I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography (Anglais) Relié – Séquence inédite, 12 mars 2013
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Descriptions du produit
Revue de presse
“In his poetic memoir, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, Hell takes us on a tour of a lost world and stakes out his place in cultural history.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Hell brings to his new autobiography more literary experience than your typical rock memoirist…I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp ultimately celebrates passion, in all its complicated, sometimes dangerous forms.” (USA Today)
“This valuable book... is not only an absorbing cultural history but also a clear-eyed story that superbly channels the attitude expressed in the first blurt to his best-known song ‘Blank Generation’: “I was saying let me out of here before I was even born.” (Boston Globe)
“Mr. Hell has an excellent new memoir, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, that describes that wild, reckless and important era in downtown Manhattan with candor, wit and reverence.” (The Observer)
“His book shines its own dirty light. Which means it has lots of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. Pick up I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, if you want poetry and insight.” (Spin)
“There are many shivery, illicit pleasures in this louche memoir… Hell was a virtuoso of taste, a critic with a sensibility so fine and unconventional it bordered on its own form of art… weird and singular and superbly self-aware.” (BookForum)
“Hell is an enthusiastic reporter of the critical artistic crossover of the avant-garde art scene and the world of punk rock... his account rings true and it entertains... a treasure both to those present during gritty, heady ‘70s NYC and to those not.” (Time Out New York (4 Stars))
“Hell brings his searingly honest songwriting style to this candid and page-turning memoir... [Hell’s] 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.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A skilled writer…In recalling the days when love came in spurts, Hell is precise, telling a lot without ever seeming to tell too much. He nails the essence of both scenes and people, from rock peers to exploitative record producers…A deft, lyrical chronicle.” (Kirkus)
“Hell is a fine writer and full of self-knowledge, and part of the pleasure of this randy, drug-addled memoir are his descriptions of New York during the bad old days when crime was rampant and the streets filthy. A compelling and entertaining memoir.” (Booklist)
“[Hell] almost single handedly created ‘punk’ as we know it.... Few people have been as important--yet 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.” (Anthony Bourdain)
“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.” (Luc Sante, award winning author of Low Life)
“An exquisite snapshot of early punk possibility--that so beautifully captures the exuberance of starting a band!” (Legs McNeil)
“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.” (Thurston Moore)
“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.” (Kathleen Hanna)
“Other rock bios are tasteful and cautious — you feel the writer take you to a certain point but then pull back... Hell will take you right there, and that is why this book is an honest and special treat.” (Dean Wareham)
Présentation de l'éditeur
The sharp, lyrical, and no-holds-barred autobiography of the iconoclastic writer and musician Richard Hell, charting the childhood, coming of age, and misadventures of an artist in an indelible era of rock and roll...
From an early age, Richard Hell dreamed of running away. His father died when he was seven, and at seventeen he left his mother and sister behind and headed for New York City, place of limitless possibilities. He arrived penniless with the idea of becoming a poet; ten years later he was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, starting such seminal bands as Television, the Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids—whose song "Blank Generation" remains the defining anthem of the era. Hell was significantly responsible for creating CBGB as punk ground zero; his Voidoids toured notoriously with the Clash, and Malcolm McLaren would credit Hell as inspiration for the Sex Pistols. There were kinetic nights in New York's club demi-monde, descent into drug addiction, and an ever-present yearning for redemption through poetry, music, and art.
"We lived in the suburbs in America in the fifties," Hell writes. "My roots are shallow. I'm a little jealous of people with strong ethnic and cultural roots. Lucky Martin Scorsese or Art Spiegelman or Dave Chappelle. I came from Hopalong Cassidy and Bugs Bunny and first grade at ordinary Maxwell Elementary." How this legendary downtown artist went from a prosaic childhood in the idyllic Kentucky foothills to igniting a movement that would take over New York's and London's restless youth cultures—and spawn the careers of not only Hell himself, but a cohort of friends such as Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith, the Ramones, and Debbie Harry—is just part of the fascinating story Hell tells. With stunning powers of observation, he delves into the details of both the world that shaped him and the world he shaped.
An acutely rendered, unforgettable coming-of-age story, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp evokes with feeling, clarity, and piercing intelligence that classic journey: the life of one who comes from the hinterlands into the city in search of art and passion.
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He wants to be known and the thrill of this book and truly, the tenor of all his work, is that in reliving defining moments of his life, he riffs on himself in a way that is fresh and iconoclastic. It's alchemy - this is a literary book, and its values speak to and argue with the whole historical genre of autobiography. He's saying his piece, not to win a pissing match, but because he's acutely aware that the printed page is his best - and perhaps now, the only - chance for him to come fully alive.
Specific high points:
- His portraits of the people in his circle. Even his most damning critiques are so intriguing that one can't help but think that scorn and affection are but two sides of the same coin for him. Anyone not worth his interest is simply not mentioned.
- His cultural references. If all you do is go through the book and highlight any reference to an historical site (say, a bygone NYC bookstore), or a piece of music, or a poet, or a movie, or whatever -- and then spend all day on Wikipedia looking everything up - that alone is worth the price of admission.
- His explanation of his creative achievements. This is the most definitive account of where his real roots are, e.g. poetry, cinema, the NY art world, and post-war suburbia and pop culture -- and what he considers his best contributions. He generously shares his thought process and motivations, even when it doesn't make him look particularly original or daring (though those moments are few). And because his values are essentially democratic -- perhaps any of us could've calculated and premeditated what he did, in that place at that time -- he's encouraging. But we didn't did we? His irreverent charm, more than anything, gives him the leeway to revel in his biggest victories, and as he tallies them with the losses, his sense of humor about it all is all the more impressive and endearing.
- His observation of others' creative beginnings. Bob Quine and Tom Verlaine in particular are given fascinating and astute treatments for their artistic impetuses, perhaps because he spent so much time with them. But even some of the women he mentions, even if their primary functions were as enablers or sex goddesses, are treated as creative progenitors in their own right. He brilliantly explores ways he and others contrived or improvised their personalities - in a way that's fascinating and worth noting, worth being immortalized! He romantically does that for himself but he also shares the spotlight with others. People who would otherwise be given only the most minimal or didactic treatment in the press are here, on his pages, otherworldly creatures full of youth and dark-edged beauty.
- And finally, the guy tried to cut off his own hemorrhoid! And admits it! It doesn't get any more punk than that.
Although I'm a decade younger than Richard Hell, I lived in New York and hung out in the East Village during the 1980's. I went to these clubs, did these drugs and had similar experiences.
His descriptions of the neighborhood and drug scene took me back to a time when the city was exciting and had that artsy, bohemian yet combat zone feel.
Now as I look down Second Avenue, all i see are Banks, Starbucks and other corporate chains;
I wonder how Richard feels as he continues to live in the same neighborhood.
More than anything, this book made me grieve for the New York I knew and loved.
I now confess disappointment. That Hell decided to end his book at the point he jettisoned active music making and drug addiction (in the mid-1980's) is fair and the reasons he gives for that are fair enough as well. However, this cursory treatment of what he does write about as frustratingly scattershot and mostly shallow.
The book, more memoir than "autobiography", begins with some charming and interesting material covering his childhood, his father's death when Hell was only 7 years old, and his initial relationships with his sister and mother. Unfortunately, both of them completely disappear the moment he leaves home. Are either still alive? What, if any, relationship does he have with either past the age of 16? He doesn't tell. He does give an enjoyable, if still rather shallow picture of his life as a young man in NYC, writing and editing poetry, working odd jobs and developing the friendship with Tom Verlaine that would eventually lead to the Neon Boys, and through them, to Televsion.
At this time, too, however, the book becomes a loose chronology of women he slept with and drugs he took, with an ocassional asisde into a song or two he wrote. This, in and of itself, is not a problem, per se, but what is a problem for me is that while going to great lengths to name these woman, the only real description of them we get is some physical detail (this one had large breasts and wide-set eyes; that one had small breasts and wild hair; another one was slim-hipped, but had a nice, round behind; so on and so forth). At no point do any of these women emerge as real people. Instead we get the physical description and a character trait or two, and usually he praises them for being nice to him - that is, they gave him money and sex. He describes an intimate, almost psychic connection to "Lizzy" and says their relationship was just short of an eternal bond, but gives us no real idea why he felt or thought that. He does include a naked photo of her, though. And so on and so forth.
But perhaps more frustrating is that Hell himself remains mostly two-dimensional throughout. He reflects, but ultimately rather blandly. While he does include some very insightful thoughts about the nature of drug addiction and how it colored his world, when he stops, he just, um, stops. There are hints of something more, but more is never provided.
Hell is a good writer and the book, such that it is, is quite readable as far as it goes. But it is unclear exactly what prompted him to write this at this point. There is certainly a market for books by and about seminal and interesting figures in the late 70's and early 80's NY music scene, and Hell has not had a serious single volume devoted to him and his obvious influence on that scene and early "punk / new wave" in general. Perhaps this is his preempting someone else from having a go at it. And while his influence is large, he never enjoyed much of a payday from it and perhaps this is a way to see some money. If so, I certainly don't begrudge him that. But for someone who WAS a major influence, and someone who IS clearly a talented writer, this is more perfunctory than satisfactory. Perhaps there will be a Vol. 2 someday, that will take him closer to the present and allow us to get to know him better. Otherwise, why bother?
(Richard Hell reflecting on his childhood)
If you lived in that restricted universe that was the New York rock scene from 1969-1980, you'd know the name Richard Hell. With prep school friend TomVerlaine he formed the Neon Boys in 1969. (Both of their last names were made up. Hell was born Richard Meyers and Verlaine was Tom Miller but, but how can you become a rockstar with names like those?) In 1974, Neon Boys transmuted to Television. Then Hell left the group -there was a terminal disagreement with his old buddy Verlaine--and joined up with New York Dolls players Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders to form the Heartbreakers. And then, a year later, in 1976, Hell came into his own with the group that for a short while blazed across the avant garde Rock scene in New York like a flaming meteor, Richard Hell and the Voidoids. The band released two albums and played in an auteur-like but pretty rotten movie named after one of the group's most famous songs, Blank Generation. (Another of his songs was entitled "Love Comes in Spurts.") The group fell apart as Hell became increasingly addicted to hard drugs.
Hell eventually got off the drugs -partly by leaving music. He came out of retirement briefly in the 1990s in a group called Dim Stars, which featured Voidoids' guitar player Robert Quine, two refugees from Sonic Youth and one from a group called Gumball. But mostly now he writes.
He doesn't sugarcoat his past life in this intriguing book and he doesn't pretend to be a genius musician when he wasn't. Rock and roll, he says, is an attitude, one particularly well suited to disaffected sixteen-year-olds or older if they're emotionally arrested like he felt he was. "What excited me in music [was] being fast, aggressive, and scornful, but complicated and full of feelings." That's a good description of Hell himself. (About the Neon Boys, he writes: "We wanted to be stark and torn up, the way the world was.")
The most lyrical passages in this book are about the thrill of producing music and playing it for an audience. (".. the hilarious, incomparable intoxication of materializing into being these previously nonexistent patterns of sound and meaning and physical motion.")
Rock and roll is the only art form at which teenagers are not only capable of excelling but that actually requires
that one be a teenager, more or less, to practice it at all. ... Punk ... explicitly asserts and demonstrates that
the music is not about virtuosity. Rock and roll is about natural grace, about style and instinct. ... You don't
have to play guitar well or, by any conventional standard, sing well to make great rock and roll; you just have
to have it, have to be able to recognize it, have to get it.... It's all essence, and it's available to those who, to
all appearances, have nothing.
Hell overwrites at times, and he obviously wasn't a nice guy much of the time back then, but so what? He's the Real Thing and his life story should be appreciated for what it is.
Well, not really. I'm a bit too old, but I loved the punk era and was lucky enough to see Richard Hell & The Voidoids at the Village Gate in New York. It was summer of 1977 if I'm not mistaken. (Helen Wheels opened.)
I don't remember much except the intensity and the big anthem, "Blank Generation," as catchy a punk song as there ever was. (Catchy punk sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?)
I liked The Voidoids' first album, particularly "Blank Generation," "Betrayal Takes Two," "Love Comes in Spurts" and the overlooked "The Plan." Hell's not a great singer but that wasn't the point. "Blank Generation" was all about attitude.
A few years later, he released "Destiny Street" and I liked that album okay, especially "Time." A mellower, more reflective Hell. Later, an album called "Dim Stars" that went nowhere (from what I can tell) but that's about it.
But Richard Hell is iconic because he was there at the start, helped define the look and feel and vibe and energy of the punk wave. It was Malcolm McLaren, Hell asserts, who stole or least heavily borrowed his ripped-jeans look for The Sex Pistols. At least, that's the ground he stakes out in his emphatic memoir, "I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp."
I can't argue--and most music insiders agree. Hell deserves some credit.
I enjoyed the first half of "Clean Tramp," following the evolution of high school dropout to arty street kid in New York City. Richard Meyers' developing taste and point of view is interesting enough and early on he seemed to be unimpressed with Big Time Corporate Rock and Roll. "Half of the beauty of rock and roll is that `anyone can do it' in the sense that's not about being a virtuoso but about just being plugged in in a certain way, just having an innocent instinct and a lot of luck. That's why it's the art of teenagers," he writes.
He discovered William Carlos Williams, Dylan Thomas and others. He worked in bookstores and, essentially, schooled himself. He published poetry magazines and immersed himself in the poetry world.
If you enjoyed Patti Smith's "Just Kids" and if you have any interest in this period of rock and roll history, you'll likely enjoy seeing New York from Hell's perspective as bands around him form and take off--including Smith, The Ramones, The Modern Lovers, and the New York Dolls. "Their gigs were unlike any I'd ever experienced," says Hell of The Dolls. "They were parties, they were physical orgies, without much distinction between the crowd and the band: the band felt like an expression of the dressed-up avant-garde teenagers, and all the downtown hipster cognoscenti who'd materialized from the gutter-glitter of the whole sexy area and history itself. It was like some kind of funny dirty religious revel."
Hell formed the early incarnation of the seminal punk band Television with his childhood pal Tom Miller, who later changed his name to Tom Verlaine, but the early line-up didn't last and later Hell hooks up with Johnny Thunders, fresh from The Dolls, for a band called The Heartbreakers and then later came The Voidoids.
Hell isn't very forgiving toward Verlaine about having Television hijacked away and that's where "Clean Tramp" grows boring and repetitive as Hell recalls his descent into drugs, tosses out observations on a variety of big names. In making his case that there aren't that many interesting guitar soloists in rock and roll (??), Hell asserts that Keith Richards and Pete Townshend were just "rhythm players." In the second half of the book, we are also treated to the physical details of every girl he took to bed.
Hell said as a leader of The Voidoids he was "a leader of the new sensibility. Patti (Smith) as the only other writer/performer/conceptualist/bandleader who rivaled me in that way." He trashes Smith as a "pandering diva" and her band as "generic and mediocre."
In "Clean Tramp," Hell tries to stake his claim to his turf in the history of rock and roll. Okay, fine. He was part of it and contributed a few terrific songs. But buffing your own reputation by stomping on others, well, ain't pretty. Particularly when you've produced so precious little music since "Blank Generation," nearly 40 years ago.
I enjoyed the first half of "Clean Tramp." The rest left me feeling, well, blank.