RICHARD HELL and the VOIDOIDS – ” The Blank Generation “

Posted: August 10, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Richard Hell and the Voidoids “Blank Generation” (1977) anthemic track, Led by former Television bassist Richard Hell (Lester), the Voidoids were an interesting take on punk rock. Sounding like a more aggressive version of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, they played high energy songs with exuberant vocals by Hell. Not a good singer or bassist by conventional standards, he was still able to communicate emotion, albeit through a nihilistic viewpoint. The songs have interesting arrangements, and don’t sound like other punk bands. The band consisting of Richard Hell – Bass, vocals, Ivan Julian – Rhythm guitar, Robert Quine – Lead guitar, Marc Bell – Drums.

Richard Hell is all over this story, passing through Television and the Heartbreakers before arriving at the Voidoids. He mastered the art of thrift store finery, pairing numb, nihilistic cool with spiked hair and safety-pin piercings. “Blank Generation,” caught here at CBGB in 1978 features a future Ramone Marky (still Marc Bell) behind the drums.

A short clip from the movie Blank Generation made in (1980), featuring Richard Hell and the Voidoids playing the theme song Blank Generation at the legendary punk club CBGB. Directed by Ulli Lommel, produced by Andy Warhol.  The band were formed in New York City in 1976 and fronted by Richard Hell, who had been a former member of the Neon Boys, Television and the Heartbreakers.

Richard Meyers moved to New York City after dropping out of high school in 1966, aspiring to become a poet. There he hoped he would be able start a career as a poet and immerse himself in the rich art community of the city. In his career as a poet he managed to get some of his works published in places like Rolling Stone and the New Directions’ Annuals. He also started his own
publishing imprints, Genesis: Grasp and then later Dot Books. He had little success as a poet, his imprints ultimately couldn’t be sustained and he ultimately cooled on his poetic aspirations.

He and his best friend from high school, Along with Tom Miller, founded the rock band the Neon Boys Their first group was it was a short lived group that produced only two
four-track studio recordings which became Television in 1973. The pair adopted stage names; Miller called himself Verlaine after Paul Verlaine, a French poet he admired, and Meyers became Richard Hell because, as he has said, it described his condition. Television received a good deal of hype in the New York music scene, with good write-ups in the Soho Weekly News, by Patti Smith, who was then sometimes working as a rock journalist, among others. Television was the first group on the New York scene to play at the Bowery club CBGB, which quickly became the epicenter of the emerging punk rock. There is both audio and video of the band while Hell remained, but nothing was officially released.

The group was the first rock band to play the club CBGB, which soon became a breeding ground for the early punk rock scene in New York.  Hell had an energetic stage presence and wore torn clothing held together with safety pins and his hair spiked, which was to be influential in punk fashion in 1975, after a failed management deal with the New York Dolls, impresario Malcolm McLaren brought these ideas back with him to England and eventually incorporated them into the Sex Pistols’ image.

Disputes with Verlaine led to Hell’s departure from Television in 1975, and he co-founded the Heartbreakers with New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan They were a super-group of sorts on the New York scene. Expectations for the new group were high and initial performances were met with criticism. In the group Hell faced many of the same issues of songwriting and singing that he had withTelevision, and the heroin problems of Hell, Thunders, and Nolan were mutually destructive. Hell eventually quit the Heartbreakers after a year, again before the group got into the studio to record an album. Live material featuring Hell exists, but was not officially released until years later.

Hell did not last long with this band, and he began recruiting members for a new band. For guitarists, Hell found Robert Quine and Ivan JulianQuine had worked in a bookstore with Hell, and Julian responded to an advertisement in The Village Voice. They lifted drummer Marc Bell, later Marky Ramone, from Wayne County. The band was named “the Voidoids” after a novel Hell had been writing.[

Musically, Hell drew inspiration from acts such as Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, protopunk band the Stooges and fellow New Yorker group the Velvet Underground, a group with a reputation for heroin-fuelled rock and roll with poetic lyrics. Quine’s admiration of the Velvet Underground led him to make hours’ worth of bootleg recordings of the band in the late 1960s.[citation needed] Hell also drew from and covered garage rock bands such as the Seeds and the Count Five that were found on the Nuggets compilation of 1972.[7] The Voidoids’ music was also characterized as art punk.#

Hell had written the song “Blank Generation” while still in Television; he had played it regularly with the band since at least 1975, and later with the Heartbreakers. The Voidoids released a 7″ Blank Generation EP in 1976 on Ork Records[ including “Blank Generation”, “Another World” and “You Gotta Lose”. The cover featured a black-and-white cover photo taken by Hell’s former girlfriend Roberta Bayley, depicting a bare-chested Hell with an open jeans zipper.  It was an underground hit, and the band signed to Sire Records for its album debut.

The Voidoids original lineup. Marc Bell (aka Marky Ramone), Ivan Julian, Robert Quine (later in the Lou Reed band), and Richard Hell (previously in the Heartbreakers and Television).

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