Television – Little Johnny Jewel

14th January 2022 · 1970s, 1976, Music, Punk

Television produced one of the foundation stones of punk with their debut single Little Johnny Jewel, released in 1976.

I remember buying this single – 7-inch vinyl with no middle, on the Ork label – at the Rough Trade record shop in Notting Hill.

That’s where we used to hang out on a Saturday, right around the corner from Ginger Dave’s patchouli-scented stall at 253 Portobello Road where I used to buy bootleg LPs from under the counter.

Little Johnny Jewel was recorded back in 1974 and released in 1976 but I’m not sure when it arrived here on import. I know I snapped it up as soon as I heard about it.

It’s one of the small handful of records (Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers is another) recorded in early 1974 that lit the fuse for punk.

Part 1 is on the A-side and the second half of the song, helpfully titled Part 2, appears on… you guessed… the B-side. I’m pretty sure it’s in Mono, though I will have to dig it out to check.

The label, formed in August 1975, was the brainchild of a former Warhol acolyte called Terry Ork, and this was its first release.

Television had formed in 1974 after bass guitarist Richard Hell left the group he and guitarist Tom Verlaine formed with drummer Billy Ficca in the early 1970s – previously called Neon Boys.

The second Ork single would be by Richard Hell himself. After seeing The Ramones and Patti Smith, I bought both of them, along with Patti Smith’s first single Piss Factory / Hey Joe (with Verlaine on guitar), eager to dig into the New York roots of the emerging punk scene in London.

With hindsight it’s funny to think that Little Johnny Jewel was an early punk artifact because in one way it’s so un-punk – it’s slow and rambling and features an extended guitar solo by Tom Verlaine – but in another way it’s quintessentially punk, because it’s so lo-fi and DIY and ramshackle.