I DREAMED I WAS A VERY CLEAN TRAMP (Ecco)
How this legendary downtown artist went from an ordinary childhood in the idyllic Kentucky foothills to igniting the “punk” movement that would take over New York and London’s restless youth culture—and spawn the careers of not only Hell himself, but a cohort of friends such as Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, and the Ramones—is just part of the fascinating story Hell tells. With Joycean powers of observation, he delves deeply into the details of both the world that shaped him and the world he helped to shape.
From an early age, Hell dreamed of running away. His father died when he was seven, and at seventeen he left behind his mother and sister and headed to New York City, a place of limitless possibilities. He arrived penniless; ten years later he was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, starting or co-founding such seminal bands as Television, The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids—whose song “Blank Generation” remains the defining anthem of the era. As much as any one person, Hell established CBGBs as the ground zero of punk. He and the Voidoids would tour with the Clash, and Malcolm McLaren would credit him as an inspiration for the Sex Pistols. There was the kinetic excitement of nights at Max’s Kansas City, the descent into drug addiction, and the ever-present yearning for redemption through poetry, music, and art.
Richard Hell is the author of the novels Go Now and Godlike, and the collection of essays, diaries, and lyrics, Hot and Cold. Hell has published essays, reportage and fiction in such publications as Spin, GQ, Esquire, The Village Voice, Vice, Bookforum, Art in America, The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review. From 2004-2006 he was the film critic for Black Book magazine. Hell lives in New York City.
Photo by Iniz & Vinoodh