Loving A Voidoid

Richard Meyers of Lexington, Kentucky, has been many things in his lifetime; poet, musician, punk, junkie, author, actor, artist - all of them under the nom de plume; Richard Hell. One of the very few modern icons worthy of comparison with Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Burroughs or Ginsberg – Hell’s poetry was set to music – a kind of music they called punk rock.

Richard Hell’s recording career may well have been brief, but his influence has lasted far longer. Across The Neon Boys, Television, The Heartbreakers & The Voidoids – Hell stamped his trademark vision & left a size 10 footprint on the face of rock & roll. Misunderstood, misquoted, misinterpreted & mysterious – Richard Hell is the embodied spirit of the true nihilist maverick. Allegedly approached by McLaren to front the Sex Pistols when they were merely an idea in the back of his black leather valise - Hell declined - McLaren ripped his image right of off his back anyhow – if I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby. Johnny Rotten owes more than the spelling of his Christian name to the ghosts of NYC.

2002, & Hell is on sale again; "Time" (Matador) - a revamped vershun of the 1984 cassette only ROIR release; "RIP", is a two-CD set featuring rare, raw &vintage Hell performances. The first disc features 4 demos recorded during Hell’s stay in the original Heartbreakers; "Love Comes In Spurts", "Chinese Rocks", "Can’t Keep My Eyes On You" & "Hurt Me", along with various demos, outtakes & alternative vershuns of classik Voidoids cuts. Disc 2 features two previously unreleased Voidoids gigs from London 1977 & CBGB’s 1978. The booklet features a new 2000 word essay by Hell.

In the music of Richard Hell you will find the original blueprint of many of the great bands of the last 25 years. McLaren wasn’t the only UK punker to rip Hell off; The Clash took him on tour in 1977 - a support slot Hell himself despised; "I hated opening for a band the kids in England loved for styles people’d been delivering in NYC for two years before The Clash existed". The Clash promptly stole the opening riff to "Kid With The Replaceable Head" for "Capital Radio". The development of Joe Strummer’s vocal from gruff shouter to wounded crooner owes everything to the style & feel of Richard Hell. Even the Clash’s main claim to fame – that they were responsible for the initial development of the punk/funk interface - can be traced to "Downtown At Dawn", from Hell’s second LP, "Destiny Street". Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain & Black Francis were all great admirers of Hell’s work. It could even be claimed that The Strokes & The Vines would not exist today but for Richard Hell & The Voidoids.

Both Voidoids Lp’s are also available on vinyl once again; "Blank Generation", the classik debut, is repressed on 180mg vinyl in it’s original Sire sleeve. It’s equally indispensable sister, 1982’s sophomore LP, "Destiny Street", is also available in a slightly altered sleeve on 180mg vinyl through Spanish label, Munster Records.

The lyrics to both these lp’s, along with every other lyric Hell ever wrote, are collected in; "Hot & Cold", published by Powerhouse Books, priced $25. An extensive portfolio of lyrics, poetry, essays, photography, drawings & journalism - "Hot & Cold" is viewed by Hell as an odds & sods collection of unpublished material - rather than a collected works. It includes articles written for Spin, GQ, The Portable Lower East Side, Punk, Hit Parader & New York Rocker, as well as a full reproduction of the legendary Theresa Stern collaboration with Tom Verlaine, "Wanna Go Out?". Also featured are obituaries for Sid Vicious & Johnny Thunders, a history of the poppy & a confessional diary covering the years 1988-98. "Hot & Cold" is the perfect companion to long sessions listening to "Blank Generation", "Destiny Street" & "Time", over & over again.

These days Hell concentrates on his art & his writing. He refuses to talk about his punk rock past in any detail; interviews are rare & restricted to literary topics. With "Hot & Cold" & "Time" now out of the way, Hell is once again free to concentrate on the follow-up to his acclaimed 1996 novel, "Go Now".

Even in 2002, Richard Hell remains a hero to many – he stands to one side in the pantheon of punk rock gods – a loner, a maverick, a true independent. He is the leader of the cult of the individual, the crown prince of the unorthodox. He outshines all who have plagiarised him, & will continue to do so well into the future. Respect is long overdue. Go worship.

A wide range of Hell material is available from his website, along with all the other Hell related information you could ever need.

Jean Encoule – April – 2002
Full hell: Richardhell.com

contact wastebin@trakMARX.com trakMARX.com - the needle & the damage done