Richard Lloyd is a guitarist and the founding member of legendary post-punk band Television that formed in New York City in 1973. He was one of the few people hosting bands at CBGBs, where Television regularly played since its earliest days. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA. in 1951 and his family moved to New York City in his teens. Lloyd knew at an early age that he was going to become a great guitarist, and pursued it since he was very young. His first public performance was age 17, sitting in with John Lee Hooker at the Jazz workshop on Boylston Street.
Lloyd formed the band Television in 1973. They recorded two albums, Marquee Moon and Adventure, before disbanding in 1978. As a debut release in 1977, Marquee Moon remains on lists of greatest guitar albums in rock-and-roll history. Since then (even though Television reformed), Lloyd has enjoyed a successful solo career, and is a passionate teacher of guitar, and also wrote a regular column for Guitar World Magazine. He has released six solo albums, including The Jamie Nevertz Story, a tribute to his hero Jimi Hendrix and dedicated to the memory of his friend Velvert Turner. Jamie Nevertz was the secret codename Velvert and Lloyd used for Jimi Hendrix to prevent the neighborhood kids from coming along on their visits.
How did Television form?
Richard Lloyd: I went to see Tom [Miller, ne Verlaine], and he had "it," like alchemical gold. I turned to Terry Ork, who worked for Andy Warhol making silk-screens in the night, I said, "He's got what I need, I've got what he needs." And we formed Television. I was the one who convinced Richard Hell to take up the bass again.
What was CBGB's like in the early days?
CBGBs was "Country, Bluegrass and Blues." And we made it the world's most famous rock 'n' roll club.
We started to rehearse in October, 1973, 5 - 6 days a week for 5 hours. We had to have a place to play. We thought of the Beatles in Hamburg and how driven they'd been by the club owners, 5 sets a night. 45 on, 15 off. We wanted a place like that. There weren't any places to play original music in New York at the time. You could only get a gig once every six months. To develop a sound, a band, we needed a dive. Someplace noone else would want that we could have. Tom walked down the Bowery every day. One day he passed Hilly, fixing the awning. He took me to see Hilly. Hilly didn't know beans. Terry Ork became the booker. Since he and I lived in Chinatown, Terry would defer to me and I would make the decisions. "Yes, Terry, this band has IT, and it has to be in heavy rotation." Like Talking Heads, The Ramones. If a band was duff, I'd say, "Look man, let them play, but it isn't going to happen for them." I have almost superhuman hearing, analyzation.
What was it like to see Jimi Hendrix perform for your first time?
It was like looking into a nuclear bomb. It was unearthly, unparalleled . . . nobody touched Jimi, H was from another planet, and I believe it.
How did you get into that show?
I was at a friend's house one afternoon, and we chipped in for some hash and were waiting for a friend to come back with it. The other guys were planning to tease Velvert about not knowing Hendrix. Then 10 minutes later the doorbell rang, and it was Velvert. I saw him and knew without a shadow of a doubt that he knew Hendrix. When the guys started riling on him, I told them to stop riling on him, he could know Hendrix.
All of a sudden Velvert said, "I know what! Hendrix has a show in town, he's here tonight!" He called up either the Waldorf or the Drake Hotel and asked for some other name. The guys laughed and said you didn't ask for Jimi Hendrix. You're fraudulent. Velvert said, "He doesn't book hotels under his own name. Do you think he wants you calling him?"
Suddenly the phone was handed to me, in the middle of the second ringing, someone picked up and I heard his inimitable voice say, "Hey, man. What's happenin', man? Uh, who is this." What was I supposed to say? Your best friend, Richard Lloyd? And that I want to get together? Well Christ, no. So I said Velvert's name and handed the phone to him.
Velvert returned and said Hendrix invited him to his show and could bring one person. Everyone raised their hands . . . Me! Meee! Me!!! I didn't raise my hand, I figured it was impolite. Velvert pointed his finger straight up, pirouetted a few times, dropped his finger and pointed, "I'm going to take YOU! I didn't wish for it, it came collaterally because I was the only person there with faith. We went to the show, near where the World Fair was in 1964. This was a little later, 1968 maybe. We got there late because we got off the L on the wrong side. Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company had already played.
The first thing I ever heard Jimi play was "Are You Experienced?" And it was on a revolving stage. When he did his solo, I felt like I was looking into the eye of a nuclear reactor.
Tell me about your learning guitar secondhand from Jimi Hendrix, via your friend Velvert who was taking lessons from him?
Jimi moved to New York for awhile in 1968 or '69 and got an apartment on West 12th Street very close to where I lived on Jane Street, a 7 to 8 minute walk. Velvert would go see Jimi at his apartment. Velvert first saw Jimi on TV and his mother couldn't understand why he was jumping up and down and freaking out and saying "Mom, I swear to God I know this guy from somewhere, and I have to meet him!" He managed to, and as soon as they met, they locked. Jimi took Velvert under his wing as a mentor. He taught him a lot of things, including guitar. After the lesson, he'd get to a payphone and call me and ask to come over. I said, "You can come over whenever you want!" So he'd come over, we'd pass the guitar back and forth and he'd show me what Jimi was teaching him.
Tell me how you viewed the Ramones when you first saw them.
Oh god, I knew right away. They'd start their songs 1-2-3-4! Then [rapid-fire drum beat]. Seeing them once, I already knew they were headed for the top. This wasn't at CBGBs. I told Terry and Hilly [bookers] "Look out! When this band asks to play here, I want them in heavy rotation." Cause Hilly didn't know a hill of beans. CBGBs would otherwise still be Country, Blues and Bluegrass. I saw them at the Performance Space on West 20th.
Tell me about your times with Keith Richards.
Keith and I were friends. That was after Television. Anita Pallenberg was brought to see Television, fell in love with the band and especially me. I had straw blonde hair. I guess I looked more Brian than Brian did, we hit it off right away. We were soulmates, soul friends, we still are. We'd go on adventures together. She was living in the city at the time, in the Carlyle. Then they moved to Connecticut, so I'd visit them there. That's where I met Keith. We chatted awhile and it was all good. I noticed there were no guitars. He said, "Sometimes I have to not, I have to play the family thing. All the instruments are in the barn. Wanna have a play?" So we jammed awhile in the kitchen, he showed me some of his stuff, I showed him some of mine, and we went back and forth for a while. It seemed like there was a lull and so I showed him my reggae song, and taught it to him. He wasn't quite getting the chorus, was trying to learn. Anita was looking at us owl-eyed. After she said, I don't believe that. You're only the second person I've ever seen - you told him what to do and he did it, tried to do it. I told her, "That's because I've got the shining. And so do you." Keith lives in the eye of a hurricane. It's peaceful there. So many people try to approach him and they get thrown about by the eye-wall.
Anita introduced my to Keith's mom, Karen, by saying "This is Richard Lloyd, he has a band called Television. They're going to be huge." And she said, "Well, you'll never be as good as my boy, Keith." I sat down and said, "Mrs. Richards, you're absolutely right. Nobody will ever be as big as your boy, Keith." We had a good chuckle over this. Later when I told Keith this, we nearly bust a gut laughing.
I understand John Lee Hooker whispered the secret of playing guitar in your ear when you were about 17 or 18. Tell me about that, and what the secret is.
I went to see him at the Jazz Workshop. He saw me and asked what I do. I said "I play electric guitar." "Are you good?" I said, "Maybe. I'm alright. I'm working on it." He said, "You're great! I see it! Now come over here and I'll tell you the secret of the electric guitar." He whispered in my ear, "All those cats playing 6-string guitar ain't worth nothing.' I'll tell you the secret. You take all the strings off but one. You play that one string up and down and down and up and bend it and shake it until the women go 'whoo.' You add the second string, do the same thing to both, up and down, down and up, bend them shake them until the women go 'whoo hoooo,' and the men go, 'Ahhh.' By the time you get to the sixth string, Richard, you'll be a master of electric guitar." Then he called me up to join them later that night.
I know you have a passion for teaching. What do you advise aspiring guitar students?
If they aren't studying with me, I'd tell them to listen to Ravi Shankar. Robert Johnson who made a deal at the crossroads. And Jimmy Page made a pact, and Jimi Hendrix came from outer space. And I came from a dusty star far away. What are you willing to give up, to be a great guitar player? Quit your jobs, live on the street if you have to. Make a vow. Cut all bridges behind you, until there's only one path in front of you, forward, and that is that you're desperate now, you're hungry now. People come to me and I teach. I want them to turn into sponges of understanding, so they leave wet footprints of music behind them as they walk, everything they look at is music.
Tell me about your approach to playing in Television.
All my heroes, the great bands, I count Television among them. You didn't know if they were gonna get to the end of the song successfully. You didn't know if they were going to have a trainwreck or collapse. Sometimes we'd play a song for 25 minutes, out of tune, only because we were digging for gold and wouldn't stop until we had plunged into some new territory and that's what I brought with me.
What do you plan to do for your shows at Nick and Eddie?
I'm going to play a couple Television songs, and a couple of songs from most of my records. Plus a lot of "The Radiant Monkey" record, a couple from "The Jamie Nevertz Story," which is the Jimi Hendrix covers record. I'll play electric and acoustic guitar, some poetry, maybe a capelo. Each night will be a different night, brand new.
Lloyd performs three nights at Nick and Eddie:
Wednesday, July 27, 9 - 11 p.m.
Sitting in with Curtiss A
Friday, July 29, 11:30 p.m.
With Curtiss A on bass; Freddie Votel on drums
Monday, August 1, 11:30 p.m.
As part of GenreBeast's eclectic music night in the warehouse
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