I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiographyby Richard Hell
From an early age, Richard Hell dreamed of running away. He arrived penniless in New York City at seventeen; ten years later he was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, cofounding such seminal bands as Television, The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids—whose song "Blank Generation" remains the defining anthem of the era, an era that would forever
From an early age, Richard Hell dreamed of running away. He arrived penniless in New York City at seventeen; ten years later he was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, cofounding such seminal bands as Television, The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids—whose song "Blank Generation" remains the defining anthem of the era, an era that would forever alter popular culture in all its forms. How this legendary downtown artist went from a bucolic childhood in the idyllic Kentucky foothills to igniting a movement that would take over New York and London's restless youth culture—cementing CBGB as the ground zero of punk and spawning the careers of not only Hell himself, but a cohort of friends such as Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith, the Ramones, and Debby Harry—is a mesmerizing chronicle of self-invention, and of Hell's yearning for redemption through poetry, music, and art. An acutely rendered, unforgettable coming-of-age story, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp evokes with feeling, lyricism, and piercing intelligence both the world that shaped him and the world he shaped.
Hell's fashion style-torn clothing and the ubiquitous safety pins, spiked hair-and the protopunk music of his bands Television and the Heartbreakers, influenced numerous early punk rockers, such as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Hell brings his searingly honest songwriting style to this candid and page-turning memoir of his life, from childhood until the end of the 1970s. Hell takes us on a journey through his youth in Lexington, Ky., his boredom with school, his attempts at running away, his to move to New York in the 1970s, and his struggles with drug addiction. Hell recalls that when he started having a band in the late 1960s, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the Kinks provided what excited him most in music: "It was fast, aggressive, and scornful, but complicated and full of feelings." He recounts seeing Patti Smith for the first time and being blown away by performances that were seductive and funny; she was like a "bebop artist... off to a whole other plane beyond the beyond." Hell's memoir spills over with recollections of his times with Andrew Wylie, Sid Vicious's girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and rock critic Lester Bangs. In 1976, the Voidoids debuted at CBGB; the following year, Hell descended into drug addiction. Hell's refreshingly candid portrait of the artist searching for himself offers a glimpse into his own genius as well as recreating the hellishness and the excitement of a now long-gone music scene in New York City.
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What People are Saying About This
“Richard Hell designed and executed a sustained performance of rock stardom as if he had invented the concept himself. Radically self-aware, he wields prose keen as a diamond knife, sharpened by the light of the moon.”
“Tramp gave me the same feeling I had as a kid... I cozied up and fell in love with a world that wasn’t mine. There are very few books that make me want to start writing my own; this is one of them.”
“Charming and impossible, Hell is the first (and best!) name in punk rock. His insights are informed by the romance of running away to the mystery heard in the rowdy grooves of a dirty LP or in the pages of a thumbed book of verse.”
“[Hell] almost single handedly created ‘punk’ as we know it.... Few people have been as importantyet as underappreciated as Richard Hell. Poet, musician, fashion icon and terrific, terrific writer. Chances are, you have been deeply influenced by Richard Hell your whole life. You just didn’t know it.”
“An exquisite snapshot of early punk possibilitythat so beautifully captures the exuberance of starting a band!”
Meet the Author
Since retiring from music in 1984, Richard Hell has focused primarily on writing. He is the author of the journals collection Artifact; the novels Go Now and Godlike; and the collection of essays, notebooks, and lyrics Hot and Cold; as well as numerous other pamphlets and books. Hell has published essays, reportage, and fiction in such publications as Spin, GQ, Esquire, the Village Voice, Vice, Bookforum, Art in America, the New York Times, and the New York Times Book Review. From 2004 to 2006 he was the film critic for BlackBook magazine. He lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Beautifully written and a swift read... Hell keeps it spare and raw with sometimes brutal observations. Doesn't let himself off the hook but also doesn't waste time on regret... Fabulous for music lovers, especially of the punk scene...
Mr. Hell is the authentic "Mr. JITTERBUG" of Carmine Street. If only for a moment, makes u heed the immortal words of Cosby's Mushmouth: "Dont-buh be-buh a fool-buh; shtay-buh in-buh school-buh!!"