Happy Birthday, Fred Smith of Television

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Happy Birthday, Fred Smith of Television

When discussing seminal musicians named Fred Smith, one has to be very, very specific, so as not to leave anyone confused as to which one you’re talking about, so let’s underline this with a big, thick marker: today is the birthday of Fred Smith, best known as the bassist for Television.

(For the record, Fred “Sonic” Smith, the late MC5 guitarist, was born on September 14. But, again, we’re not talking about him today.)

Born in New York in 1948, Smith’s tenure with Television actually came on the heels of his stint as the original bassist for Blondie. Both bands regularly played at CBGBs, and when Richard Hell departed the ranks of Television in favor of helping to form the Heartbreakers – and, later, the Voidoids – Smith stepped in to fill his spot. (That’s when Gary Valentine joined Blondie, FYI.) While Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd often tend to be seen as the “stars” of the band, inasmuch as such an unabashed cult band like Television can have “stars,” Smith proved to be a top-notch utility player, serving admirably throughout the band’s history as well as on various solo albums from Verlaine and Lloyd.

In the late ‘80s, Smith did a few years with the Fleshtones as well, but he continues to be predominantly known for his work with Television, which 9 out of 10 rock critics and record store employees will tell you is not in any way a bad thing. If you spent more time watching television than listening to Television, though, Smith’s birthday seems like as good a day as any to remedy that situation, and we’ve put together the perfect way to do it: just give a listen to this playlist, which includes Television’s first two albums, a few selections from Verlaine’s and Lloyd’s solo albums that feature Smith’s contributions, and – to close things out on a fun note – a live cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”