Tom Verlaine’s Favorite Songs of All Time

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Punk may have come of age in New York City, but there’s a point to be made that it was actually born in Kentucky. It was there, in Lexington, that Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell grew up in the shadow of a brick-wrapped narcotics center known on the streets as Narco. This outcast fortress was frequented by artists like William S. Burroughs and housed a secret section of the counter-culture movement in the sleepy town on the doorstep of two young proto-punks playing with toy guns in nearby fields.

Eventually, in October 1966, Verlaine and Hell’s two young pals fled Lexington to find the permanent counterculture home rather than the repair center for the reckless few who crossed the line in one puff. For a few weeks, Tom ‘Verlaine’ Miller and his best friend made their way through the South on a winding path of faltering circumstances that will soon be cut short when they are apprehended by police. But from those early speculative steps into the no-mans-land of roaming adolescence, an attitude of independence was instilled in the daring 16-year-old duo, and like chickens with longevity-less ambitions, they were convinced that there was a better life for them outside of Kentucky.

In 1974, April 14e, their eventual group, Television, were booked to play one of the very first concerts at CBGB just a month after it opened. They picked up where the New York Dolls left off and helped spawn punk as we know it. At one of their first concerts, another proto-punk was in the audience working as a full-time reporter. That reviewer was Patti Smith and she wrote the headline, “Television: Escapees from Heaven”.

Subsequently, his punk harbinger track reads: “Confused sexual energy makes young men so desirable; their careless way of dressing; their strange way of walking; filled with so much desire. Just relentlessly adolescent. With that in mind at a time when they only had the New York Dolls and the Ramones for company, this young spirit was pretty much Promethean punk force.

However, what put Television aside was that they offered just a dose of adrenalized rock ‘n’ roll, there was a rich eclectic mix in their musical welterweight and this is certainly reflected in the selection that Tom Verlaine proposed as some of his all-time favorite tracks when he appeared as a guest DJ on NPR. Comprised of a host of personal highlights from his own career and the mix of records that inspired him, the list offers a unique insight into the music that inspires the founding guitarist and songwriter.

Verlaine’s choices primarily include contemporary classical music and cinematic scores showing how sound drama has always been at the forefront of his musical thought. For example, Bernard Herrmann’s flagship piece “Prelude and Outer Space” from the 1951 film The day the earth stood still is considered one of the most influential pieces of music in cinema, helping to establish the sounds we now think of as the space age. Considering that Verlaine helped create the sound of punk guitar and beyond, it’s clear to see how much he has an eye for sounds that crystallize something in a sonic way.

With the jazz of Charles Mingus and the contemporary classic of the Polish composer Henryk Górecki, it is clear that the musical complexity constructed in a highly listenable way is something that skyrockets in his own music. The guitar duels that made “Marquee Moon” one of the greatest punk songs of all time may seem millions of miles from Henry Mancini’s work on paper, but in reality, the tonal cacophony of pitching is a bold and searing style that the two artists share to bring unique energy to their songs.

And speaking of Verlaine’s own compositions, the star has picked out many of her favorite compositions from the past, from the instrumental guitar work of “The O of Adore” to her lyrical introspection on “The Day on You”. Unfortunately, for contractual reasons, some of these songs are not on Spotify, so they skip the playlist below.

Tom Verlaine’s favorite songs:

  • “Marquee Moon” by television
  • ‘Hog Callin’ Blues’ by Charles Mingus
  • “Second play” by Henryk Górecki
  • “These harbor lights” by Tom Verlaine
  • “Experience in Terror” by Henry Mancini
  • “The O to Adore” by Tom Verlaine
  • Bernard Herrmann’s “Prelude and Outer Space”
  • “The day on you” by Tom Verlaine


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