Richard Hell

From Academic Kids

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Richard Hell (born October 2, 1949) is the stage name of Richard Myers, an American singer, songwriter and writer, probably best-known as frontman for the early punk band Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Their 1977 album, Blank Generation, contained many elements that would become identified with punk, from the nihilism of the title track (a play off of Rod McKuen's 1959 spoken-word song Beat Generation) to the frantic energy of the anti-romantic anthem, "Love Comes in Spurts".

Hell is often regarded as the original source of much punk fashion, including spiked hair (inspired, Hell says, by 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud), with torn and cut shirts. It's commonly believed that Malcolm McLaren had the Sex Pistols imitate Hell's look. Hell articulated the notion that punk fashion should be cheap and easily accessible to anyone, in contrast to disco's expensive, flashy styles.


Hell dropped out of high school in Lexington, Kentucky, and traveled to New York to become a poet. He eventually wound up in a tight social vortex that became the New York downtown punk scene of the mid-1970s.

In his early twenties, Hell formed a band with high school friend Tom Miller (who took the name Tom Verlaine), which became known as Television. Television's performances at CBGB helped kick-start the first wave of punk bands, inspiring a number of different artists, notably Patti Smith who wrote the first press review of Television for the Soho Weekly News in June of 1974; started an affair with Tom Verlaine; and formed a band of her own that began performing on double-bills with Television, and later with The Voidoids.

Richard Hell split from Television after dispute over creative control. Hell reports that he and Verlaine had originally divided the songwriting evenly before Verlaine later insisted on favoring his own songs. Verlaine remains relatively silent on the subject.

In 1975, with former New York Dolls members Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders, Hell formed a band called The Heartbreakers (not to be confused with the later Tom Petty band). This ensemble was rather short-lived, and Hell later founded the Voidoids.

Richard Hell, Dee Dee Ramone (of the Ramones), Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan were a clique of heroin users, according to Marky Ramone (who was originally a member of the Voidoids under the name of Marc Bell). Their friends and associates Marky Ramone, Joey Ramone, Tom Verlaine and Patti Smith do not seem to have used heroin, despite occasional rumors to the contrary.

In recent years, Hell has returned to literature. He published a quasi-autobiographical novel Go Now in 1996, and has released a collection of short pieces (poems, essays and drawings) called Hot and Cold in 2001.

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