I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp

I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp

eBook - 2013
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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.
Publisher: [S.I.] : HarperCollins, 2013.
ISBN: 9780062190857
Branch Call Number: eBOOK OVERDRI
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


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Aug 28, 2017

The intention seems to be that, though this is a rockstar memoir, it is literary. Though maybe not a triumph, the book succeeds on most levels, and undeniably benefits from Hell's background as a poet (and eventual status as a novelist).

For me the most interesting bits involve the intersections between the 70's New York punk scene and the second generation New York School of poets and other affiliated artists. I don't love artist's stories of addiction - to me this is the least interesting part of an artists creative life - but I also recognize that this is central to Hell's journey, and he does a good job of not overly sensationalizing, glamourizing or demonizing that history.

Overall, readable and interesting. Hell is extremely honest, and jaded in a way that doesn't exclude self-awareness or insight.

Jul 18, 2013

An interesting autobiography by one of the very earliest punk musicians from the mid 70's. Hell didn't fit in as a child and as a youth he took his rebellion to another level mostly by doing drugs and living on the fringes. he was very literate and used that literacy to write some songs, learned to play bass and start a band; although his musicianship was limited he became popular railing against the establishment and being sexual.

Jul 15, 2013

I love books about NYC in the seventies. This was not as good as Just Kids by Patti Smith, but right up there in terms of painting a vivid picture of the CBGB type scene.

I have read Hell's novel Go Now and enjoyed it. His life explored in this memoir is a little contrived and he obviously didn't get along with everyone - very opinionated on certain folks (like Smith and Tom Verlaine).

May 21, 2013

"Maybe the most extreme example of this class of moment is what I'm trying to describe here. What it felt like to first be creating electrically amplified songs. It was like being born. It was everything one wants from so-called God."
Hardly a household name, Richard Hell is quite possibly the most influential punk--as much for his style, attitude and look as his music--of the 70s. He co-founded Television and the Heartbreakers, put out two albums with the Voidoids, wrote poetry and interacted with seemingly every musician in NYC in the late 70s. He quit music in the 80s to focus on writing. His memoir is candid, funny, exhilarating and poignant. A must for anyone who cares about this incredibly fertile period in music. Also recommended: Just Kids, Please Kill Me, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire.


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