RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS – “The Blank Generation” / “Liars Beware” (Sire 6078 608) November 1977
RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS “The Blank Generation” – Delaware boarding-school boys Richard Meyers and Tom Miller grew up to be Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, prime movers in New York’s ’70s punk scene.
The pair formed the Neon Boys, then Television, for whom Blank Generation was written. The title parodied Rod McKuen’s poem I Belong To The Best Generation, but the song was Hell’s attempt to craft something which defined the style of his generation.
It was first demo’d in 1975 during Brian Eno produced sessions, but when Verlaine refused to perform any other Hell songs, the partnership ended. Hell recorded the definitive version with his new band The Voidoids in June ’76 for US indie Ork Records.
The angular, staccato guitars of Robert Quine and Ivan Julian sparked like lightening around Hell’s jerky bass and sneering, whining vocal. Though it all ran an almost free-jazz feel, sharply at odds with the arch simplicity of other contemporary NY New Wavers.
Released by Ork in November 1976, it was re-recorded in mid ’77 for Hell’s Sire debut album. Hell intended the title to be understood as “I belong to the ___ generation”, leaving listeners to fill in the blank, but it was constantly misinterpreted to imply a generation of blank kids.
It was this, plus Hell’s look – spiky hair, ripped T-shirt / safety pins – that Malcolm McLaren exported to London as the basis for the Sex Pistols and the whole UK punk scene. (Mojo)
Richard Hell is a controversial figure in the Record Mirror office, certain members of staff being convinced that he is (to put it as politely as possible) lacking in a certain amount of talent.
And I must admit I’m instantly suspicious about anyone who professes to be one of the blank generation (what a stupid expression). But nevertheless this is a great pop record, with Richard’s whiney vocals, lots of crashing guitar noises and an insistent, irresistible beat. Great stuff. (Record Mirror)
After the Voidoids’ spectacularly mis-co-ordinated intro it’s a wonder they all come together on the same note, but they do, and Richard spits “I was saying ‘let me out of here’ before I was even born” with a delivery the line deserves, while the band coalesce for a display of New York electrotherapy.
Guitars strain at the leash, begging for the twice-given chance to hit that primal Fender scream, and the vocals walk a tight line between cool nerve and nervous camp.
Handled badly ‘Blank Generation’ could have been simply a camp throwaway, but Hell transcends the joke by singing the thing like he means it.
This gives the song a neat double edge. After all, if he really did belong to the blank generation it would preclude him voicing the fact with such enthusiasm.
Unlimited, un-numbered edition, no pic-sleeve, no special B-side, no collectability. Only playability. (NME)