June 14, 2021

Richard Lloyd, psychotic, tramp, butcher …: “I am a survivor”


If we say that the memories of Richard Lloyd (Pittsburgh, 1951) are incredible, we say it literally. It is not a value judgment, it is that this story would be impossible to digest in a novel, a series or a movie. However, as the Television guitarist has called memories to what counts in «Inflammable Material» (Contra), we will do as we should, distrust the memory, and assume that half of what counts is a lie. Does not matter. It remains an amazing, unreal story. «I don’t know if I have lived the same life 100 times or if every time I woke up I became a new person. I have spent many years inside my body and I have also managed to get out of it, ”Lloyd tells the phone from the United States in a cavernous voice and slow diction.

Lloyd learned to live by experimenting. By depriving himself of sight, speech or hearing, electrocuting to feel it, consuming whatever was within his reach, playing with his breath like an amateur yogi. Until he once decided to “experiment” and throw the arsenal of legal pads of his parents by the toilet and announce that he had taken them to commit suicide. The result was dramatic: he knew the honeys of the psychiatric treatment of the sixties and became completely manic when they tried to cure him exactly the supposed dementia. Psychoactive drugs and tranquilizers in vein, insulation, padded walls and electroshock were some of the “remedies” that were applied. “That was the beginning of a psychotic history that will reappear later when I start abusing drugs and lack of sleep,” Lloyd recalls about what should have been the diagnosis of his bipolarity and was actually a cruelty clash. «I opted for self-medication with the drugs that were known to me: marijuana, hashish, barbiturates and inhalants», which only increased his manic depressive disorder.

Awesome anecdotes

Upon leaving the asylum his main mission in life was to become a guitarist and along the way the most amazing anecdotes will happen, such as receiving Jimi Hendrix’s advice to play the guitar by an interposed person (his friend Verlvert Turner) and after fitting himself Fists of the author of “Purple Haze” three hooks one night that Lloyd tried to breathe confidence. He says, after the attack happened, Hendrix waited for him inside his Corvette parked on the street to apologize sobbing. Or the night he slipped into the backstage of John Lee Hooker, who also gave him a puncture class and also invited him to go out to play during his concert without having a clue as to what he was doing. And when he supplied hashish to Robert Plant, but the young Lloyd vomited in the dressing room and the rest of the night the singer ran out of cost. Or his encounters with Keith Moon, Buddy Guy and his friendship with Keith Richards, all worked before even forming Television. The author attributes these encounters to a “magical realism” of his thinking. «I have told these stories so many times that I decided to write the book, grouping the anecdotes that lasted a couple of pages and spinning them at the end», says the guitarist, who feels «free to write them. I no longer need to remember them. But I have so many that I have not counted to write a second volume ».

He attended Woodstock just because he wanted to see Ravi Shankar. Then he was a tramp, traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles and, after trying homosexual relationships, he sought life as a chapero. In Los Angeles and in New York. Once, working as a prostitute near the Hollywood Bookstore, he was gunned down. «I used to go a lot with Dee Dee and I think he is the one I loved most of all the Ramones. We had both worked as chaperos in the corner of 53 with the third, but we never crossed, so it was fun to find out that we had that in common, ”he writes in the volume notes.

In New York, when Television was in an embryonic phase, they were looking for a place to play. A shabby club had just opened the doors with the goal of programming country, blue grass and blues. The acronym of those genres is CBGB, and the day that its new owner, Hilly Krystal, was placing the iconic awning with the new (and a bit shabby) letters of the name uploaded to a ladder, it was interrupted by Lloyd and Terry Ork, manager of TV. Krystal refused four times to play there on the grounds that “no rock”. Only country and blues. Finally, because they could be very heavy, he granted them Sunday to make their noise, but asked for help in order to decide where to set the stage. Up to that point will be Lloyd involved with the local and with the foundations of the city’s punk-rock scene. Soon it will be who programs the performances of the room, such as the first Talking Heads or the Ramones, among many. “There are those who have suggested that the success of CBGB and Television was a mere matter of being in the right place at the right time, and that irritates me because they are banalizing my level of involvement, of which they hardly know anything,” says Lloyd, who is not tired of talking about it: «It is like having lived a war. Be part of you And you can say that I am a survivor ».

There was a unique mix of elements. A perfect combination of artists, desire and lack of prejudice. Although speaking of chemists, what was on Television was not exactly good. Tom Verlaine, “de facto” leader of the group, is shown, in Lloyd’s account, arrogant (he tries to sign himself as Television and keep the name of the group) and disgusting (he dresses like a homeless man and carries everything in bags plastic) in equal parts. The band disbanded in 1978 and reunited from 1992 to 2007. Lloyd says that, just before founding the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren offered to be the group’s manager, who wore torn shirts subject to safety pins. He says it was theirs who copied the dress for his future group in England. “He could have made us millionaires,” he laments. But Tom Verlaine said no.

In the coming years, and after the short career of Television, the guitarist became an Olympic junkie. All, we insist, all legal and illegal drugs passed through the filter of that organism. «Yes, well, all until I disengaged in 1983, of course. That is why I have never tried ecstasy, for example, ”the musician ironicly regrets. He shared the best substances with Keith Richards, chemically pure drugs that separated the soul from his body. After an indeterminate number of hours and grams, they both collapsed like boqueous carcasses. And there is also the old story of trying to unhook the needle with a cocktail of pills. “I’ve had a few overdoses,” he confesses in the book, and recounts waking up in the hospital after a dead time.

Abandonment problems

A million anecdotes are left out of these lines to which more implausible than hallucinating memories. But with some tragicomedy, of course: «When I was younger, I lived in extreme poverty and had a mental illness. He was neurotic and sometimes psychotic. I realized that I was waiting for a woman to save me (…). It was a replica of some abandonment problems that I never overcame, ”he acknowledges. On the phone, from the present, Lloyd knows, like the Buddhists, that suffering is inevitable. And what is the cause? “Identification,” he says slowly. With my guitar, for example, with the book I wrote, with my glasses, with my phone, with Richard Lloyd. Everything is a theater. I play the role of Richard and you play yours. You have to explore what it means to be alive, who am I? what am I supposed to do? These are good questions to face, and … well, I’ve done writing. Well, this is the story of a guy who constantly pushed himself against the limit.

Although his contribution as a creator to the history of music may have been relevant but modest, without him things would not have happened the same. His role was decisive in the formation of a scene, that of New York, which made history. In the memoirs they tell how Television is given the joke that Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground) is going to his concert with a tape recorder to steal some ideas. Before starting, Lloyd confronts him: “Lou, you can’t record us without permission.” He denies he has a tape recorder, but they discover it. He says he has no tape, although he wears it. «You have to give it to us. Then we will return it to you ». Whether the anecdote is true (there is no reason to doubt it) or invented, it is delicious. Lloyd does not feel nostalgic. “Absolutely. I think the CBGB just closed and it’s fine. That was over and something else came. Times change and miss it would be a free suffering, it would become a prisoner of those memories, identify with it and be that, be past. Many people come and tell me that it is a great shame that it is over, but I do not feel the slightest sadness or melancholy. This is how popular music is written ».

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