photo: Bob Gruen
Hell & the Voidoids at the Peppermint Lounge 1982
drummer Fred Maher behind, and (l. to r.) Naux, guest sax player, Richard Hell, and Bob Quine at the Peppermint Lounge, 1982
It turns out that in fact Richard seems to have lost his nerve or anyway had second thoughts and used a heavily edited version of the liner notes to the original 1992 Destiny Street CD when the most recent (1996) license was released. (The vinyl came out in 1982 without any liners.) He removed all the poetic and self-critical introductory paragraphs -- they do get pretty extreme -- and published only the song-by-song commentary which was also slightly cleaned up. Below are the original full liner notes.


Destiny Street
Notes by Richard Hell


There's always a way of writing about something that will permanently improve the subject (object?) of the writing. Is this what I want to do here? I wouldn't mind. Destiny St. could use some improving. (The twisting pitted street, the missing guardrails, blasted landscape, criminally cheap and rushed construction--all serve to waken the admiration of the elect among us. Leer.)

__________________________


I am the master of the flaw. Nothing I do is very good, is very talented, but the way I recover from it is exquisite [extraordinary, astonishing, endearing, profoundly endearing, fairly beautiful].

__________________________


Horrified desperation.

__________________________


The context--1982 (I think.) (Yes.). Five years after the appearance of the man's previous release (Blank Generation). (Where did those years go?) (The way of the years. "Only time can write a song that's real." Memory above the present--Proust, Nabokov. ((Memory needn't be nostalgia. The present has its points but there's a good case to be made for memory, for time, as the only vantage point of truth, for truly apprehending the full flavor and "meaning...")))

__________________________


When I think of Destiny Street, there are some things I can discuss and some things I cannot. Most of it is undiscussable. I remember everyone's heroic patience with me (all the principals--Naux, Quine, Fred, and Alan Betrock are good and talented people who deserved better). I remember crying trying to sing "I Can Only Give You Everything." I was insane and desperate and riddled with drugs and lonely and despairing and didn't know how to make a record sound good. Didn't know how to sing or play, but refused to leave the house for the studio except when I felt like I could maintain the illusion that I could, which was rarely. (That's half the reason the record is so heavily guitar-laden--when I couldn't muster the self-possession to leave the house I'd call the studio and tell them to lay down another guitar track.)

__________________________


Most of my records sound to me like artifacts of corrupt cultures. Like little cross-eyed statuettes, earnest but inept. They have their charm, but you either have to be exceptionally willing--predisposed to sympathy--, a scholar of the genre, or to some degree a result yourself of the same forces that produced the "artist," to really like them, to find beauty in them.

At least I think they are brave. They have that poignancy, that they forced their way into existence, and somehow can still be found. Time itself, alone, confers a kind of beauty on anything it hasn't completely destroyed yet. I really like the effects of time. I like broken things, worn things, fragments, half-things (That's a good title: The Half-Thing.), things so altered by time that it is impossible to interpret them anymore. They've already started joining the pure mystery, like shadows. If I were a painter I would do nothing but shadows. Shadows are always beautiful. What is "Destiny Street" the shadow of? I depend upon your mercy ("as a goose upon a cigar").

__________________________


Sadness. Rock and roll as a way of turning sadness and loneliness and anger into something transcendentally beautiful, or at least energy-transmitting. I'm aware of the utter unredeemable idiocy of apologizing for--denigrating--ones own work. But if I am going to imagine the record strongly enough to be able to write about it with any potency, accuracy, or insight I must acknowledge that it is deformed, disturbed, and deprived. I was a rodent at the time, dying to be human. I was so scared.

__________________________


The Kid With The Replaceable Head
My best effort at a commercial pop song. I went into this cynically, deliberately, going for a hit. It makes me smile. Even going so far as to change "dead" to "done" ("They say he's dead; he's my three best friends"). --No, that was on the Radar single; I restored it on the album. Sounds good, if bizarre. Such a strangely unclassifiable style for something meant to simply be catchy. May be the best thing on the record.

You Gotta Move
Couldn't play bass line, so Bob came up with funny cool approach. Drums so perfectly monotonous--whole thing threaded on a line. Voice like something pulled open. The jaws of something. Or one of those kung-fu bloodfests where a guy jams his prayer-hands up in someones guts and spreads em.

Going Going Gone
The guy is sick to his stomach. (See above?) Molasses. Good last five seconds. Trying to top Dylan fairly futile, even when he's throwing it away.

Lowest Common Dominator
A title to go with my best. ("Love Comes in Spurts.") Naux's repeated scathing whine part during verses. Good solos. Naux's contribution to record. (Great guitar from Mars. Always attributed to Quine. (As Ivan's best parts on "Blank" were.))

Downtown at Dawn
I love this song. Another one that isn't what it (I) wanted (it) to be (because I didn't know how to write the kind of song I wanted it to be), but that has some great moments and that is interesting as a puzzle, a riddle. And for the lyrics.

Time
Plodding but mildly majestic. Misses bridge (I'd actually learned by this time of the advisability of bridges but I was so preoccupied with other matters I forgot to write them for the whole album). My most covered song (The Loft, The Minutemen, The Shams). I was hoping Linda Ronstadt would pick it up. Classic song that deserves better than it received from me (half written, shoddily arranged). Someday I'll fix it.

I Can Only Give You Everything
Another bizarre mutation. Similar to "Gotta Move" in being cover of a propulsively compelling original, which we reduce to a marching song, strung out as if the guitars were razor wire threaded through the knotted strand of drums in cartoony shapes against the void. The singing like painful sunlight glinting off the polished barbs. I had them turn the studio lights off when I sang, and I felt so hopeless that by the end I was crying (in the dark). I picked up something and threw it after the last chord and our madcap engineer thought this was so downright contagiously rambunctious of the wacky punk, he jumped into the studio and started kicking things around himself.

Ignore That Door
Maybe the most fully realized song on the record. I like it very much. Well constructed, great solos (one Naux and one Quine as usual). Was thinking of "Raw Power" era Iggy. Basic riff something Bob improvised on stage in London 1977 when I broke a bass string at the Music Machine. Anti-drug, etc. Not ironic.

Staring In Her Eyes
Gorgeous intro. Has its plaintive appeal. Typical exquisite Quine solo. But even in this one, a love song, I had to put a corpse (probable victim of the axe in "Spurts").

Destiny Street
Kind of a freak gem. (Later read a Borges story with very similar premise.)


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