I don’t think I ever heard Marquee Moon by Television until around 1983 when it was played at one of the downstairs alt-disco at Strathclyde Students Union.  I recall it being one that the cool kids got up and danced to as well as some of the longer-haired hippy types who normally hung around in the hope of some Lynard Skynard or Blue Oyster Cult to which they could play along on air guitar.  That it attracted such a diverse group of dancers was of interest and of course it sounded great blasting out of the speakers.

I know I didn’t ever own a copy of the song until the late 90s when I bought a CD copy of the album of the same name.  It was a song up until then I’d only ever had on a hissy compilation C90 tape that a mate had put together for me back in the mid 80s and I was delighted at long last to have a decent quality copy to enjoy.

It came up on random shuffle the other day and prompted the idea of a posting.  That’s when my little bit of background research revealed that it had come out as a 7″ single in April 1977, entered the charts at #35, dropped out to #41 the week after, climbed back in again to #30 in week three before falling down to #40 and then totally out of the Top 50 after five weeks.  At just a shade under ten minutes in length, it was cut into two parts for the 7″ single and radio play – Part 1 being 3:13 and Part 2 being 6:45.  I’m thinking my hippy colleagues at the student union, if they owned a copy of the 7″, played Part 2 to death…..

In fact the original issue of the single was in 12″ format, which would have been one of the first of its type as it was around ’77 that the 12″ singles, primarily to extend disco numbers, really took off.  Wiki explains that the first 25,000 copies were on 12″ with a stereo version of the song on one side and a mono version on the other and only later copies were made as 7″ singles.

It’s an extraordinary piece of music and it’s quite hard to get your head around the fact that it’s almost 40 years old. It’s a song as the dance floor of the early 80s indicated is one that the post-punks and the guitar purists would like to each claim as their own and there’s not too many tunes out there can do that.  What is clear is that it had a huge influence on the playing and recording of many emerging bands and artists, not least Talking Heads and Elvis Costello

mp3 : Television – Marquee Moon

That’s the full 10:40 version for you folks.





  1. One of my all time favorite tunes for sure, but this post surprises me. I’ve listened to MM thousands of times, even learned to play some of the guitar lines, but NEVER once thought of it as a song anyone could DANCE to. Also, I never knew that Television influenced either Talking Heads or Elvis Costello. Talking Heads and Television were contemporaries on the downtown scene and certainly knew each other, but I can’t hear any influences. Costello supported the Voidoids in NYC in ’78, which featured original TV bassist Richard Hell, but I never detected any influences there, either. EC famously played a Jazzmaster like Tom Verlaine, but not comparably. (Legend has it that TV built the stage at CB’s, where the Heads and EC later played, but that’s about it.)
    Still, one of the best songs ever recorded and a great source of pride to all New Yorkers. Maybe I should try to dance to it, if only for the hilarity of my wife.

  2. A classic. I remember getting the 12″ with a stereo version on one side and a mono on the other, and a pal had the 7″ with the song split over both sides. The original album and single versions both faded about the ten minute mark, and when I first played the cd version I was gobsmacked at the extra few seconds. Nothing was said about it, and I wonder if the label didn’t realise what they had done?

  3. Television suffer from their legend as much as they benefit from it. For all the talk of them being a founding band of NYC Punk/New Wave, on record you could be forgiven for thinking they had a bit more in common with The Grateful Dead at times than angry young men. But Television’s music was complex. It IS a new sound, a band tearing up conventions of blues, rock and pop and pasting them back together in a musical picture that suited them. They were truly DIY in that they chose to follow no one else’s path. They may have been contemporaries of other well know Downtown/CBGB’s bands like the Talking Heads, Ramones and Blondie, but don’t discount the influence they had on those bands and in return those bands had on Television.
    Just to be different – or so I’ve been accused – I am a bigger fan of Marquee Moon’s follow up Adventure.

  4. I was probably more thinking that the pace and rhythm of Marquee Moon influenced Elvis and The Heads to look at new wave/post punk as not needing to be 100mph to be effective and popular.

    You can dance to any song Jonny…..for this one I’d keep the feet movement to a minimum and concentrate instead on moving the neck muscles and shoulder blades!!

    Love how you associate this being a source of pride to NYC. Here’s a challenge…… ICA that is so NYC rather than coming from any one band or singer….

    It’s up to you…………………..

  5. There’s a very good “New York Rock at the Beeb” available on BBC iPlayer at the moment, starts with New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Ramones, Televison (Foxhole), Talking Heads, Blondie . . . Lou Reed, John Cale . . . works for me as a video ICA

  6. Television are a bit of a Marmite band, either loved or hated. At the height of punk, John Lydon sarcastically compared them to the Grateful Dead, and The Damned, who had a run in with Television on an American Tour,and did an imitation/piss-take of them on their Music For Pleasure album with a song called Idiot Box (geddit?).
    However, their influence was acknowledged when the smarter punks realised you couldn’t do 3 chord rama-lama ad infinitum without getting a tad predictable, err..except for The Ramones who made a career out of it. Subsequent post-punkers and indie types went on to praise Televisions influence, such as Julian Cope, Lloyd Cole (distantly related to Tom Verlaine apparently), The Rain Parade, and don’t forget The Strokes, who managed to sound like a dozen classic NYC bands sometimes in one song.
    Also I agree with David Martin re only hearing the song Marquee Moon in it’s entirety for the first time on CD after years of suffering the edit on 12” vinyl,and the vinyl album, a joy similar to hearing to the end of A House Is Not A Motel by Love when I got Forever Changes on CD, after years of hearing it cut out mid-guitar solo on vinyl. Can anyone think of other songs that suffered a vicious vinyl editing, only to be freed to it’s full length once it was released on CD?

  7. The Fourth Bardo: ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again’ was actually truncated when Bob Dylan’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’ initially appeared on CD, though it was later reinstated in full when technology allowed for a longer total running time. Conversely, when 1978’s ‘Street Legal’ was remastered in 1999, ‘Changing of the Guards’ gained a previously unheard 23 seconds. I can’t overstate how important these shenanigans were to us Bobcats!

  8. The Swede: Yes I know all about the anally-retentative leanings of the Bobcat! After all, bootlegs were invented in order to put unreleased Dylan tracks out into the world, why stick with one version of any of his songs, when you can get a gazillion other (slightly different) versions too! 😉

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