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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Television's guitar hero Richard Lloyd brings fire to new memoir

Beech Hill Publishing

Richard Lloyd, wih Tom Verlaine, formed one of the great lead guitar duos in rock history in the unique, pioneering mid-1970s CBGB/punk rock band Televison.

Now the multi-talented, self-described “autodidactic polymath” recounts those days of yesteryear as well as the days that preceded and succeeded them in his just published memoir ​Everything is Combustible: Televison, CBGB’s and Five Decades of Rock and Roll--also including the combustion caused when he and a friend “blew up” the friend’s parents’ Chinese laundry.

Lloyd was only 11 then, but in Everything is Combustible, he goes all the way back to Day One.

“The book starts when I was born,” says the brainy guitarist.

“I remember it—and not many people do [remember when they were born]. Some don’t believe my stories, but they’re all true. If you only tell the truth, you remember everything [because] it’s only one story line. But if you begin to lie, all the strands of your story have to hold up, and it’s like a bad set of Legos—they don’t fit together properly.”

Lloyd notes that he’s always told stories.

“People have asked me to write a book, and everybody else is writing a book, so I thought I’d do a book of vignettes,” he says, and sure enough, Everything is Combustible is made up of a prologue and 69 chapters, a section of “outtakes,” an appendix of poems, a discography and a foreword by music writer Bill Flanagan.

Lloyd began writing the book four years ago, and after developing carpel tunnel syndrome, employed a sophisticated voice recognition software system.

“It could handle 120 words a minute spoken into a computer, so the book is very conversational,” he says. “I spent a year looking for an editor after everyone said I was a good enough writer and didn’t need a co-writer.”

After his birth in Pittsburgh, the book chronicles Lloyd’s early life and move to New York City, where he encountered such music legends as Buddy Guy, Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin and especially Jimi Hendrix.

“There’s a lot of Hendrix stuff,” says Lloyd. He relates a funny story in the book of sitting in with blues great John Lee Hooker’s band in 1970 at a jazz workshop in Boston: “I was so nervous, you could have put cymbals between my knees and I could have played percussion!”

And of course, Everything is Combustible covers the life and times of Television and the New York punk rock scene it was so much a part of, as well as his solo album output and work with such artists as Matthew Sweet, John Doe and Robert Quine. Along the way he examines his influential approach to the guitar, and his drug addiction, recovery and spirituality.

Television's classic “See No Evil”

A devotee of spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff, Lloyd previously wrote the foreword to John Lennon: Harmony Out of Pain, by Gurdjieff pupil Joseph Azize. Everything is Combustible includes an appendix entitled “Meeting Mr. Gurdjieff”; Lloyd also contributed an article, “Gurdjieff and My Ordinary Life,” for David Kherdian’s Gurdjieff-related A Stopinder Anthology: Volume 2, and was a regular columnist with Guitar World magazine, where his “Alchemical Guitarist” reflected his belief in the alchemist slogan “one book opens another.”

But besides writing, Lloyd has also been active in painting. Having sold over 100 paintings over the last three years—including a portrait commissioned by fellow CBGB/punk rock originators Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads—he’s now looking at sharing an artist space in his current hometown of Chattanooga.

“I have massive synesthesia,” says Lloyd, speaking of the perceptual condition in which stimulation of one sense affects another, such as the ability to “see” sound and “hear” colors.

“I played a symphony recording and saw dancing,” he continues, “but I’m way into colors. I have a lot of color studies, geometric shapes and ‘imaginary’ still lifes. Some are abstract, some are almost cartoon-y.”

And as for what brung him here in the first place, Lloyd remains active in music.

“I’m playing a lot now,” he says, in New York for a gig with his four-piece last Friday night at Bowery Electric, to return for another Dec. 2 at the Bowery Ballroom. He also has two shows in December opening for Dream Syndicate.

Next year will bring a new album, following up on Rosedale from 2015—that album’s title denoting the town in Mississippi where blues guitar master Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his guitar prowess.

Also forthcoming is a second printing of Everything is Combustible, the first having already sold out. Paperback, Kinder and iBook versions are due in December, and Lloyd is preparing to record an audiobook of it as well.

“We were on tour once and listened to the whole eight-disc audiobook of The Illiad,” says Lloyd. “We couldn’t wait to get back in the van to find out what happened next!”



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