So Of Course Richard Hell Wrote The Best Essay Ever About The Velvet Underground
There’s not much Richard Hell can’t do — practically start punk all by himself, propel Television out of the Bowery before wandering off, put out great albums with the Voidoids, write entertaining novels, oh, and one of the three or four greatest rocker memoirs ever. But now he’s up and done it: in the new New York, which has a pretty great series of essays about New York musicians going all the way to the middle of the last century, Hell has written an homage to the VU in which he says the magic words: “In my opinion the Velvet Underground are the best rock-and-roll band in history.”
Now, we find this remarkable, in two ways. We agree with it, of course, even as we argue with those voices in our head that are shouting out “Rolling Stones circa ’72!” and “what about the night in 1979 you saw the Clash and thought you’d achieved satori?” Yeah, we hear ya. What he said.
One remarkable thing, though, is how either he — or the phalanx of editors at New York — spelled “rock’n’roll” as “rock-and-roll.” When we worked at New York Rocker — when Richard Hell would shamble in and drop off copy, being paid the same $25 an article as the rest of us — the house rules were “rock’n’roll,” and we’ve always accepted that as definitive. Now our certainty is shaken.
But the other thing is, did we think Hell would call The Velvet Underground THE BEST? I didn’t, but am always happy for the surprises sent straight from Hell. Like the email I got from him in early December when he presented Tulip Frenzy with the most excellent remastering of The Richard Hell Story. (Hey Richard, while we did thank you, I don’t think we passed on how incredible it is to hear those Dim Star tracks sounding bright and clear. Amazing. Please, release the whole thing, ok?)
We would link to the piece, but it’s not available yet. And I would quote from it at greater length, but that’s not kosher. All we’ll say is this one essay by Hell is worth the price of admission. And is a reminder that, “in my opinion Richard Hell is the coolest man in rock’n’roll history.” Or is that “rock-and-roll history?”
UPDATE: Richard Hell, bless his soul, emailed to inform us that, actually, the essay is available online, right here. So do go read it.
He also added that, in re: how to write rock und roll properly, “I settled on ‘rock and roll’ some time back (it’s done that way in Tramp too. The ‘n’ just felt too contrived to me, maybe even condescending, ultimately, now…”
Then moments later he wrote back, “”Wait a minute… They added hyphens, the fucks!”
He went on to write other things, but just as it’s bad form to reveal too much about your conversations with the President of these United States, or like the Pope or someone, we will not reveal all.
And damn, forgot to ask him if they will ever release a remastered version of the epic Dim Stars album, featuring him and Thurston Moore…