THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Television – “Venus”.
Richard Meyers and Tom Miller were two misfit kids who attended the same boarding school in Delaware; both had a fondness for beat poetry, rock & roll, and annoying the school’s staff, and one day they decided to run away and hit the road in search of adventure. While hitchhiking through Alabama en route to Florida, they started a fire in an open field that attracted the attention of the police; Miller told the cops they were trying to stay warm, while Meyers said he just liked to watch things burn. Miller’s parents sent him back to school, while Meyers ended up in New York City.
Years later, Meyers would reinvent himself as Richard Hell. Miller would change his name to Tom Verlaine, and they formed a band called the Neon Boys, which would eventually evolve into Television.
Hell didn’t last long enough into Television’s career to record with the group, but in a small way he did make his presence felt on the song “Venus,” which briefly touches on Richard and Tom’s reckless past, as Verlaine sings “Richard said, ‘Hey, man, let’s dress up like cops/Think of what we could do!’/But something/Something/Said, ‘You better not.'”
It’s perhaps the song’s most lucid moment; as a lyricist, Verlaine is often an impressionist, striving for mood over literal meaning, but this brief burst of conscience (and the remarkable image that lends the song the title, where he declares “I fell right into the arms/Of Venus De Milo”) serves as an relevant counterpoint to the stylish nihilism that Richard Hell made his stock in trade in his own band, Richard Hell and the Voidoids.