Television’s Early Shows

Television’s Early Shows

Television’s first gig was at an art house cinema on 122 West Forty-Fourth Street. They rented the Townhouse Theater, charged two dollars admission, and advertised the show by posting flyers around Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side. Reflecting the multimedia experimentation that permeated downtown, the group’s first show mixed live video, broadcast television, and rock ’n’ roll. “My idea for ramping up our presentation was to place four or five televisions onstage,” Richard Hell recalled. “During our performance each was tuned to a different channel, while one of them was hooked up to the Portapak of the video guy who’d been taping our rehearsals. He roamed the theater shooting our act as we played, as well as the audience, and that stream was fed to one of the monitors onstage, too.” Hell also helped define Television’s early visual style, wearing ripped T‑shirts held together by safety pins and, in one case, a shirt with “Please Kill Me” handwritten on the front (a cheeky and somewhat brave thing to wear downtown in the crime-ridden 1970s). Soon after their Townhouse show, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd asked Hilly Kristal if they could play at CBGB, but the owner declined because he wasn’t interested in booking rock bands. They returned with their manager, Terry Ork, who suggested that Television play on the bar’s worst night—Sunday—and guaranteed that all their friends would make the bar’s cash registers ring. It was music to Hilly’s ears.

From Chapter 30 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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