Richard Hell

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tv2In Martvch 1974, a band called Television — Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca — played both their very first show (at Townhouse Theater on W 44th) as well as their first gig, a few weeks later, at a dive country and bluegrass bar on the Bowery recently renamed CBGB + OMFUG. They were not a country or bluegrass band. Within months CBGB had become a mecca for new music, underground rock and roll by New York’s unsigned bands, including The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Patti Smith Group. This is where punk rock was born.

Several events this week commemorate punk’s 40th anniversary:

Thursday, March 20, 7 pm, at The Strand, 828 Broadway: Richard Hell in conversation with Bryan Waterman, marking the pbk release of Hell’s autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. [open to public]

Thursday, March 20, 6pm, third floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections presents the GoNightclubbing Video Lounge, a multi-media installation curated by Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong paying tribute to the infamous Danceteria Video Lounge, which they created in 1980. [open to public]

Friday, March 21 through Sunday, March 23, 11 am to 1 pm, Silver 401, NYU: “Punk and the City,” a three-day seminar as part of the annual American Comparative Literature Association meetings. Twelve presenters on a range of related topics, from Latin American punk to Pussy Riot. [registration fees apply]

so so glosSaturday, March 22, 7 pm, Great Hall at Cooper Union: Punk Turns Forty: A Plenary Sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association and the Fales Library. Part I: Brandon Stosuy, editor at Pitchfork, interviews Richard Hell; Part II: Avital Ronell moderates a panel with Vivien Goldman, Kathleen Hanna, and Tamar-kali. [Free admission at 6:30 for ACLA conference attendees and at 7:00 for the general public, as space allows]

Saturday, March 22, 10:30 pm doors, Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South: So So Glos, with Household and Arm Candy, a concert to benefit Silent Barn. [$5-$10 sliding donation; all-ages]

Sunday, March 23, 5 to 8 pm, The Panther Room at Output, 74 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Classic Album Sundays presents Television’s Marquee Moon. Presenter: Bryan Waterman, author of Marquee Moon (33 1/3 series). [Tickets: $10 at the door or online here]



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Sometime in 1974 Richard Hell wrote a review of his own band, Television, playing a set at a newish club called CBGB’s, from the perspective of a fictional audience member. “The place had a grapevine reputation on account of a band called Television that played there Sundays at midnight,” he writes. In the first few lines he sets the scene, describing the club’s sights and smells (“smelled like dogshit”), the sounds of the pool table before the band starts playing, and a particular single on the jukebox: “Talk Talk,” by Music Machine, from 1966. It’s the sort of song that makes you want to walk with a swagger.

You can find Hell’s entire piece in his collection Hot and Cold (2001).

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Vivien Goldman, from “To Hell & Back,” Sounds, 8 October 1977:

“I WONDER whether the bright spark who thought up the new Sire Records slogan Don’t Call It Punk realised exactly how spot on he/she was. Take a musician like Richard [Hell] – he isn’t a punk. True, he lives in a highly unsalubrious area of New York, way down on the lower east side, ideal turf for young punks to hang out on corners and shoot the shit, but Richard isn’t there because he’s a first generation American whose folks have just pulled in from Puerto Rico. He’s there because he’s one of the new generation of artist types flocking to low-rent areas, a process which will inevitably result in the rents slowly rising, the scabrous tenements being tarted up till the immigrant families can’t afford it any more and have to shift camp to somewhere even less advantageous. Right now, it’s still funky in the fullest sense of the word – mean, dirty and low down, just the kind of area your mother wouldn’t let you play in.”

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