Richard Hell and the Voidoids was an American punk rock band, formed in New York City in 1975 and fronted by Richard Hell, a former member of the Neon Boys, Television and the Heartbreakers.
Kentucky-born Richard Mayers moved to New York City after dropping out of high school in 1966, aspiring to become a poet. He and his best friend from high school, Tom Miller, founded the rock band the Neon Boys which became Television in 1973. The pair adopted stage names after French poets they admired: Miller became Tom Verlaine, after the symbolist Paul Verlaine, and Mayers became Richard Hell, inspired A Season in Hell (1873) by Verlaine's disciple Arthur Rimbaud.
The group was the first rock band to play the club CBGB, which soon became a breeding ground for the early punk rock scene in New York. Hell had an energetic stage presence and wore torn clothing held together with safety pins and his hair spiked, which was to be influential in punk fashion--in 1973, after a failed management deal with the New York Dolls, impresario Malcolm McLaren brought these ideas to back with him to England and eventually incorporated them into the Sex Pistols' image.
Disputes with Verlaine led to Hell's departure from Television in 1975, and he co-founded The Heartbreakers with New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders. Hell did not last long with this band, and he began recruiting members for a new band. For guitarists Hell found Robert Quine and Ivan Julian--Quine had worked in a bookstore with Hell, and Julian responded to an advertisement in the The Village Voice. They lifted drummer Marc Bell from Wayne County. The band was named "the Voidoids" after a novel Hell had been writing.
Musically, Hell drew inspiration from acts such as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, protopunk band The Stooges and fellow New Yorker group The Velvet Underground, a group with a reputation for heroin-fueled rock and roll with poetic lyrics. Quine's admiration of The Velvet Underground led him to make hours worth of bootleg recordings of the band in the late 1960s. Hell also drew from--and covered--garage rock bands such as the The Seeds and the Count Five that were found on the Nuggets compilation of 1972.
Hell had written the song "Blank Generation" while still in Television; he had played it regularly with the band since at least 1975, and later with the Heartbreakers. The Voidoids released a seven-inch Blank Generation EP in 1976 from Ork Records whose tracks were "Blank Generation", "Another World", and "You Gotta Lose". The cover is a black-and-white cover photo by Hell's former girlfriend Roberta Bayley of a bare-chested Hell with an open jeans zipper. It was an underground hit, and the band signed to Sire Records for its album début.
At various times the band included influential guitarist Robert Quine, Ivan Julian, Naux Maciel, Michael Allison, Jahn Xavier, former Contortions and Raybeats guitarist Jody Harris, Golden Palominos leader Anton Fier and future Ramone Marc Bell.
The Voidoids are considered to have pioneered the "punk look" and studded appearance which also became popular later on in the UK via the Sex Pistols.
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