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Book Review: “Everything Is Combustible” by Richard Lloyd


lloydRichard Lloyd’s most notable accomplishment was being one of the dual guitars in Television,  arguably the first band to break big from the Noo Yawk Punk Rock scene in the mid ’70’s. I still think the two Television albums are really excellent guitar rock. Lloyd was indeed pivotal enough to help build the stage at CBGB where Television and many other, now storied acts like the Ramones and the Dead Boys headlined.

This is also the primary justification for his autobiography, a rather overlong and rambling work that reads like other Boomer accounts of youth misspent through interludes of substance abuse and mental illness. Speed, by William Burroughs, Jr., old Bill Lee’s tragic son, is a notable early example of the subgenre, the Boomer junkie confessional.  Lloyd had mental incidents from an early age and details a number of stints in one bin or another. Add to that his predilection for getting mind numbingly screwed up by any means necessary and you can see that he was a parents and teachers’ delight. Like many Boomers (raising my hand while I write this), Lloyd was excessively devoted to music and spent much time going (or trying to go) to shows in New York during the late ’60’s and early ’70’s and also learning the guitar. This was the most interesting part of the book for me, particularly when Lloyd discusses his experiences with Valvert, an oddball black kid from Harlem who actually did turn out to be super tight with Jimi Hendrix just like he claimed.

Most of the book is devoted to Lloyd’s history with Television. This ground was already covered to some extent in Richard Hell’s autobio that I’ve previously reviewed. Lloyd really didn’t add much, other than to corroborate that he doesn’t like Tom Verlaine either and for the same reason, namely Verlaine’s tendency to draw completely into himself. He also isn’t a big of fan of Hell, for reasons that I can understand. Like Hell’s autobio, Lloyd focuses on the protracted rounds of heavy drinking, hard drug abuse, and polyamorous sex he enjoyed back in the day, even getting so far into the weeds as to dispute Hell’s particular account about who did it to whom. For Pete’s sakes, guys! Will any of this really matter when we’re all dead in our graves?

This is probably my main problem with the book. Just as repeated experiences with hard drugs steadily wear off the edge and excitement, leaving only a dull, stupefied blur where individual events become difficult if not impossible to recall, Lloyd’s account of endless drinking and drug abuse is similar to a lot of other wastrel Boomer musician/celebrities’ bios to the point where much of the book wasn’t very memorable or interesting, particularly when Lloyd gets to his post-Television years. Lloyd’s distinct heavier-than-thou tone doesn’t help either. A self described “old soul,” Lloyd frequently takes a dismissive tone toward common human behaviors like mourning, pretty much saying “What fools these mortals be.” Coming from an admitted (recovering) drug addict and ex-mental patient, this is more than a little rich.

I recommend this book specifically to Television fans and generally to anyone interested in the ’70’s Noo Yawk Punk Rock scene on the Lower East Side.

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