RICHARD HELL AND THE VOIDOIDS

Formed: New York, NY, USA

Richard Hell & The Voidoids

“You know what’s stopping me from sticking a pistol in my mouth? Nothing but me” – Richard Hell, 1981

Discography

One of rock’s true originals, Richard Hell (real name Lester Meyers) took inspiration not only from the directness of 1960s rock and roll but also from poets like Verlaine and Rimbaud. Unlike the similarly influenced Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine he also knew how to rock hard as well. Having been kicked out of both Television and The Heartbreakers for usurping the perceived focal points of those bands (Verlaine and Johnny Thunders respectively), he formed the Voidoids, subsequently one of the best bands in New York, not least due to the maniacal guitar playing of Robert Quine and Ivan Julian (whose contribution to the band has never been truly appreciated). And with Hell’s meat-and-potatoes bass playing forming a formidable rhythm section with Marc Bell (later Marky Ramone), they were probably unequalled in melding primal energy with artier tendencies. Hell himself, of course, was one of the major influences on UK punk, both in look (safety pins, sneering) and stance (nihilistic).

Richard Hell Richard Hell & The Voidoids

Blank Generation is one of the finest albums of 1977, an extraordinarily potent mix of romanticism, nihilism, poetic beauty and heroin-raddled fury, best exemplified by the searing title cut, a three-minute anthem for the punk movement that was directly responsible for ‘Pretty Vacant'. With funky but clunky bass, the angular, demented interplay of the guitars, and Hell’s impassioned shriek, it's not really for all tastes (there’s too much intelligence at work for some people), but for my money it's a start-to finish corker, with totally gonzoid songs like ‘Liars Beware’ and ‘Love Comes In Spurts’ and ‘Who Says’ (“Who says, who says it’s good to be alive/Same ones who keep it a perpetual jive”). Two of the ten songs - the title track and ‘Another World’ - had been previously recorded for their debut EP, which many consider their greatest moment.

BLANK GENERATION

I was sayin', "Let me out of here", before I was
Even born, it's such a gamble when you get a face
It's fascinatin' to observe what the mirror does
But when I dine, it's for the wall that I set a place

I belong to the blank generation and
I can take it or leave it each time
I belong to the ____ generation but
I can take it or leave it each time

Triangles were fallin' at the window as the doctor cursed
He was a cartoon long forsaken by the public eye
The nurse adjusted her garters as I breathed my first
The doctor grabbed my throat and yelled, "God's consolation prize"

To hold the TV to my lips, the air so packed with cash
Then carry it up flights of stairs and drop it in the vacant lot
To lose my train of thought and fall into your arms' tracks
And watch beneath the eyelids every passing dot

WHO SAYS?

I saw what I had so
I got I got mad so
I guess I went bad so

Now I search for new endeavours
push my buttons wear my levers

Who says it's good good good to be alive?
Same ones who keep it a perpetual jive.
Who says it's good good good to be alive?
It ain't no good it's a perpetual dive.

There's nothing to win by
this sort of an outcry
Oh yeah we all know why

Cuz the world a person lives in
is his brain. Well mine just gives in...

It's clear that I choose to
live on I'm so used to...
but still it ain't news to

ditch it say when one incentive's
gained and gone though you're inventive

Once born you're addicted
and so you depict it
as good, but who kicked it?

Users just can't see the horror
Tell one if you want to bore her

BETRAYAL TAKES TWO

Betrayal takes two. Who did it to who?
I mean: not to be cut by your dull point of view.
Feelings will change - we're helpless they must.
We like it that way - eliminates trust.
But that cut on your arm where the blood is still fresh
And the thought of some harm that comes to yourself...

Hey sweetheart cool off, you're not so distraught...
You lost what you had but that's what I've got.
I'll close my eyes while you take off my clothes
No wait a while till this feelings goes...
The feeling gets stronger, two times emptiness-
We'll embrace that much longer, make more of a mess...

The sensation of life was aroused in ourselves
From the plot we digressed, knocked the books off the shelves
Then burned down the house, then met in a bar
With a motel attached and kissed all the scar.
We're changed now for good, but I try to insert
My face to appear when you love when you flirt...

THE KID WITH THE REPLACEABLE HEAD

Too young to drink and too smart to think
Attaches on his head with the missing link
He's skinny as a snake and fast as a mink
But he ain't for sale unless you add the kitchen sink

Look out, here he comes again
They say he's dead, he's my three best friends
He's so honest that the dishonest dread
Meeting the kid with the replaceable head

When you live on a planet the size of a town
You can't get your kicks by getting around
Fun's hard to find on such familiar ground
So you invent it: the mental it's better than found

Look out, here he comes again
They say he's dead, he's my three best friends
He's so honest that the dishonest dread
Meeting the kid with the replaceable head

He used to beat himself up till he was sick and confused
Dead tired and throbbing, half crazy and bruised
Till he'd be too worn out to keep being himself
Now he can pick them at will from the heads on his shelf

Look out, here he comes again
They say he's dead, he's my three best friends
He's so honest that the dishonest dread
Meeting the kid with the replaceable head

With not much in the way of new product, an archival release in 1980 offered a glimpse of early Richard Hell and was a welcome addition to discography. Richard Hell & The Voidoids / Neon Boys featured two very old Richard Hell recordings, dating back to 1973 when he and Verlaine were in the Neon Boys. There were also two new Hell efforts, 'Time' and 'Don't Die'.

'Time' and 'The Kid With The Replaceable Head' both appeared on Destiny Street in new versions, amongst eight songs that don’t match up to the best on debut album but did nothing to dilute Hell’s reputation as one of the most vital, enigmatic and charming singers in the music biz. ‘Time’ is a lovely ballad, ‘Lowest Common Dominator’ a typically inventive look at sexual relationships, and ‘Downtown At Dawn’ confidently mixes punk with danceable funk. Also, Hell gives Dylan’s ‘Going Going Gone’ a proper tune (have you heard the original?). In 2009 he re-recorded the LP as Destiny Street Repaired.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids

ABOVE: The Voidoids in 1982

TIME

Time and time again I knew what I was doing and
Time and time again I just made things worse
It seems you see the most of what is really true when
You're stepping into your hearse

Only time can write a song that's really really real
The most a man can do is say the way its playing feels
And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals

And when I want to write a song that says it all at once
Like time sublimely silences the whys
I know that if I try I'm going to take a fall at once
And splatter there between my lies

Only time can write a song that's really really real
The most a man can do is say the way its playing feels
And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals

We are made of it and if we give submission
Among our chances there's a chance we can choose
And if we take it, by uncertainty's permission
Then it's impossible to lose

Only time can write a song that's really really real
The most a man can do is say the way its playing feels
And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals

Outside of music, Hell has tried his arm at acting (in Ulli Lommel’s Blank Generation, and Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan) and written/compiled several poetry books (including a collaborative effort with Verlaine, Wanna Go Out?) and a novel, The Voidoid. Hell has been virtually invisible since the mid-80s: he surfaced in a middling supergroup called Dim Stars; he reformed The Voidoids (with Quine, Julian and Bell) for a one-off track in 2000, ‘Oh’. The bad news? It’s only available via a download. The good news? It can be found on Wayne Kramer’s Beyond Cyberpunk compilation (Music Blitz 177961, 2001).

DISCOGRAPHY

Singles / Albums

Richard Hell - Another World Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation 7" Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation Richard Hell & The Voidoids - The Kid With The Replaceable Head Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Destiny Street
Another World
(7", 1976)
Blank Generation (7"/12", 1977)
Blank Generation
(LP, 1977)
The Kid With The Replaceable Head
(7", 1979)
Destiny Street
(LP, 1982)
Richard Hell - 3 New Songs Richard Hell - Go Now Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Destiny Street Repaired    
3 New Songs (7"/12"/CDS, as Richard Hell, 1992) Go Now (7"/10"/CD, , as Richard Hell, 1995) Destiny Street Repaired
(LP/CD, 2009)
   

Extraneous Releases

Richard Hell & The Voidoids / Neon Boys - Split Richard Hell - R.I.P. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Funhunt: Live At CBGB's And Max's 1978 And 1979 Richard Hell - Across The Years Richard Hell & The Voidoids / Suicide - Split
Richard Hell & The Voidoids / Neon Boys (7", 1980) R.I.P. (Tape, , as Richard Hell, 1984) Funhunt: Live At CBGB's And Max's 1978 And 1979
(Tape/2xLP/CD, 1990)
Across The Years
(CD, 1991)
Richard Hell & The Voidoids / Suicide
(7", split, 2001
Richard Hell - Time Spurts: The Richard Hell Story      
Time (2xCD, 2002) Spurts: The Richard Hell Story (CD, 2005)      

Bootlegs

Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Recorded Live CBGB's '78 Television, Richard Hell And The Voidoids, The Neon Boys Richard Hell And The Voidoids ‎– I Wanna Be Your Dog    
Recorded Live CBGB's '78 (7", 1988) Television, Richard Hell And The Voidoids, The Neon Boys (LP, split) I Wanna Be Your Dog (CD, 2005)    

Various Artists

Punk Collection Italy LP 1977 (RCA): Love Comes In Spurts

New Wave UK LP 1977 (Vertigo): Love Comes In Spurts

Hits Greatest Stiffs UK LP 1977 (Stiff): You Gotta Lose

The Sire Machine Turns You Up UK LP 1978 (Sire): You Gotta Lose / Blank Generation

That Summer! UK LP 1979 (Arista): Blank Generation

Shake To Date UK LP 1980 (Albion): Don't Die / Time

New York Rockers US Tape 1989 (ROIR): I Been Sleepin' On It

The Best Punk Album In The World ... Ever! 2 UK 2xCD 1996 (Circa): Love Comes In Spurts

1-2-3-4 Punk & New Wave 1976-1979 UK 5xCD 1999 (Universal): (I Belong To The) Blank Generation

Punk.UK 2xCD 2001 (Columbia): Blank Generation

Sniffin' Glue: The Essential Punk Accessory UK CD 2003 (Castle): (I Belong To The) Blank Generation

No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion US 4xCD 2003 (Rhino): Blank Generation / Love Comes In Spurts

Links

RICHARD HELL'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE - Full of photos, poetry, lyrics cool stuff

RICHARD HELL FIND HIS PEACE IN EAST VILLAGE APARTMENT

ALL MUSIC GUIDE

PAPERMAG - Interview

UNCUT - The Making Of...Richard Hell & The Voidoids’ Blank Generation

 

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