If he'd died young, he'd have lived forever....
If he’d died young, he’d have lived forever. Thrift-shop Rimbaud [a]Richard Hell[/a] had already passed through the ranks of two of New York’s most influential combos, [a]Television[/a] and The Heartbreakers, before attaining proper punk notoriety with his ludicrously overrated debut single ‘Blank Generation’.
As contemporary commentators and art bores have insisted ever since, Hell was the prototype punk from which all others (Sid Vicious in particular) were copied; the ripped clothes, the hollow glare, the vast smack habit.
However, where British punk rock developed a deliberate exaggeration of low culture, aspiring poets like Hell and Patti Smith were keen to add a high-art gloss to their brand of nihilism. A famous transatlantic culture clash was to occur when Hell, sporting a ‘Please Kill Me’ T-shirt, was reduced to a gibbering wreck when a fan in Newcastle pointed a lighted firework at him in an incident which arguably blew his cool forever.
This was a while after his 1977 debut LP ‘Blank Generation’, newly available on CD in the UK, which despite Hell‘s shallow pretensions, isn’t all that bad. Combining punk energy with Hell‘s dissonant howling and Robert Quine‘s tangential guitar lines, it lacks the menace of Pere Ubu or the poise of [a]Television[/a]. But those who need to know where Lydia Lunch and Sonic Youth came from musically could do worse than start here.