he said “Well, you have your own voice and I don’t want to intrude. You should write it yourself.” So I ended up writing it all by myself. And I used a voice recognition software program and I didn’t type anything. So they are all oral stories.
You co-founded one of the most legendary bands ever in Television, who was very different from most of the CBGB bands, with superior musicianship and abstract lyrics. Did you feel out of place musically in that scene, or was it all just an “anything goes” mentality amongst the artists?
That’s Tom part — the strange lyrics and originally Richard Hell as well. And we weren’t very good musicians as a matter of fact. We were trying awfully hard. And we were practicing an awful lot. But we invented that scene. Everybody else came after us, and it was our place. So there was no feeling of “we’re out of place,” if anything somebody else could have felt that way.
If a band is great, a band is great. I saw the Ramones before the first time they played at CBGB’s …they played at a performance space, just a place for demos and rehearsals and I knew they were great immediately and that they would fit in. Anybody who did their own stuff and was original and interesting could fit in. All the bands were different. Blondie was nothing like Talking Heads, who was nothing like the Dead Boys. The Dead Boys didn’t show up for a year and half or two years. A lot of bands came late on the scene. They eventually did well for themselves.
I thought you were a little hard on Adventure, Television’s second album. I think that album has aged very well. It may not be Marquee Moon, but what is?
We could have done another record as good as Marquee Moon. We had things in our repertoire. But Tom decided he wanted to writings things in the studio and with him, that’s a really endless task. It was basically like “You do your parts in five minutes and I’ll spend six months diddling around.” And I think the lyrics on the album Adventure are throwaway garbage. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not very good lyrics. Analytically speaking, Tom was starting to turn into an ingrown toenail. I don’t like the sound of the record, I don’t like the gated reverb. It’s a dated sound. Marquee Moon wasn’t anything like that. We easily could have done another record in the same vein and not have that cartoon sort of sound that we ended up with. But, I mean, it was out of my hands.The difference was I had a great deal to do with Marquee Moon and I didn’t have as much to do with Adventure, and it shows. I was there, and I played on everything but …I mean, crap written and…whatever. I’m hard on the record because I hold myself to a high standard.
You’ve done a lot of great session work — Matthew Sweet and The Health and Happiness Show jump to mind — but what musicians in 1970s NYC would people be surprised you played music with (in the same band)?
I’m only on two songs with Health and Happiness Show. I’m on John Doe’s first record and nine Matthew Sweet records. I played on a guy’s record in Switzerland named Steven Eicher. That’s an interesting record. It knocked Phill Collins out of the #1 record in France. That’s it’s claim to fame.
The “revised” part of the Field Of Fire reissue is facinating. The songs sound completely different. How did that come about, and are there other songs you’d like to redo to sound like the”Richard Lloyd” of today? And where would you steer fans who are unfamiliar with your work outside of Television to explore the Richard Lloyd solo catalogue.
As far as Field of Fire goes, it’s the technology that was available. I originally made that record (in 1985) in Sweden where you know, things were behind the times and people were using the gated reverb on the snare and stuff like that that I wouldn’t do that now at all… So the “revised” songs are now clearer in a sense. It’s more engineered by me. And I wouldn’t redo anything. If there’s anything that I’d want to redo, I’ve already redone it. I’m going to do a new record in a couple of months.
BONUS QUESTION: The cover photograph of your book, taken by David Godlis, is a classic. Have you had a chance to check out his book History Is Made At Night, documenting the CBGB’s scene?
Oh yeah. It’s wonderful What a fabulous photographer. The hospital picture on my book cover is hilarious.
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