If those bands personified first-wave American punk’s extremes of brains and balls, his next unit neatly synthesised the two.
The key was Robert Quine, a friend since they’d worked in a bookstore together. Teaming Quine with Ivan Julian – a dreadlocked kid recently arrived from touring Europe with The Foundations (of Build Me Up Buttercup fame) – The Voidoids’ wired two-guitar attack was as sophisticated as Television‘s, but more driving and angular.
A reworked version became the title track of their 1977 LP, produced by Richard Gottehrer, co-founder of Sire Records and the man who wrote My Boyfriend’s Back.
There’s a minor controversy about the meaning of the title track Blank Generation. Many people adopted the song as a nihilistic anthem of the 1970s (inspiring The Sex Pistols‘ Pretty Vacant), but Hell maintained that he meant it as a comment on “generation” songs (specifically The Who‘s My Generation), saying it wasn’t really about being blank, it was blank in the sense of fill-in-the-blank free choice against the determinism of social labels.
It was with some mix of irony and appropriateness then that Blank Generation became adopted as a label for the 1970s New York punk scene.
Seven of the ten songs on the original vinyl release were written solely by Hell, while Liars Beware and Betrayal Takes Two were co-written by Hell and band guitarist Ivan Julian, whileWalking On the Water is a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover.
Blank Generation surpassed all expectations of Hell, but – following one unhappy tour of the UK supporting The Clash – The Voidoids soon came to a halt.
Within months of the album’s release, Hell sued Sire to get out of his contract, and he wouldn’t make another album until 1982’s Destiny Street.
While recording what was to be the second and final Voidoids album, Richard Hell was – in his own words – “so debilitated by despair and drug-need I was useless. The record ended up a high-pitched sludge of guitar noise”.
He released a redux version of the album in 2009, entitled Destiny Street Repaired, featuring newly recorded guitar parts and vocals.