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Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation

Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation

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Genre: punk
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Blank Generation
Company: Sire
Catalog: SR 6037
Year: 1977
Country/State: Lexington, Kentucky
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: original pressing
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 287
Price: $30.00

Best time to play: after a bad day at work, or when you're stuck in traffic

As a teenager I always thought Richard Hell and the Voidoids were an interesting outfit. Front man Hell certainly had the musical credentials having been in an early version of Television and one of the founding members of The Hearthbreakers. He also had the punk attitude and style down pat and with former Dust drummer Marc Bell, rhythm guitarist Ivan Julian, and lead guitarist Robert Quine (who looked more like an unemployed accountant than a rock star), he had one of New York's most accomplished mid-'70s bands.

Having become friends with New York City store owner Terry Ork, Hell and company were signed to Ork's small Ork label, making their debut with a three track 1977 EP - the cleverly titled "Richard Hell" (Ork catalog 81976). In addition to '(I Belong To The) Blank Generation', the EP included '(I Could Live With You) (In) Another World' and 'You Gotta Lose'.
Signed by Sire, 1977's "Blank Generation" was one of the first punk LPs I ever bought. The cover photo didn't do a great deal for me, nor did the title track (which is what attracted most of the attention from critics and the handful of buyers), but the band's cover of CCR's 'Walk On the Water' was simply dumbfounding - a punk outfit willing to take on a rock giant .... So how to describe Hall and company ? Certainly punk-ish, but with a surprising amount of talent and an understanding of basic musical concepts such as melody and rhythm ... Hell wasn't much a singer, but his jittery death strangle voice wasn't a major drawback given the quality of the songs (even though he never made it out of high school, Hell was amazingly well read), and the strength of his backing band (especially the late Robert Quine). Nothing here was going to make it on to mid-'70s top-40 station, but that didn't mean it wasn't catchy and quite commercial in its own way. In fact, what once sounded somewhat edgy and ominous, today almost sounds quaint in places.

- Judging by the title, it was clear Hell and company were hopeless romantics ... Musically this was a pretty standard slice of mid-'70s punk with Robert Quine's spastic guitar solo providing the song highlight. I can remember hearing it when it first came out and finding it's jumpy energy kind of threatening. Today it sounds almost tame. I'll admit that the live version's attraction is largely lost on my middle class ears, but for anyone interested, YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song at New York's famr CBGB's: rating: **** stars- Hum, it might have helped to try tuning the lead-off guitar, but when Hell's hey-I-can-do-The-Ramones vocals kicked in it ultimately it probably didn't make that much difference. While Hell's performance was entertaining, once again Quine's guitar pyrotechnics once again stole the show. YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song from Ulli Lommel's 1980 movie "Blank Generation": rating: **** stars
- Again, with the passage of time, today 'New Pleasure' almost sounds like a pop tune. Come to think of it, the song probably sounded pretty commercial back in 1977 .... rating: *** stars
- Hum, co-written by Hell and Julian, 'Betrayal Takes Two' always struck me as an example of Hell trying to sound like an English punk band. The other big surprises was the song's commercial melody. Punks weren't suppose to write stuff like this. rating: *** stars
- So anyone who didn't think punk had a fun edge should check out the giddy 'Down At the Rock & Roll Club'. I'm guessing this was fairly autobiographical ... perhaps a reflection of their CBGB's experiences. Quine's spastic guitar was hysterical, as were the band's attempts at backing harmony vocals. rating: **** stars
- Hum, Hell and company trying to get funky? Not sure how else to describe 'Who Says?' And for a bunch of pale, New York City-based punks, I guess this was pretty funky. rating: **** stars
- Hell's standout song ? Originally written and recorded while still with Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers, 'Blank Generation' was a class slice of punk angst and social commentary - plus the backing vocals were a hoot. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Hell's musical inspiration came from Ray Charles version of 'Hit The Road Jack'. The album version also differed from the version on the previous EP. rating: ***** stars
- As mentioned, the song that convinced me to buy this album - their cover of CCR's 'Walk On the Water' was pretty impressive. Nah, it won't make you forget the CCR original, but c'mon how many punk bands would have the courage to take on a John and Tom Fogerty song ? For that matter, how many bands of any genre would take on this classic tune ? rating: **** stars
- An almost giddy tune coupled with some of Hell's darkest and most enigmatic lyrics, 'The Plan' was a great tune !!! rating: **** stars
- Geez, so why not close it out with a punk song that stretched on over eight minutes? And that's exactly what Hell and company did with the funk-has-a-nervous-breakdown epic. 'Another World'. With Hell turning in some of his most demonic vocals, The Talking Heads would have approved of this one. rating: **** stars

Funny, but some some three and a half decades after I bought the LP, I still enjoy it; maybe even more than when I initially bought it.

"Blank Generation" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Love Comes In Spurts (Richard Hell) - 1:59
2.) Liars Beware (Richard Hell - Ivan Julian) - 2:46
3.) New Pleasure (Richard Hell) - 1:55
4.) Betrayal Takes Two (Richard Hell - Ivan Julian) - 3:33
5.) Down At the Rock & Roll Club (Richard Hell) - 3:37
6.) Who Says? (Richard Hell) - 2:03

(side 2)
1.) Blank Generation (Richard Hell) - 2:39
2.) Walking On the Water (John Foigerty - Tom Fogerty) - 2:11
3.) The Plan (Richard Hell) - 3:53
4.) Another World (Richard Hell) - 8:03

Who know why, but the 1990 reissue featured different cover art, as well as a different version of 'Down at the Rock & Roll Club' and a pair of bonus tracks ('All the Way' and 'I'm Your Man').

Hell's still actibve ona number of fronts, seeming focusing on writing these days. He has an interesting website at:
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