Marquee Moon 40th Anniversary

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

What exactly is a “cult album?” To me, it’s a record that falls through the cracks and goes by largely unnoticed and sells poorly until several years later when scores of music nerds start talking about what a terrific album it was. We’re talking Pet Sounds, Da Capo, White Light/White Heat, Astral Weeks, Ram, Underwater Moonlight, and In An Aeroplane Over The Sea.

marquee moon med coverTelevision’s Marquee Moon is a quintessential cult favorite – it didn’t even crack the top 150 albums in the US – yet it’s had more staying power than most records that came out in the 1970s. And that’s because it’s timeless, it never sounds dated, and it was far ahead of its time when it came out in 1977. A lot of that has to do with Tom Verlaine’s songwriting (strong, forceful, elastic, and hooks galore) as well as the fevered guitar interplay between Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. Guitarists today still mine the album for inspiration and to decipher its code, as if scientists had developed the perfect DNA for the art of guitar weaving.

Like so many cult albums before it, Marquee Moon was a victim of being so far ahead of its time that their record label didn’t know how to market it and radio stations – beginning to succumb to corporate mentality of the late ‘70s – were afraid of it. Television toiled in obscurity; even the glowing reviews from the rock cognoscenti couldn’t save them. They’d break up eighteen months later.

If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor. Listen to side 1, which in my mind is one of the greatest sides of music ever committed to vinyl. Four perfect songs in a row including an explosive, epic finish. It’s the real deal.

I remember how the darkness doubled
I recall lightning struck itself.

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