Everything Is Combustible: Television, CBGBs and Five Decades of Rock and Roll By Richard Lloyd, 398 pgs.

Nov 22, 2017

Richard Lloyd is primarily known as one of the two guitarists for Television. I’ve never taken the time to get into the band beyond a few songs but was familiar with Lloyd and Television’s importance in punk music history. Lloyd does a fine job of exploring his particular take on the scene through a book of what he calls “stories spoken aloud in the tradition of oral storytelling.” I can see these tales being told by Lloyd to a group of friends in an exciting, ­“can-you-believe-this?” way. There are stories about his frequent experiences with Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and people from the ’70s punk scene in New York City. I enjoy reading the adventures of bands from 1970s punk because the musicians often write in a way that puts the reader in the scene and lets them know how exciting and fresh the environment was.

Lloyd has some great tales which kept me turning pages, but he is his own worst enemy as a writer by doing quite a bit to take the reader out of the setting. As a reader, I had a number of concerns. The material people want to read about is Television and Lloyd’s experiences with punk music. We instead read extensively about his childhood, with material related to the band not coming into play until almost page 170. In most cases, Lloyd tells and doesn’t show us what happened.

Early on, Lloyd mentions how he can recall memories from when he was one, two, and three years of age. He claims to have an “eidetic memory.” However, scientific studies have shown we can’t retain experiences from that time. Thus, if an author is sharing things from the start of the book that are difficult to believe, why should I accept the other things he tells me? In addition, I had trouble with his timeline—events were occasionally told out of order and he claimed to have gone into the World Trade Center at a time before it would’ve been built.

At 398 pages, this book is longer than it should be. The tales can at times draw the reader in. However, Everything Is Combustible is a perfect example of the need for a good editor. They would’ve helped sculpt this into something with more punch, where the stories of CBGBs heyday would’ve captured the reader instead of being just a few chapters thrown into the midst of hard-to-believe tales, philosophical ponderings, and stories about all the women with whom Lloyd has had sex. –Kurt Morris (Beech Hill, PO Box 40, Mount Desert, ME 04660)