Field of Fire

Field of Fire
Reviewer: SteveJ
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Everything Is Combustible:
Television, CBGB's and Five Decades of Rock and Roll: The Memoirs of an Alchemical Guitarist
416 pages
October 24, 2017
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

The first complete account of Television, including the making of their records and touring, from a founding member of the band.

Television was the outlier of the CBGBs punk rock scene. Their twin guitar lines and obtuse lyrics were exploratory in nature, making them decidedly NOT like the the other bands. That’s ironic as they helped build that scene and club. In fact, Richard Lloyd, the “other” guitarist in the band, literally helped Hilly Kristal construct the stage.

Richard Lloyd’s new memoir Everything Is Combustible is also an outlier amongst rock autobiographies. In his prologue, Lloyd makes a point of calling his book a “memoir,” rejecting the “fantastical genealogies” and the “slog” the author feels inherent in the early part of most autobiographies. Rather, his is born by “stories spoken aloud in the tradition of oral storytelling.” 

Television fans might be disappointed in that it is not "the story of Television." While certainly a formative part of his life, Lloyd seems to make it no more, or no less important in the many life stories he shares in the book. These include his first thoughts on day one of his birth (!), his early (and prolonged) drug experimentation, his stints in mental institutions such as Bellevue, shock therapy, and male prostitution. Musically, aside from the legendary Television, Lloyd shares his experiences with Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Keith and Anita, and Matthew Sweet, and backstage interactions with Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead and their entourages. And for those Television fans, there is plenty of insight into the band and their inception, their recording processes, and, yes, Lloyd's relationship with de facto leader Tom Verlaine. His solo career and guest contributions are also detailed, and are certainly worth exploring.

If that all sounds rather fantastical, it is. If you accept the definition of that word as “conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre,” all of those apply, both to Lloyd as a person and a guitar player. In the opening paragraph, I referred to Lloyd as “the other guitarist” in Television; in truth, his contributions to that band's work — and paricularly live shows — were the equal of Verlaine. That contrast and tension is one of the things that made them so unique to their time. And it is, in fact, that same exploration, searching, and wonderment in the stories contained in Everything is Combustible that make clear Lloyd also was, and is, much, much more than that.


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