Richard Hell

By: Tor Aarestad
October 2, 2015


RICHARD HELL (Richard Lester Meyers, born 1949) left Kentucky, dropped out of boarding school, and moved to New York. He wrote poetry, pulp novels, and ran a small press while planning a band — which became a more dynamic and expansive form of writing. Hell conceived of the band as a “subculture,” rather than as merely a musical collective. Stage names, clothing, hair, publicity photos, lyrics were all Hell’s bailiwick. His intense focus and vision both brought out great work in his collaborators (childhood friend Tom Verlaine, during their work in Television; Johnny Thunders, during their time in the Heartbreakers; Robert Quine, a guitar genius who likely would have passed unrecorded if not for Hell) but fractured these relationships. Some claims about Hell’s influence on the central elements of punk history are disputed, but these are not: He cowrote the classic Heartbreakers/Ramones single “Chinese Rocks”; he and Verlaine negotiated a regular gig for Television at CBGB that began that nightclub’s status as a center of the New York punk scene; and Malcolm McLaren modeled the Sex Pistols’ look, hairstyles, and attitude on Hell. Hell has long since stopped playing music (at least regularly), but continues to write, continues to live in the same apartment in New York he has occupied for 40+ years, and continues to have strong views on things described as “punk.”

PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Mike Watt | Ian Curtis | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Richard Hell | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–1963) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Jack Parsons, Moses Gunn, Wallace Stevens.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).


HiLo Heroes, Music, Punk