Even with an acknowledgment that the guitar crossroads intersect and break and branch through Jimi Hendrix, there’s not an over-regard for Hendrix’s impact on New York punk in the 1970s. But, in his quick transition from darling of the London psychedelic blues scene back to an American identity, in an atmosphere where racial politics and music were increasingly conflated in the funk and jazz musics of the late 1960s, Hendrix was central in the rise of a “street” culture that demanded a breaking of barriers of race and class. While he outraged critics with his national anthem at Woodstock, he inspired a generation who saw in it both brutal truth and lovely homage, and as he spent his last summer building his Electric Lady studio in Greenwich Village, his presence as a New Yorker was inspiring to the small cadre of poets, visual artists, and musicians who would evolve into the New York punk scene. To the members of the band that would become Television, Hendrix was proof that the electric guitar could continue to break ground, and that to do that you had to be uncompromising (this is probably the real ethic that links Hendrix to the punks).
It could certainly be argued that Television’s classic album Marquee Moon, a monument of guitar virtuosity that inspired players of all genres, is hardly a punk album in the same sense that, say, Ramones is a punk album. But they both represent a culture that was inclusive enough to count among its members Lou Reed, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls, Blondie, and Talking Heads, and that inspired some of England’s most established progressive rock musicians, particularly Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, and Robert Fripp. Marquee Moon‘s title song is representative of the record as a whole: guitarists Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine intertwine their playing like a Picasso-esque version of Duane and Dicky, it’s all angles, and with a dry production that lets Billy Ficca’s drums and Fred Smith’s bass pop in the mix. As well, Verlaine’s approach to singing was revolutionary for its time, his high, nervy vocal delivering its Bowery poetics atop the killer riffs. Both arty and danceable, this is the rock and roll truth, and, working within and at times breaking the boundaries and burdens of Hendrix’s legacy, it again transformed the possibilities and future of guitar-based music.
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