Former Television guitarist talks about writing books without typing and getting punched by Jimi Hendrix
Richard Lloyd was born in Pittsburgh but spent his teens in New York City, where he got his rock 'n' roll education via local clubs.
“I was like a sponge. It gets a certain amount of liquid in it, and then it's saturated. I pretty well saturated myself. … It's such a rich period in anyone's life, those teenage years,” said Lloyd recently by phone from his home in Chattanooga, Tennessee — a city that offered a reprieve from the fast pace of New York when he moved there two years ago. (“There's no pace here. Zero pace,” he said.)
Early on, Lloyd, who would go on to play guitar in seminal proto-punk act Television, figured out that musicians would let a teenage guitarist stick around on one condition. “I kept my mouth shut,” he said. “You can stay in the back room or the dressing room longer if you're nice and quiet. I was always a quiet guy. … I looked like a baby. I was this little kid there. I was just absorbing energies.”
Through a happenstance friendship, Lloyd learned to play guitar from Jimi Hendrix. Sort of. In the late '60s, Lloyd met a kid from Brooklyn named Velvert Turner who claimed to not only know Hendrix — he said Hendrix gave him guitar lessons. No one believed Turner except Lloyd, who would practice with Turner and absorb the legendary guitarist's lessons secondhand.
Soon enough, Lloyd found himself at a show alongside Hendrix, but this time he couldn't keep his mouth shut. “The first time I talked to Jimi I ended up getting punched by him,” Lloyd said. “We were all very drunk. That's just the way it goes. I thought it was a wonderful thing … an honor — a lot like Keith Richards getting punched by Chuck Berry.”
Lloyd, 66, recounts this story and others in his book, Everything is Combustible, a series of vignettes that encompasses everything from his childhood, Television's role in the CBGB-centered New York punk scene of the mid-1970s, his battles with drug addiction and the spirituality undergirding his experiences.
“I've been telling stories for a long, long time. ... I've got a photographic memory. I have a good aural memory, too. I can remember what people said 40, 50 years ago,” said Lloyd, who loved language from an early age. “I read the dictionary as it if was a novel. It was very exciting to me. I read the Encyclopedia Britannica. I loved to read.”
He did not, however, love to type. “I learned typing in high school and I hated it, and I hate it now,” he said. “[Everything is Combustible] was about 10 years in the writing all together, and I did it with no typing. I did it completely orally with voice recognition software.”
While Television was instrumental in creating the punk scene, the band's now-legendary 1977 debut album, Marquee Moon, is a far cry from the punk rock of a band like the Sex Pistols, which released its debut across the pond that same year. Television hinged on the interplay between guitarists Lloyd and Tom Verlaine. Their tense, spiky riffs laid the groundwork for post-punk acts to come.
Lloyd's love of a good pop song came through in Television and later in his solo albums, starting with 1979's Alchemy. In 2009 he released The Jamie Neverts Story, a collection of Jimi Hendrix covers that's indebted to Velvert Turner as much as Hendrix.
“I wanted to do [Hendrix's] shorter songs with Chas Chandler, not the guitar hero stuff like ‘Voodoo Child' or ‘Machine Gun,'” he said. “I did all stuff from his first and second record. It was a hell of a lot of fun and very pop-oriented. I love that stuff. His second record is probably my favorite record. If I had to only take one [record] into outer space, I would take that one.”
Lloyd said he and his band will play songs from all throughout his career when they visit Ace of Cups on Sunday, Aug. 19. He's also set to release a new, 10-track solo album in November on Plowboy Records. “It's called The Countdown,” he said. “It's the first record in 18 years that I didn't engineer myself.”
Despite previous and forthcoming solo albums, Lloyd is often billed as “Richard Lloyd of Television.” But the guitarist doesn't mind being forever associated with the band he played in as a young man.
“It's where I made my mark. I can't cut off my nose to spite my face,” he said. “I've done a lot since then. It's not the whole of my life; it's just an enormously big chapter. That first record, Marquee Moon, still sells. I'll never get away from that. It's not an albatross. It's just a period of time where I did something important.”