I had always written Richard Hell off as an also-ran of NYC punk history: interesting enough to quit two seminal bands of the 1970s (Television and The Heartbreakers, both of which he co-founded), cool enough to only release two albums with The Voidids, but not really worth a second listen or any serious research.
This album proves I was wrong. Holy crap, does it ever.
The first disc is a better-sounding reissue of the ROIR cassette R.I.P., and collects some really great performances: Hell premiering his best-known “hit,” “Love Comes in Spurts”; Hell with the original Voidoids kicking serious ass on “Betrayal Takes Two” and “Crack of Dawn,” and Hell with later incarnations of his group featuring, weirdly, The Meters’ Ziggy Modeliste on drums. The sound quality is shite but the soul quality is high — Hell’s decency and vulnerability are on display just as much as his snottishness and anger. (His highly literate liner notes don’t hurt, either.)
The second disc, which is all new, compiles two amazing live performances which prove Hell’s cruciality beyond all doubt. The first was done at the Music Machine in London in 1977 — Hell was pissed off that everyone else was making money off the punk rock he thought he invented, and he is out to prove himself with furious renditions of “Blank Generation” and “Liars Beware.” (I love how he ends with The Rolling Stones’ “Ventilator Blues,” just because he knew the punks hated The Stones.) The second set is a CBGB show from 1978, a little mellower but not by much, and has a great Elvis Costello vocal cameo on “You Gotta Lose” as well as Hell’s well-known “The Kid With the Replaceable Head.”
This is absolutely essential if you fancy yourself any kind of music person. I’m not kidding.
Richard Hell: http://www.richardhell.com