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Interview: Richard Lloyd on CBGB, Pringles

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Interview: Richard Lloyd on CBGB, Pringles

Richard Lloyd

Richard Lloyd has always found himself aligned with rock and roll. The guitarist and founding member of Television’s most recent solo release is entitled Lodestones: Nuggets from the Vault, and contains previously unreleased songs from throughout his career. Lloyd will play Indianapolis on Friday, May 25 at The Melody Inn. I spoke with him about getting started at CBGB’s, the lodestone and the finer aspects of Pringles.

NUVO: Before I was going to interview you, I obtained a lodestone.

Richard Lloyd: Wait a minute you obtained a lodestone? You either went, or bought, or someone gave you an authentic lodestone? Oh my god. Well, historically, the Chinese used to chip a tiny sliver off and float it on water. You know that water sticks to itself, so there’s surface tension on water. If you can get a sliver of lodestone that’s light enough that it won’t break, you can place it on water and you’ll have a compass. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a record of mine called Field of Fire.

NUVO: Yes, you dedicated that to the lodestone, right?

LLOYD: Yes, dedicated to the lodestone, which in my mind gave it a fairy tale. It’s in your pocket, right? Nobody else needs to know you have it. And because you have it, you know the correct direction. Now you have a compass, an internal-like compass.

NUVO: You released your unreleased cassettes and called the album Lodestones. Do you feel that these songs represent different periods of freedom you had?

LLOYD: Of course. Field of Fire came at the end of my drug addiction period. I had been going, since I was a teenager, in the wrong direction. When I decided to become a musician, I wanted two things out of it: I wanted to become a world renowned guitarist and I wanted to make an impact on the history of rock and roll. And I accomplished both of those things. Through my involvement with a band called Television, and our tenure as a house band at a dump called CBGB’s, I got my wish. You know that song where Ringo (Starr) sings, “One sweet dream came true?” Well, that’s what happened to me.

NUVO: Television is often associated with the punk movement of the ‘70s. Punk means something different now. Then it was a popularized term that meant “against the grain” — it was a different kind of rock. How do you feel about the way people perceive punk today, is it even relative to what it meant then, or do you even care about the title?

LLOYD: No, we never cared. Here’s the problem: If you played original music you could only get a gig about twice a year opening for some traveling act. We needed a place to play to sort of develop — an out-of-the-way place. One day I went up with Tom Verlaine and we saw Hilly (Kristal) and he was up on his step ladder fixing the awning that said CBGB’s. And we said, “Hey, are you going to have music?” and he said, “Yep.” And we said, “Well what kind of music?” When he hammered in his last nail or whatever, he came down and said, “CBGB stands for country, blue grass, and blues.” And we said, “What does the ‘OMFUG’ mean?” because it was CBGB & OMFUG. And he said, “It stands for ‘Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers.’” A gormandizer is technically the opposite of a gourmet. A gormandizer will argue over which are the better Pringles. Or which are the best Twinkies.

He took us into the bar and he had the world’s biggest collection of neon signs overhead. At the end of ’73 you can imagine what rock was then — arena rock. We had to convince him to let us play there. The next day I went back with our manager and he asked, “What’s your best night money wise?” “It’s a bar, so Saturday.” “What’s your worst night?” “Sunday — sometimes I don’t even open.” So Terry (Ork) said, “Look, let my band play on a Sunday and I will guarantee you that you will equal or make more money at the bar than you do on a Saturday because I am friends with a lot of people, and everyone I’ll invite is an alcoholic.”

Anyway, we played CBGB and each one of us earned one dollar. Other bands started to hear about shows, and started to show up. We were all different. Journalists started writing about us and they didn’t know what to call us. John Holmstrom started this magazine and called it Punk Magazine. He embraced the CBGB scene. Bands like us and the Talking Heads thought, “We’re not ‘punk’ rock.” I would say that we were alien, teenage hobos with guitars. Runaway children with guitars who find themselves together on a flying saucer and say, oh we might as well start a band.

I remember watching The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and I remember the phenomena — the worldwide energy. The kind of energy that you only really see in war. It turned into the psychedelic era of the ‘60s, the hippies, the yippies, the dippies, the whatever. And here was this new genre — the punk movement. And we were at the head of it. I remember hating the name Beatles, you know writing ‘Beat’ instead of ‘Beet’. But the music made the name, not the other way around