Early punk visionaries put down an epic vision, complete with changing time signatures.
While the singer-songwriter genre, soft rock, disco, and soul all flourished in the 1970s, some of the most interesting developments of the decade did not come about until the latter half of the decade. Punk rock had been bubbling beneath the cultural surface in New York City and London since the early 70s and exploded by about 1977. Hip-hop was an emerging force at the time as well, although an official rap single would not be made commercially available until 1979.
I personally like a lot of the soft rock that the 70s produced, including The Carpenters (mentioned earlier this week) and even bands like Fleetwood Mac. I am also appreciative that the music that came in the latter half of the decade was so abrasive and so reactive to much of that soft rock, because the influence of 1970s punk cannot be understated. Bands like Television put into motion the next 25 years of musical development, and I am so happy they did.
“Marquee Moon” - Television
Intro: Marquee Moon was released by Elektra Records in April of 1977 at the height of the punk movement in New York City. Television had been one of the most influential bands in the lead-up to punk’s American explosion, and their music provided many more musical complexities than the more straightforward style of The Ramones. The album reached #23 on the Swedish album charts and #28 on the UK album charts, failing to chart in the US. Despite lack of commercial reach, many critics and media outlets, including the Village Voice, Pitchfork Media, NME, Spin Magazine, and Rolling Stone have all claimed it as one of the most influential punk albums of all time. The band would only release one more album in the 1970s, reforming in 1992 for an album and sporadically since then.
Analysis: Clocking in at over 10 minutes long, “Marquee Moon” is largely in 4/4 time. Changing meter is heard mostly in the guitar riff that proceeds the chorus. The guitar solo shifts into several measures of 3/4 before the chorus is sung.
Considerations for Teaching: There is no profanity in this song, although the subject matter of this song includes a brush with death. The lyrics speak of the “kiss of death” and of riding a Cadillac into a graveyard, however the last line states that the narrator of the song “got out again.” The musical features of the song also do not correspond with many features associated with rock songs about death (e.g. minor mode, tritone use a la Black Sabbath), and therefore the references to a brush with death seem to be less emphasized. The song is an appropriate listening example for the classroom setting both because of its musical features as well as the band’s cultural significance.