Celebrated UK musician and academic Pete Astor analyzes one of the seminal albums of the New York punk era from both scholarly and subjective perspectives.
To wander the streets of a bankrupt, often lawless, New York City in the early 1970's wearing a tee shirt with PLEASE KILL ME written on it was an act of arch nihilism, and one often recounted in the first reports of Richard Hell filtering into pre-punk UK. Pete Astor, an archly nihilistic teenager himself at the time, was most impressed. The fact that it emerged (after many years) that Hell himself had not worn the garment but had convinced junior band member Richard Lloyd to do so, actually fitted very well with Astor's older, wiser, and more knowing self. Here was an artist who could not only embody but also frame the punk urge; just what was needed to make one of the defining records of the era.
Having seeded and developed the essential look and character of punk since his arrival in New York in the late 1960's, Richard Hell and The Voidoids released Blank Generation in 1977. Pete Astor's portmanteau approach uses objective and subjective perspectives to articulate the meanings of the album, combining academic rigour with the reception-based subjectivities that are key to understanding our relationships to popular culture.
About the Author
Pete Astor is Senior Lecturer in Musicology at the University of Westminster, UK. He also writes songs, sings and plays the guitar.
The 33 1/3 book series started in 2003, analyzing 'seminal' rock albums in the manner of great literature novels-but also adding the personal insights that only the true rock n' roll fan can deliver. #92 looks at Richard Hell and the Voidoids' Blank Generation (1977). On the heels of #91, on Gang of Four's Entertainment (1979) the releases really are two of a pair-the arch "art punk" statements of the '70s-though Gang of Four is more political and Richard Hell thoroughly nihilistic. The analytical approach can have its pitfalls: Astor is so intent on the importance of listening on vinyl that he traces the history of recording technology back to Edison, to make the point that the album has to be heard on that medium. But Astor brilliantly places Blank Generation in the 70's lower East Side New York art world, with all the squalor evoked by Richard Hell's songs, as well as depicting Hell as a poet with a comprehensive artistic vision. In his own way, Hell was the voice of a generation. SLUG Magazine
Series: 33 1/3
Number Of Pages: 144
Published: 1st May 2014
Dimensions (cm): 16.5 x 12.1 x 1.2
Weight (kg): 0.15
Edition Number: 1