richard hell belongs on punk rock’s mount rushmore.
right next to joey ramone, johnny rotten, joe strummer.
think i’m kidding? think again.
without hell, punk as we know it might not exist.
he’s one of the founding fathers.
he drafted the blueprint.
he was there at the beginning.
hell, before the beginning.
he formed television with schoolmate tom verlaine.
they started the cbgb scene in the early 70s.
they didn’t actually build the club’s stage.
but they might as well have.
then he formed the heartbreakers with johnny thunders and jerry nolan.
then he led his own band the voidoids.
he wrote blank generation, love comes in spurts and other punk anthems.
the sex pistols’ pretty vacant?
it’s ‘inspired’ by blank generation.
in fact, the pistols’ entire look —
and punk’s entire look —
the spiky hair.
the torn clothes.
the safety pins.
the t-shirts with slogans like ‘please kill me’ —
hell started it all.
malcolm mclaren liked it.
so he stole it.
everybody else copied it.
the rest is history.
you can read it in books like please kill me and from the velvets to the voidoids.
it wasn’t the end of hell’s story.
he’s lived a life.
he’s been an actor, a poet, an author, a junkie, an icon.
not necessarily in that order.
he hasn’t made music for a long time.
but for a long time, he had one piece of unfinished business.
one thing stuck in his craw.
he wanted to fix the voidoids’ second album destiny street.
it’s a long-forgotten classic.
it’s more grounded than blank generation.
but it was made while he was in a bad way.
afterward he hated the way it sounded.
he was told the master tapes were lost.
back in the 2000s, he found an old cassette of bed tracks.
he overdubbed new guitars and vocals.
it was pretty good.
he thought that was the best he could do.
as close as he could get.
he was wrong.
in 2019, the studio found most of the 24-track masters.
so hell enlisted nick zinner of yeah yeah yeahs.
they refurbished, remixed and remastered the songs.
then packaged it with the original version, the 2009 revamp and some demos.
that’s destiny street complete.
it’s a killer.
the new mixes sound full and fantastic.
the old songs hold up.
the demos include a handful of buried treasures.
like the hotwired crack of dawn, funhunt and ignore that door.
and hell’s detailed liner notes tell the whole story.
hell admits this might be his last musical chapter.
he’s over 70 now.
he prefers writing.
he’s been writing a lot of poetry during lockdown.
he doesn’t dwell on the past.
he doesn’t resent not being rich and famous.
he doesn’t feel ripped off.
he doesn’t feel overlooked.
he doesn’t think he belongs in the rock and roll hall of fame.
‘i hate the rock and roll hall of fame,’ he says.
at the end, he pretty much hated rock and roll.
he hated touring.
hated being spit on.
hated his record label.
hated his life.
he’s happier now.
he doesn’t miss music.
he does miss some people, especially otherworldly guitarist robert quine.
but he doesn’t need to make any more albums.
bottom line: hell knows what he did.
he knows what he did well.
he knows why he played with guys like tom verlaine, johnny thunders, quine, ivan julian and richard lloyd.
‘you think that was an accident?’ he says. ‘they wanted to play with ME!’
he told me all of this when we spoke a few weeks back.
he told me a lot of other things too.
we talked for about half an hour.
then when i went to transcribe our call.
there was nothing on my recorder.
insert your own ‘blank conversation’ joke here.
that definitely sucked.
thankfully, destiny street complete definitely does not.
hear for yourself:
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Destiny Street was the followup album to one of the greatest punk albums of all time, 1977’s Blank Generation. The album was originally recorded in 1981 and released in 1982, but not to Richard Hell’s satisfaction. As he says in his new liner notes to Destiny Street Remixed, “The final mix was a morass of trebly multi-guitar blare.” Now, for the 40th anniversary of its creation, the album is at last presented improved the way Richard Hell has long hoped and intended: “The sound of a little combo playing real gone rock and roll.”
Richard Hell co-founded his first band,The Neon Boys with Tom Verlaine in 1973. That band became Television. When Hell left Television in 1975, he formed The Heartbreakers with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan of The New York Dolls. After another year, Richard departed The Heartbreakers and created Richard Hell And The Voidoids, which, along with other CBGB bands of the era, such as The Ramones and Patti Smith, formed the template for punk, the effects of which are still being felt.
Apart from Hell on vocals and bass, the original Voidoids comprised Robert Quine (guitar), Ivan Julian (guitar), and Marc Bell (drums). The Destiny Street-era band retained Quine, but otherwise the backing lineup became Naux (Juan Maciel) on guitar and Fred Maher on drums.
Richard had wished forever that he could remix the original Destiny Street, but was told by the record company that the original 24-track masters had been lost. In the early 2000s, Hell discovered a cassette from 1981 that contained just the album’s rhythm tracks (drums, bass and two rhythm guitars) and he realized he could add new guitar solos and vocals to that to obtain a cleaner, improved version of the songs. He enlisted Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Ivan Julian to overdub the solos (Quine had died in 2004 and Naux in 2009) and he re-sang everything. This was released as Destiny Street Repaired in 2009. Hell was pleased.
Then, in 2019, three of the four original 24-track masters were discovered. Now, at long last, Destiny Street could be fully remixed, and Hell signed on Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) to help him with that. The result became the uncanny centerpiece of the 2-CD Destiny Street Complete extravaganza. Besides containing the three faithful versions of the album, the 40th anniversary 2-CD deluxe edition of Destiny Street includes not only Hell’s detailed liner notes, but a fourth LP’s worth of demos and prior studio versions of the album’s material — essentially all of Richard’s songwriting output recorded between the release of Blank Generation in 1977 and the recording of Destiny Street in 1981 — including some of the best playing and singing in the set.
According to Hell: “I’ve been working on this release for 40 years. Long road! Three different versions of the same 10 songs, from the same basic tracks by the same four musicians. I couldn’t help myself, and I’m glad, god damn it. But really, each of the four parts (including the collection of demos) has its points of interest and then the whole is greater than the parts, for my money. It was a good trip, with lots of roadside attractions, but I’m happy to have reached the destination.”