Steve Wynn on "Marquee Moon" by Television
Steve Wynn was right there at the forefront when the alternative music scene exploded in the '80s. As a member of The Dream Syndicate, Wynn helped usher in the movement known as The Paisley Underground. Since the band's breakup in 1989, Wynn has released a score of acclaimed albums, such as Kerosene Man and Crossing Dragon Bridge, and he has seen much international touring success. An inveterate fan of vinyl who's currently helming a few long-awaited Dream Syndicate reunion gigs, Steve put some time aside to dissect Television's "Marquee Moon," a key Song from His Soundtrack.
I listen to the title track to Television's 1977 debut Marquee Moon in so many ways. I listen as a guitarist, a Jazzmaster enthusiast, a fan of the modal, the freakout, the extended solo, the journey to nowhere and everywhere. I spent most nights of my 20th year on the planet playing along with this song, learning every guitar line, every solo, and making up my own while staring at the photo on the inner sleeve, a photo that suggested everything that I believed a band should be. It's not surprising that over the years, I borrowed a few of those bits and pieces ("Halloween" comes to mind) and even that very photo (check out the back cover of Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3's 2005 album, …tick..tick…tick). I played a Jazzmaster on The Dream Syndicate's 1982 debut The Days of Wine and Roses and foolishly sold it a year later. I lamented that estrangement from the sound that reignited my love of the guitar, and didn't have one again until the Miracle 3 and I made 2010's Northern Aggression. There's nothing like a Jazzmaster.
I also listen to this as a bandleader and as a producer. There's something perfect about the way the record fits together. I hear it like a car enthusiast looks at the engine of a '57 Chevy. I study how the gears interlock and then am dying to take it apart just to put it together again. Crude and organic, but any random change to the architecture would ruin its perfection and majesty. I toured with Richard Lloyd back in 2001, and he told me that the band rejected producer Andy Johns' idea to get a "John Bonham drum sound," and instead went for the more organic sound on the record. I told him that I was grateful they made that correct choice, and he replied, "I don't know. It might have been better if we would have met him halfway." Better? Richard, you're wrong. Marquee Moon could not be better.
It's funny how much I love this song as well as the full album from which it's taken and can always, at any moment, say it's at the top of my list without hesitation - and yet I don't love Tom Verlaine's lyrics (though there are many great ones), and I don't love his voice. But none of that matters. It's the perfect record. It stands alongside Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 1969 classic Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere as the rulebook of how a two guitars, bass, and drums band should sound. The song competes with John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," and Charles Mingus's "Fables of Faubus" as my favorite jazz track ever, even though you would never find the Marquee Moon album in the jazz section at any record store. Every time I put it on, I hear something new. I find some detail that pushes the combustion engine to a new place.
It's my favorite song from my favorite record ever. I'm often asked to name the record that changed my life. Quite literally, that would have to be The Days of Wine and Roses, the aforementioned first album I made with The Dream Syndicate. But without "Marquee Moon" and the album it shares a title with, there would be no The Days of Wine and Roses, or at least it would have sounded a whole lot different. Really, I'd rather not think about it.
In this video interview, Steve Wynn and Mike Mettler discuss the merits of vinyl and the 30th anniversary of The Days of Wine and Roses.