Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HELL, Richard

(b Richard Myers, 2 Oct. '49, Lexington KY) Punk rocker. Grew up in Wilmington DE; went to NYC to work in a bookshop (Cinemabilia in Greenwich Village), write poetry and take drugs. Schoolfriend Tom Miller moved in '68; they formed Neon Boys '71 with another schoolmate Billy Ficca on drums; bassist Myers changed his name to Hell, guitarist Miller changed his to Verlaine. They recorded their early songs 'Love Comes In Spurts'/'That's All I Know Right Now' (released '80 on Shake label as a retrospective single). They formed Television late '73 with Ficca and Richard Lloyd on guitar, but by mid-'75 Hell had been ousted, his anarchistic vision and rudimentary playing no longer suiting. He spent a year in the Heartbreakers, a spinoff from the New York Dolls formed with Johnny Thunders, then formed his own Voidoids. The defiantly ripped and torn clothes in the glamrock era was Malcolm McLaren's model for the Sex Pistols (McLaren having been the Dolls' last manager).

Finally his own boss with the Voidoids, Hell's lineup was Ivan Julian (b 26 June '55, Wash. DC), Robert Quine (b 30 Dec. '42, Akron OH; d c.31 May 2004, NYC), guitars; Marc Bell (ex-Wayne County), drums. Blank Generation '76 was an EP recorded for the Ork label and became the seventh release on Stiff, the UK being first to recognize punk philosophy: it featured a remake of 'Love Comes In Spurts'. There was an LP of the same title on Sire '77; they toured with Clash that year and then with Elvis Costello, whose manager (Stiff boss Jake Riviera) signed Hell to Radar: 'Kid With The Replaceable Head' single resulted, produced by Nick Lowe (Bell had left to join Ramones, replaced by Frank Mauro; Jerry Antonius played bass/keyboards). Hell wrote a column for the East Village Eye; drugs and depression caused some lost time; he returned in some style on the Red Star label for Destiny Street '82, on which Fred Maher replaced Mauro; then Quine went to Lou Reed, replaced by Naux (b 29 July '51, San Jose CA). Hell's proto-punk role was recorded in films Smithereens '82 and Blank Generation: the song and its title are a reminder of how far ahead of the field he was. Funhunt on ROIR compiled '78-9 NYC tracks. The original Voidoids re-formed to record 'Oh' for the 2001 compilation Beyond Cyberpunk.

Ben Sisario's obituary of Robert Quine in the New York Times said that Hell, Verlain and Quine had all worked at Cinemabilia. Quine was one of the best musicians of the era, older than most of the others and with a law degree, with great technical proficiency, deep knowledge of the music and an astonishing memory for guitar licks. He had begun as a fan of the Velvet Underground, recording their concerts with a portable cassette machine (Bootleg Series, Vol 1: The Quine Tapes was a 3-CD set in 2001). He also played with Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits, Brian Eno, John Zorn and others; he recorded duos with guitarist Jody Harris and drummer Fred Maher. His uncle, the philosopher W.V. Quine, had died in 2000; his wife, Alice, died in August of 2003; he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment 5 June 2004, thought to be a suicide.