“I know it’s hard for you to face the fact Max Factor failed your face
And that your social life’s misshapen ‘cuz you feel so out of place.”
Many will argue what defines Punk and what is Punk. Is it still alive or did it die a quick but painful death? Everyone has their own take on it. Some think it is putting a safety pin through their ear but some may regard it being a state of mind. I’m with the latter. For me it is something that goes beyond three chords and ripped jeans. Music always goes beyond what is expected, and Punk did just that. It still does that.
I can’t remember how old I was but I’d imagine I was in my teens when I first heard of Richard Hell. I heard Marquee Moon by Television and was fully aware that I was listening to something I could never be turned off from. Of course I was born too late to experience the Punk movement when it started, but I realised quite quickly that this wasn’t something I was going to let go of nor was I going to take this music lightly. I delved into the bands that Richard Hell had been involved with, but more importantly I seemed to care about what he had to say rather than what band he was in.
Over the past few years I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading his poetry, his reviews, his essays, his thoughts, his autobiography- really anything he wrote, I would track down and read religiously. The only person I’ve had this urge to really indulge in all they do is Patti Smith. For me, they are people with great minds who make you think. I’ll take someone who makes me question everything and everyone over someone who doesn’t, easily. I’m currently nearing the end of Massive Pissed Love, it’s a collection of his work from 2000-2014. I find everything he writes to be utterly captivating and it sets my mind off. He talks about topics most would shy away from and he’s not afraid to voice his opinion. From his thoughts on art to sex, he makes you think. What most would shun as a “taboo” he just gives it to you without a second thought. That is Punk.
The best way to learn anything is to experience it, but I still regard Patti Smith, Morrissey and Joey Ramone as the best teachers I ever had. They held my attention more than any teacher ever could. Richard Hell is up there too. There have been a handful of writers that really got me into poetry and lured me into always having a notebook with me in case I felt the need to unleash pathetic words onto a page. Words no one will ever see. What Richard Hell taught me was to really go from the heart and not be too cautious with where it takes me. Having a careful tongue isn’t fun. It’s alright to cross the line at times and it’s a fucking great thing to question everything around you.
Richard Hell was (and probably still is) my vision of a rebel. The way he was on stage, his words, his look- everything about him oozed something different to everyone else. You couldn’t help but really fall in love with him. I’ve read his autobiography a few times, and with each read I find something new to love and admire about him. In the 80s he pretty much stopped making music and focused on his writing. Sure I’d love a new record by Richard but he writes so beautifully that it doesn’t seem to matter. The music he did made still sounds timeless and his words still resonate with you. He was part of the ULTIMATE super group- The Heartbreakers (featuring the greatest guitarist, Johnny Thunders) and on stage or off, he had this way of just getting under your skin in the best way imaginable.
I didn’t really go into this with any idea with what I wanted to get at, I guess I just wanted to unleash my respect for the guy somehow. I’ve spent years being in awe of his way with words. He doesn’t complicate things in order for you to see things how he does. He has this Rimbaud quality to his work that can be easy to miss but when you get right into the heart of it, you can pick up the influences. But then, you go a bit deeper and realise that there is nobody else quite like him. Sure you can pick up on who has possibly influenced him, but it slowly fades away because Richard Hell is something else. He is truly something else.
His song lyrics read like perfect poetry. The kind of poetry kids should be studying in schools to free and expand their mind. If I was an English teacher, I’d be fighting for the curriculum to have his work along with Patti Smith. Punk taught me nearly everything I know. Sure I don’t know much, but there’s always the time to learn more. I learnt very early on that I always felt like an outsider and where I was, wasn’t where I should be. I never felt part of anything, but I’ll take being part of the Blank Generation any day.