There's just something about this book that rubs me the wrong way. Too much gossip, not enough music. Author Bryan Waterman doesn't even begin to talk about the recording of the landmark Marquee Moon album until 69% of the way through the book, and the song by song review lingers for a few short pages at the 72% mark. After that, it's critical reaction and tying up loose ends. All the rest is background noise for what is a tremendously focused recording. I guess I was hoping for someone's doctoral thesis on the music alone. It still could happen, but this isn't it.
There are many, many footnotes. I get the feeling that Waterman relied too much on research and not enough on personal interview. Of course, retrospective interviews can be just as distorted as any of the quoted press clippings, many of which were written by sycophants or the band members themselves. The scene around CBGB's was so ridiculously inbred, it's like using your mom as a reference on your resumé. Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine were a couple? Who knew? The Lower East Side's art and poetry scene has been well documented, but it's like looking through the 4000 lenses of a fly's eyeball, each facet reveals a different he said/she said take on reality. But, I don't recall Smith talking that much about Verlaine in her memoir Just Kids; I do remember her chastising lover Alan Lanier for having groupies while on the road with Blue Oyster Cult, but apparently, she was home with Verlaine. Holy shit, now I'm dishing gossip, it's infectious. MUSIC!!!
Yes, where is the music? And where did the music come from? There's hardly any talk of Verlaine's formative musical years. Loads about his poetry, but no mention of music lessons, Tom's brilliant piano ability, why he was attracted to the Fender Jazzmaster sound, or how he developed his amazing chops. There is a brief mention of a woodshedding period before Television recorded Marquee Moon, when they disappeared from live shows for a few months. My god, man... dig up some dope on that! What alchemy transformed a band abundantly described as "loose" into a unit so unbelievably tight? Waterman mentions that Verlaine took the chords for "Torn Curtains" from Stravinsky. Really? Which piece? That seems like something a devoted musicologist would follow up on. Co-producer Andy Johns was still alive while this book was being written, couldn't he be interviewed for recollections about the recording? Why did he go to California in the middle of recording Marquee Moon, and who was the engineer while Verlaine and Lloyd overdubbed their guitars?
I was abruptly shocked 87% of the way through the book, (I'm reading on the Kindle app, so I don't know the page number,) when Waterman repeated Verlaine's lament about how he knew it was over with Elektra Records when they signed The Cars. That story has been repeated enough so it's probably true, but Waterman describes The Cars as "Canadian newcomers." Canadian? Boston! If you are screwing up this simple fact, what else is to be believed?
I don't have to say what a brilliant record Marquee Moon is — nobody does — but I know there are many others who will read anything written about this masterpiece. It's my hope that one day an insightful author will take the album apart note by note, syllable by syllable. Volumes could be written about this record, and Waterman's book is simply a well-researched preamble.