Remembering Tom Verlaine, the cult hero who reconfigured guitar and inspired generations of alt-rock players

Tom Verlaine
(Image credit: Roberta Bayley/Redferns)

Tom Verlaine, who died on January 28, 2023, had an approach to playing guitar that was never easy to describe. Post-punk, art rock, art punk, whatever; it was one of Verlaine’s great creative achievements that over three studio albums with Television, and a prolific solo career, he was able to unshackle his style from labels. Hard to define, sure, but you know it when you hear it. 

The sound he pioneered in Television, along with second guitarist Richard Lloyd, had a propulsive yet cerebral power, grandiose yet melancholy, intense yet epic. Based in New York City, where they regularly performed at legendary club CBGBs, Television had an energy and attitude which suggested punk. What came out the speakers, however, would challenge that conclusion. There was nothing quite like it.

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.