Archive for Richard Hell

Download Those Albums Next Week, Help Ivan Julian Today

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 30, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Ivan Julian was the last member recruited to The Voidoids, Richard Hell’s seminal punk band from the ’70s. According to a letter Hell sent friends last week, guitarist Bob Quine “was so impressed by Ivan’s chops, he copped the slot on the spot.  He’s only gotten better, year after year, as a player and all around monster of goodness, and that’s the truth.”

Ivan’s got cancer, and on a Go Fund Me page set up to help raise money from all fans of real rock’n’ roll — and this means you! — they are just over halfway to the goal of raising $20,000 to pay a portion of his medical expenses.  Yeah, a portion.

Ivan’s a great guitarist, a producer who’s twisted knobs for such stalwarts as The Fleshtones and Capsula.  But as a guitarist?  Oh yeah, even in a band with Quine, Ivan more than held his own, adding pure liquid propulsion to one of the great guitar tandems of the age (the other one, of course, being Verlaine und Lloyd in Television, the band Hell helped found and then left behind.)

Two stellar musical lineups have been assembled for a pair of fundraisers for Ivan at New York City Winery on May 4th and May 7th.  You’ve already missed your chance to see Debbie Harry MC that first evening with Richard Barone, the Bush Tetras (!), the Dictators (!), Richard Hell, Ian Hunter, Garland Jeffreys, Lenny Kaye, Willie Nile, Vernon Reid & Burnt Sugar, and special guests.  It is possible you still can get tix for show #2 with Lydia Lunch (!), Ira Kaplan, Arto Lindsey, the aforementioned Dictators, Thurston Moore & Lee Ranaldo, Reid & Burnt Sugar, Jim Scavulos of 8 Eyed Spy renown, and Matthew Sweet, on at least one of whose best ’90s albums saw Ivan bring his swing.  Is there any question about whether these will be the best shows of the season?  And, with an assemblage like that, do you get how respected and revered a musician and human being Ivan is?

Look, we all know you are eagerly awaiting Friday’s release of the new Black Mountain album, that you’ve pre-ordered Kevin Morby’s next ‘un, that Woods and PJ Harvey will have new recs out soon.  Buy all means buy ’em.  But before you do, if you really love rock’n’roll, click the link above, and contribute at least the cost of two albums.  The life you save may play a blistering lead on the next album that, yeah, saves your life.

 

Richard Hell’s “Massive Pissed Love”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 1, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Imagine, if you will, that Richard Hell had never helped form the seminal band Television, that his two albums with the Voidoids were not among the strongest releases from the New York bands circa ’77-’82, that he’d never played on a stage with Johnny Thunders in the original version of the Heartbreakers.  See him instead as one more smart, off-kilter kid drawn to the bright lights and the big city, Manhattan as the world’s greatest university, culture coming at ya from the Film Forum, Village Voice, museums uptown, galleries downtown, oh yeah, and a cast of characters all around you that would inspire artists from Weegee to Warhol to Dylan.

Imagine he absorbed it all, heightened his critical faculties through exposure to the best essayists on rock’n’roll, film, and art, and that he found his place in the city as a writer.  Imagine that along the way he wrote a really excellent first novel, Go Now, and became a writer in demand by small magazines and large, and that he amassed a body of critical work that was original, insightful, and genuinely well written.

Okay now we can go back to appraising Hell in full, we can add the fact that, yeah, the guy really was an exciting frontman for multiple bands, and that when he writes about music, he does so from the perspective both of a fan and critic, but also as what has to be called a rock star.  Add this all up and you get a sense of just how fantastic a book Massive Pissed Love is, Richard Hell’s collected nonfiction written since the Millennium.

His essay, “The Velvet Underground vs. The Rolling Stones” was published in the book Rock & Roll Cage Match, and collected here, we got to read it again and could only marvel.  Hell’s view on Keith and Mick and Lou is fundamentally different, more focused, than ours would be, because we’ve never stood on a stage, as he has, and watched a crowd go wild.  It is one of the single greatest pieces of rock writing ever, and trust us, we’ve read a lot.  His eulogies and memorials to Bob Quine and Joey Ramone are worth the cost of the book, and then some.  We’re a little less enamored with artists like Christopher Wool than he is, but who cares, the writing is strong, whether he casts his eye on film, photography, or fiction.

And along the way he tells stories, really fun stories, that make some of this collection as entertaining as his 2013 memoir, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, which we put up there with Keith Richards’ Life and Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards as the best rock-star memoirs of all time. (Can’t wait to read Elvis Costello’s.)

Buy the book.  Skip to “Sex On Drugs,” or “Jim Carroll Memorial Remarks,” or his essay on Lester Bangs.  For Godsake read the essay on the Stones and the Velvets.  Yeah, if Hell had come to New York and simply become a writer, we’d be celebrating him now.  That he has the insights borne of being one of our favorite rock stars too is just icing on the cake.

Get Ready For Richard Hell’s “Massive Pissed Love,” Out October 12th

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 2, 2015 by johnbuckley100

This morning, in his amusing pan of Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless, Dwight Garner* reminded us that most rock stars’ memoirs are pretty bad. (“With her new memoir, “Reckless,” Ms. Hynde proves that she can compete with male rock stars in another essential way. She’s written a book that’s just as slack and disappointing as so many of theirs have been.”) The way it should work but doesn’t is that the quality of the memoir should match the quality of the music, that the great rock stars write great autobiographies and the bad ones should write bad ones.  While the latter is certainly true, or so we believe without having actually read, you know, Nicki Sixxe’s opus, only a few rocker memoirs we can think of — Keith Richard’s Life, Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards — are of a quality equal to their output and meaning as musicians.

And then there is Richard Hell, whose literary output at this point certainly exceeds in volume what he accomplished on his albums with the Voidoids, or his work with Television, Dim Stars, and The Heartbreakers.  Beginning with his novel Go Now all the way up through his superb memoir I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, Hell has done something remarkable: he has produced writing that thrills me every bit as much as his albums did.  And remember, his albums had Bob Quine playing guitar on them…

We thought his memoir was one of the best autobiogs ever, and not just in comparison to *real* rock’n’roll autobiographies, but even posted up against those literary works like Emmett Grogan’s Ringolevio or Jim Carroll’s The Basketball DiariesIt’s great because the story’s great, even if you didn’t witness some of it, as we did, and know some of the characters in it, as we do.  It’s one of the best books ever about moving to the Bright Lights, Big City, and this particular city was New York in the ’70s, and Hell didn’t just move there and noodle around, though he did a bit of that; he helped create some of the best music of the era in the hands-down best era of music.  Uh, New York in the ’70s. And then he became a writer.  A good one.

Last year we marveled that the very best thing about New York Magazine‘s series of essays about New York musicians was Hell’s piece on the Velvet Underground.  And through a subsequent email Richard led us to his essay in Rock And Roll Cage Matchwhich depicts the whozebetter battle between the Stones and the Velvets — one of the best essays about two of our favorite bands, ever.

So imagine how thrilled we were to get notice that Hell’s Massive Pissed Love: Nonfiction 2001-2014 will be published on October 12th, and that Richard will do a launch reading/signing at The Strand on the 14th.  We can’t wait.

* Jesus, Dwight Garner wins the day, also publishing this about the 40th Anniversary of Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train.

Richard Hell’s Performances*At Symphony Space

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 7, 2014 by johnbuckley100

Richard writes with the following news, which we are pleased to post:

I hardly ever do broadcast emails, but I’m sending this to a few friends and contacts because I’m not sure the signals would reach you otherwise (being that the official ones originate from the Upper West Side), and I want people to come!

I’m curating and hosting a series of events at Symphony Space for which I’ve dragooned one youngish artist per evening to sit still to be interviewed on stage by me before he or she performs. The interviews will be 25-30 minutes and the performances 45-50 minutes (with the exception of Kelly Reichardt’s 1:40 movie–projected via celluloid, not digitally, incidentally). These will happen in a beautifully equipped venue, seating only 168. There will be bonuses—surprise supplements to the interviews and some ace giveaways. The main thing though is that all these people are interesting and talented and this is a unique chance to see them so intimately exposed…

Please attend and spread the word if you can. Any tweets or other social media announcements of the series will be highly appreciated, and please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested. The most practical single link to let anyone know about is the series list at Symphony Space, where clicking on the individual event listings will take you to ticket-sales pages: http://www.symphonyspace.org/events/series/180/night-out-with-richard-hell

Thank you!

My New Performance Series
Night Out with Richard Hell
in the Thalia Theater at Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, NYC (southwest corner of 95th St. and Broadway)

* NOTE: ORIGINAL HEADLINE REFERRED TO THESE AS SPOKEN WORD PERFORMANCES.  SEE COMMENT FOR BETTER DESCRIPTION OF WHAT THESE SHOWS WILL BE LIKE.

We Were Right That Richard Hell Wrote The Best Essay On The Velvet Underground, But…

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2014 by johnbuckley100

The evolutionary trend by which rock critics become rock’n’roll musicians seems more typical than a rock star becoming a critic, but it’s not like the latter is a crime against nature or anything.  After all, said rock musician probably gravitated toward his calling out of a deep love for music, and certainly we know bands going all the way back to the Beatles and Stones began to bash around on guitars out of the sheer cussed joy of wanting to emulate their idols.  So let’s just take as a given that rock’n’rollers have great knowledge about the music that lit their particular match.  Nonetheless, it’s unusual for a musician to become a rock critic, and highly unusual for one to become anywhere near as erudite as Richard Hell is.

Last week, we wrote with admiration that Richard Hell’s piece on the Velvet Underground in New York Magazine was the best essay ever written about that band.  We were right and wrong.  Hell did write the best essay ever on the Velvets.  The thing is, it was a different essay, published in 2008 in a book called Rock And Roll Cage Match, edited by Sean Manning, in which Hell had the Velvets post up against the Stones, out of which he called a winner.

We’d never seen the book or read the essay ’til Richard pointed it out to us in the series of emails in which he let us know that the new Velvets essay was, in fact, online.  He sent us the earlier essay, and we also went out and found the book.  And we have to say, his piece on the Velvet Underground vs. the Rolling Stones is one of the best essays about rock’n’roll we’ve ever read.   We won’t go so far as to mimic the book and set up a fantasy cage match battle between Hell and Lester Bangs, or John Mendelsohn, or Byron Coley, or Richard Meltzer, or even Robert Palmer.  Let’s just say that posting Hell up against any of our fave rock critters, he’s indomitable.

The Velvet Underground are not our all-time favorite band, but they sit cross-legged near the settee in the middle of our pantheon, and let us give ourselves credit where it’s due, they have been so since we were a mere boarding-school vinyl-head, and we glommed onto Loaded upon its release.  Yes, the last of their albums released while the band was extant, even if the worst of their four core albums (VU, which came out in ’85, had enough good stuff on it that at the time we’d never before heard that it deserves to be considered as one of their original records.)

But much as we have loved the Velvet Underground for more than 40 years, if we had to testify to who our favorite band ever was, it would be the Rolling Stones.  Yes, we’ll admit it, even though  if you look at the Tulip Frenzy “About” section, we make no mention of the Stones.  That’s because, from the moment that Ron Wood replaced Mick Taylor, from the time Nicky Hopkins no longer got their phone calls, and Bobby Keys and Jim Price were no longer paired as the horn section, it has been all downhill.  But no band has ever had that command of our attention, that claim on our affection, as the Stones did in the early ’70s.  We were out-of-our-heads excited in ’79 to see the Clash; it doesn’t begin to compare to how excited we were to see the Stones play in Boston Garden, and then Madison Square Garden, in 1972.

So Hell writes an essay about both bands together, or shall we say, about the Velvets and Stones in opposition, and it is brilliant.  He sets up the hugely successful Stones versus the commercially unsuccessful Velvets in a way that is incredibly insightful and amusing.  And then he does a position comparison like it’s the first game of the World Series and you have to give one team or the other the edge at First Base.  We’re not going to quote it here.  We’re going to try sending you to the book, so you can buy it.  But let us just say that Hell gives the best description ever of what one wants from a front man in a rock’n’roll band, defines the essence of the Rolling Stones — which of course we already knew was Keith, but also — by a single word: soul.  He gets a few things wrong, in our opinion — we are higher on Beggars Banquet than he is.  He gets so much else so right.

Okay, okay, we have to quote, listen to this insight on Lou Reed’s songwriting: “Reed’s lyrics probably do come the closest to poetry of any in rock and roll.  Dylan is his only competition.  Dylan rules, but I’d venture that the lyrics on The Velvet Underground are the best as a suite, as an album set, of any in rock and roll history.”

So true!  If we were a teenage girl reading a favorite novelist, we might even underline that six times and put an exclamation point in the margins.  As it is, we just have to nod and agree.  As we do, interestingly enough, with his ultimate conclusion.  (You already know from what he wrote in New York that he would put the Velvets on the podium just above the Stones.  In our rock’n’roll dotage, we are now inclined to agree.)

Go buy the book.  Better yet, go buy his books, especially I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp.  We’ve long known the man can write.  His essay on the Velvets vs. the Stones is even better than his recent essay on the VU, and one of those pieces of rock critterdom that is as breathtakingly thrilling as even Richard Hell and the Voidoids playing “Time.”

 

 

So Of Course Richard Hell Wrote The Best Essay Ever About The Velvet Underground

Posted in Music with tags , , , on March 27, 2014 by johnbuckley100

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…

Richard Hell Is A Stand-Up Guy

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by johnbuckley100

So funny, we’d been thinking this morning how unhappy we are not to be in Brooklyn tonight to see Television play at Rough Trade.  And then we got this email…

For a long time, we’ve loved listening to Richard Hell’s music, particularly the two albums he recorded with the Voidoids — Blank Generation and the original Destiny Street.  But since the ’90s, we’ve also enjoyed reading his fiction (Go Now), and then his excellent memoir, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, which we absolutely adored.

Today, Richard contacted us out of the blue to let us know that he had just re-issued his compilation SPURTS AKA The Richard Hell Story because… well, we’ll let him tell it:

What happened is I became aware a few months after the original release that it was degraded because, due to a miscommunication, all the tracks on it had been terribly limited/compressed, sucking out the dynamics and vitality of the original tracks and reducing them to a blare. (If you’re interested, there’s a more detailed account below of the long process of dealing with this.) The new versions are especially significant for the large number of the tracks, like the Neon Boys numbers and “The Kid With the Replaceable Head” and the DESTINY STREET and DIM STARS cuts, etc., which basically aren’t available anywhere except on SPURTS. 
The new masters were made this fall at Sterling Sound by Greg Calbi (the maestro of masterers, who actually mastered the BLANK GENERATION album for Sire/Warners in 1977). He was good enough to let Don Fleming and me sit in. We used the very best original sources, some actually higher quality than on the 2005 sessions, but the main thing was to keep the pure powerful full-range sound, sans the nasty frequency-squeezing added at the last minute in 2005.
 
I feel bad that all the customers of the last eight years paid for something inferior and now if they want the good stuff will have to pay again. But there’s nothing I can do about it but apologize. It’s my fault. 
 
Warner/Rhino agreed to substitute the new tracks at all merchandisers, and they started the process November 19. They’re now up at most of them, including iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. So far the song titles are not individually described at these places as new masters (and there’s various other scrambled misinformation, such as still listing the release date as 2005)–though at most sites the album title states “(Remastered)”–but you can be sure it’s the full 21 newly remastered cuts when you see that the song “Downtown at Dawn” runs 5:59 or so; on the original Spurts it’s 4:07. I’m working on trying to get the separate tracks labeled “2013 remaster” so they can’t be confused with the old bad tracks, but it’s hard to get the business bureaucracies to trouble. Also, eventually the jewel-boxed CD at Amazon will be replaced, but we don’t know how long that will take. 
 
As to how the original re-mastering went wrong… It was a mis-communication at the very last stage of the original remastering process done for SPURTS. We had all the tracks tweaked to spec–drawn from the best available originals, made as consistent as reasonable with each other, etc.–when I made the point to the technician that I wanted the CD, as a unit, to play at the loudest practical volume. I just meant that the tracks, as already prepared for the final pass of the mastering process, should fall as close to redline as possible so that when the manufactured CDs played they’d be at least as loud as anything else in a playlist… It was a trivial thing. But the guy misinterpreted what I was saying, and proceeded to add this excessive limiting/compressing to all the tracks, so that the volume within each track would be more consistent and every track therefore would come out louder. At this point I wasn’t paying much attention, because I didn’t think I needed to–everything was routine. It was only months later that I realized what had happened. A huge amount of the life of the tracks had been sucked out. I always hoped and planned to eventually fix this, but as long as the CD was in its original printing I knew it would be a problem, because the company wouldn’t want to destroy those. Also it would cost me a good amount of money (it ended up costing $3000+), not to mention time and effort. Anyway, when I saw that the CD had gone to print-on-demand early in 2013, I realized it had become practical to substitute good re-remastered versions. So that’s when I contacted Rhino/Warners…
 
For reference, here is how the new CD in mp3s is offered at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Richard-Hell-Story-Remastered/dp/B00GICU8QU/ref=sr_1_2?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&sr=1-2&keywords=%22richard+hell%22
Going to this trouble to make things right with his fans is a) a very classy thing, and b) a smart thing for an artist to do.  After all, you want to be known by your best work, your best effort.  This was the thinking behind his Destiny Street Repaired, in which he went back into the studio to re-record the original album, which he found deficient because, well, he was deficient at the time.  We did not think that move was so successful, preferring the original.  But getting The Richard Hell Story with its trove of Neon Boys (AKA proto-Television) cuts, and Dim Star (w/Thurston Moore) songs, not to mention his work with the Heatbreakers and the Voidoids into listenable shape — well, this is pure delight.
Did we mention it was Black Friday and that you do have that list of friends you need to buy albums for, no?

 

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