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I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiographyby Richard Hell
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[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...a bravura spectacle that was half modern art and half picking up chicks. Radically self-aware, he tells the story by thrusting the reader face-first into the good and the bad, wielding prose keen as a diamond knife." 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 when I read....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
About 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, 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 Black Book magazine. He lives in New York City.
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