We cannot fully recount the glory of rock ‘n’ roll sans the narrative of the bassist, singer, composer, novelist, journalist born Richard Lester Myers. Following frustrating stints with the Neon Boys, Television and Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers, Richard Hell helmed a groundbreaking ensemble which fulfilled his artistic vision, The Voidoids.
With the late great guitar virtuoso Robert Quine, guitarist Ivan Julian, and drummer Marc Bell – Hell waxed one of the most influential albums in any era of rock – Blank Generation (1977). To my ears, Hell’s bass artistry evokes comparison to his UK peer Tom Robinson, as both employed rudimentary lines with angular rhythms that embellished their poetic disposition.
A musical and fashion innovator with his signature spiked hair and torn safety-pinned haberdashery – Hell sartorially swayed the punk movement. The artist recalls in his memoir (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp / 2013) an incident wherein Blondie brain-trust Chris Stein observes an image of the Sex Pistols and opines to him – “Here’s four guys who look just like you!”
Even the late punk impresario Malcolm McLaren admitted to copying Hell for both the Pistols and his legendary London boutique Sex . After the release of The Voidoids’ aforementioned seminal collection and the long-delayed follow-up Destiny Street (1982), Hell drifted from the music business for a myriad of reasons; however his vital contributions to the annals of rock ‘n’ roll endure.