|As the full-scale illustrated bio ("Bio Core") is advancing kind of slowly, we've stuck on this publicity/press thing to supplement it, and've added links to some of the material it mentions that's on the site.
Richard Hell was born Richard Meyers on October 2, 1949, and raised in Lexington, KY. He dropped out of high school in 1966 to come to New York and make his way as a poet. In New York he bought a used table-top offset printing press and began publishing books and magazines under the imprints Genesis : Grasp and then Dot Books. Before he was twenty-one his own poems were published in numerous periodicals, ranging from Rolling Stone to the New Directions Annuals. Richard, though, realizing by this point that he wanted more direct, physical relief, started a rock and roll band with his best high school friend, Tom (Miller) Verlaine. This band, The Neon Boys (1973), two four-track studio recordings by whom are on the 2005 Hell compilation SPURTS [catalog entry], evolved into the group Television, which band Richard left in 1975 before the group recorded their first album. He then immediately joined with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan, who had just departed the New York Dolls, to form the Heartbreakers, which Richard also quit after one year and before recording a studio album (a live performance by the Heartbreakers in 1975, when they were largely performing Hell material with Richard singing, has been available on CDs from Bomp--inferior--in America and New Rose--superior--in France). In 1976 he founded the group the Voidoids.
Hell became known in the mid-Seventies as an originator of the punk movement [as documented, for instance, in the books From the Velvets to the Voidoids by Clinton Heylin (Penguin, 1993), and Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain (Grove Press, 1996)]. His album Blank Generation [catalog entry] (Sire/Warners, 1977, currently in print as a CD) by "Richard Hell and the Voidoids" was chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best albums of the decade. Lester Bangs had this to say about Hell and that album in 1977:
"Richard Hell identifies with no movement, with few people in fact. If you listen between the sonic blasts, his music is about a sense of aloneness beyond the old alienated antihero syndrome, but before that Richard Hell is a rocker. The music on this album is some of the strongest, truest rock & roll I have heard in ages. Like most great rock & roll, it stands alone; there are influences, not all of them musical and many of them literary, but he is no arty poseur, in fact this is also some of the most honest music I have heard in some time. As we trail out of the age of artifice (I don't think I have to mention any names), artifice itself rides on the coattails of most of those who proclaim themselves an alternative. Richard Hell is different. I hear echoes in this record of rock & roll from time immemorial, and they are not contrived, they are rather the modus of a plain-speaking kid with an awesome intelligence and a great pain to speak plainly of... The toughness of the music is just defensive armor, courtesy the searchlight-destructive tag-team of Robert Quine and Ivan Julian on guitars. In this album they have slashed out some of the most fitfully dangerous rock & roll I've heard this decade. If you think I say that lightly you don't know me. But at the center is Hell himself, his own ninth circle, pretending to be blank when his every move and word reveals a naked, impassioned intelligence in the throes of the only truly rock & roll artistic convulsion, which is to be driven so far into and paradoxically, simultaneously outside of yourself that you create as a matter of frenzy, instead of lowering your eyelids before the world in shame and loneliness."
Hell's second album, Destiny Street [catalog entry] (Red Star/Jem, 1982, now kept out of print by Hell until such time as he has an expanded re-release prepared), with such classic songs as "The Kid with the Replaceable Head," "Time," and "Lowest Common Dominator," [MP3 / RealAudio sound file] was declared by the Times to be among the ten best of its year of release. His third release was R.I.P. (ROIR, 1984), a collection of outtakes and unreleased material from the length of his musical career as well as several new songs recorded in New Orleans. Hell retired from music after the release of R.I.P., but made an exception in 1992 to record a one-off set with Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Don Fleming of Gumball. The self-titled CD by this new group, Dim Stars, was released worldwide that year. To quote from Robert Palmer in Rolling Stone's four-star review of the CD:
"...Richard Hell--yes, the guy who, beginning in the mid-Seventies, forged jacked-up garage rock, spiked hair, ripped T-shirts and a bad attitude into what we now know as punk rock. Too often, the result of this kind of casual studio play is casual music. Not this time. Dim Stars carries on the raving sonic mayhem of Hell's original Voidoids. His visionary songwriting and off-center soulfullness are dominant enough to make Dim Stars Hell's very long-awaited follow-up to Destiny Street (1982), which was only his second album. Rarely has a rocker been so influential with such a small body of recorded work. On this album he makes a spectacular return to peak form..."
As a poet, Hell is the author of Wanna Go Out? [catalog entry] by Theresa Stern (collaborative poems with Tom Verlaine, Dot Books, 1973), I Was A Spiral On The Floor (poems, Soyo Publications, Amsterdam, 1988), and Across the Years [catalog entry] (a selected poems cased in a wooden box with a CD of Hell reading the entire book aloud, Soyo, Amsterdam, 1992). A short novel, The Voidoid [catalog entry], that he wrote in 1973, was published by CodeX in Britain in 1996. The collection of his notebooks from the seventies, Artifact [catalog entry], was published by Hanuman Books in 1990. In the late '80s he edited the NY literary magazine CUZ for the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church. He has been widely anthologized and, for instance, is represented in such anthologies as: Out of This World (fiction, Crown Publishers, 1992), Am Lit (fiction, Editions Druckhaus Galrev, Berlin, 1992), The Penguin Book of Rock Criticism (essays, Penguin, 1992), Jungles D'Ameriques (fiction, AAC Editions, Paris, 1993), Low Rent (fiction, Grove Press, 1994), The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats (essay, Hyperion, 1999), Beat Punks (essay, Da Capo, 2000), Aroused (introductory essay, poems, and fiction, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2001), and Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues (essay, Amistad, 2003).
Hell's first full length novel, Go Now [catalog entry], an account, set in 1980, of a burned-out junkie punk driving across America with a former girlfriend, was published in 1996 by Scribner in the U.S.A. and Fourth Estate in Britain. Novelist William Gibson, the influential originator of "cyberpunk" fiction, said this about the book: "Go Now is vile, scabrous, unforgiveable, and deserving of the widest possible audience." (A spoken word recording by Hell, with guitar backing from Robert Quine, of the first two chapters of this novel was released on CD [catalog entry] and vinyl by T/K records in America and CodeX in Britain in 1995.) The paperback of Go Now (Scribner) came out in the U.S., June, 1997.
In 1998 Richard embarked on a project of co-publishing--with Will Patton, actor, and Mette Madsen, painter--and editing a series of poetry pamphlets under the imprint CUZ Editions [catalog]. The first of these was a small book by Hell entitled Weather. Seven more titles were published in 1998-2001, completing the series [excerpts from each CUZ book] (Autobiography in Words by Susan Noel with drawings by Mette Madsen, WillieWorld by Maggie Dubris, Sitting Pretty by Michael DeCapite, Lassitudes of Fire by Will Patton, Chaldea/I Dig Girls by Nick Tosches, Love Poems by Rene Ricard with drawings by Robert Hawkins, and Ron Padgett's Poems I Guess I Wrote with drawings by George Schneeman) .
The French translation of Hell's novel Go Now, retitled by the publisher--Éditions de l'Olivier (Paris)--L'oeil du Lézard, was published in April, 1999. There have also been Japanese and Russian translations of the novel published, and a British edition. In September, 1999, the French art book publisher Éditions Anna Polèrica returned to print in a facing-page French/English bilingual format the Tom Verlaine/R. Hell collaborative book of poems Wanna Go Out? (which purports to be the work of "Theresa Stern"). There was an Italian translation of Hell's second novel Godlike published as Come Dio by Coniglio Editore (Rome).
Richard has publicly read from his writings at numerous clubs, universities, bookstores, and other venues in the U.S. and Europe, including, since 1995: Duke University in Durham, N.C.; University of Kansas at Lawrence; Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY; Beyond Baroque, The Viper Room, and Book Soup in Los Angeles; the Make-Out Room and City Lights Books in San Francisco; Richard Hugo House in Seattle; Powell's Books in Portland; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Central Park's Summerstage series, the St. Mark's Poetry Project, The New School, KGB Bar, the Knitting Factory, the NightLight series at the Drawing Center, and The National Arts Club in New York City; as well as at the Cinémathèque française and La Maroquinerie in Paris, the Second Coming festival in Stockholm, The 13th Note in Glasgow, the Horse Hospital and the Vox 'n' Roll series Upstairs at the Garage in London, and the Festival Internacional La Música y la Palabra in Seville.
In video, Untitled, Big Show, and Prehistory are three poeokes (poem-karaokes) made by Hell in 1993-4 using software created by Perry Hoberman. Each one lasts 3-5 minutes. For a period in the late '90s, Richard sometimes projected these videos on a large screen to provide a little spectacle at his readings.
In October-November 1998 Hell had a first gallery show of his drawings at Rupert Goldsworthy Gallery in New York. Accompanying the show was the publication of a new short collection of a miscellany of his writings (poems, essays, notebooks, etc.) and drawings entitled Hot and Cold (Vehicle Editions). The book was an advance preview of a full-length collection of such work that was published by powerHouse Books in 2001. This full-scale, 256 page Hot and Cold [catalog entry], a compendium juxtaposing the best of Richard's writings and graphics which had not appeared previously in his books, including the lyrics to all the songs he'd written to date, organized this disparate media into a coherent whole. Hell not only wrote the book and designed its pages he compiled its vivid index.
As an actor Richard established his reputation as a star of Susan Seidelman's (Desperately Seeking Susan, etc.) initial feature Smithereens [catalog entry], which made history by being the first American independent film to be invited to compete at Cannes.
Hell has played leading roles in a number of New York underground films, from Rachid Kerdouche's punk film noir, Final Reward (1978) [catalog entry], and Nick Zedd's mad-scientist/horror parody Geek Maggot Bingo (1982), to Rachel Amodeo's examination of the plight of the homeless What About Me? (1992).
The feature length color 35mm film, Blank Generation [catalog entry], in which Hell played opposite French star Carole Bouquet in 1978, and which features live performances by Hell and the Voidoids at CBGB [RealPlayer video excerpt of "Liars Beware" at soundcheck], was rereleased in widescreen format on VHS and DVD in the U.S. in March 2000.
Also in 2000, Richard accepted a commission from the major Internet music label MusicBlitz to record a new song and ended up gathering his original band of Voidoids--Robert Quine, Ivan Julian, and Marc Bell--to do it. It was the first time they'd been in the studio together since 1977. The result is called "Oh" and was available for a year exclusively as an MP3 for free download at MusicBlitz.com, but was withdrawn as a free download upon release of the MusicBlitz CD compiled by Wayne Kramer entitled Beyond Cyberpunk which included the song. (It's now been included in the 2005 retrospective CD from Sire/Rhino called SPURTS [catalog entry].)
In March 2002 Matador Records released a 2 CD compilation by Hell called Time [catalog entry], comprising an expanded version of his 1984 collection of demos, outtakes, and unreleased versions R.I.P., plus a CD of two live sets, one at the Music Machine in London, 1977, and a short one from C.B.G.B. in 1978.
During 2004-2006 Richard was the film columnist for BlackBook ["Hell On the Movies" online here], the "progressive urban" youth culture bi-monthly out of New York. In his tenure he contributed fourteen substantial film essays.
Richard's most important recent accomplishment is his new novel, Godlike [catalog entry]. It's published by Dennis Cooper's imprint, Little House on the Bowery, at Akashic Books [website], and arrived in stores July, 2005. Set largely in the early '70s, but structured as a middle-aged poet's 1997 notebooks and drafts for a memoir-novel, the book recounts the story of a young man's affair with a remarkable teenage poet.
Besides Godlike, two other major releases occured in 2005: the retrospective CD, containing Hell's 21 most compelling recordings 1973-2004, called SPURTS: The Richard Hell Story [catalog entry], out on Sire/Rhino; and the marvelous, finely-printed, collection of Richard's 13 poem collaborations with David Shapiro, called Rabbit Duck [catalog entry].
Richard spent early 2006 delivering the last in the series of readings booked to promote Godlike (a more comphensive -- retrospective -- reading and Q & A, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, was video recorded by the museum [offsite streaming video]); writing the odd piece of journalism (for instance an Op Ed for The New York Times on CBGB's closing) or art catalogue text (for Christopher Wool at Gagosian [Gagosian site catalog listing], and one for a group show called Sad Songs [catalog entry]); but he's been mostly focused on writing his "quasi-memoir," the first chapter of which was published in February, 2007 in Vanitas #2 [magazine website] as "from The Autobiography of Richard Hell by Richard Meyers."
[For more recent details see Hell Updates.]
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