Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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Punk group formed in NYC '74: Tom Verlaine (b Tom Miller, 13 Dec. '49), guitar, vocals; Fred Smith on bass, Billy Fica, drums; Richard Lloyd, guitar. Got break at CBGB's club alongside Blondie, Talking Heads, Ramones. Verlaine had moved to NYC from Delaware '68, was in shortlived band the Neon Boys with Ficca and Richard Hell, who was original bassist (fired '75). Independent single 'Little Johnny Jewel' '75 led to Marquee Moon '77, seen as one of the era's more interesting debut LPs. They were hardly punk, but almost pre-new wave, christened 'Ice Kings of Rock', describing clinical style of Verlaine; nevertheless musically superior to many contemporaries. Debut incl. chilling classic 'Venus', 'Torn Curtain'. UK tour '77 with Blondie created interest, but Adventure '78 was a nosedive, critics comparing Verlaine's lengthy solos to the then officially despised Grateful Dead. They split '78, attention focused on Verlaine, though Lloyd's Alchemy '79 was well-received; Tom Verlaine '79 was highly praised, Dreamtime '81, Words From The Front '82 and Cover less so. Reputation still rests on the debut. The Blow Up on ROIR had live tracks from '78.