Friday, November 18, 2016

40 Year Itch : The King of the Lower East Side

Richard Hell : Blank Generation

On November 18, 1976 Richard Hell and the Voidoids made their CBGBs debut. For the former bass player of Television and then The Heartbreakers--the man whose torn clothes held together by safety pins inspired UK punk fashion--this was the beginning of the peak of his musical career:

"I still remembered what I was there for and I has the means to express it," he writes in his memoir I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp. "One could say I'd been good, as well as happy, for five minutes in the Neon Boys/Television, ten minutes in The Heartbreakers and I would be happy and good for twenty minutes in the Voidoids" .

November would also see the release of the Ork label EP "Another World", which featured one of his punk anthems "Blank Generation", written way back before the Television days and the title cut of his upcoming Sire Records debut. You can't overestimate the importance of the brilliant guitarist Robert Quine's offbeat guitar lines on any of the Voidoids recordings. 

It wasn't enough for Hell to be part of the CBGBs "new sensibilities" scene. He considered himself its lynchpin:

Patti (Smith) was the only other writer/performer/conceptualist/bandleader who rivaled me in that way. She was more charismatic than me and a better performer and drew bigger crowds but she was also full of shit in many ways, and a hypocritical, pandering diva, and her band was generic and mediocre.

I was full of shit in many ways too, and self-important, and uneven musically, but I had endless ideas and vision that had been central to shaping everything that went into making up the culture and style, musically and otherwise,  of CBGB and naturally that music and culture and style excited me, since I had been responsible for originally expressing a lot of it, and just as naturally that culture like me back.  I sometimes felt like the king of the Lower East Side...

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