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4.5 out of 5 stars
I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2013
I found his early life story quite boring until he reached New York, from then on the story livens up, providing an interesting account of life in the arty underground scene of the time. The story of a chancer who happened to be at the right place at the right time, found a niche, created a scene and exploited it successfully. I particularly liked Richard's description of the band's tour of the UK supporting THE Clash in 1977. His distainful, culture shocked view of a junk sick New Yorker far from home and so far out of his comfort zone in potato obsessed Blighty and the burgeoning UK punk scene (brought back memories of my youth) was very entertaining. Also surprising that he sees Britain in 1977 as more depressed and poverty stricken than bankrupt 70's New York, the British youth rallied to share their situation to create a scene allowing them to feel part of something important, where as the impression he gives of NY's scene is one that is far more "dog eat dog" and brutal, fed by hard drugs and alienation. Richard gives a descriptive account of his descent into the nasty, selfish and wasteful world of opiate addiction, gradually dissolving what he created until he gets a second (and third) bite of the cherry to build a career for himself as a writer. He's lucky he came through all that and I'm very happy to have read his life story. If you were around in the 70's punk era, then this is a recommended read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2014
I've always liked Richard Hell. I remember buying the first Stiff single of Blank Generation [ including a superior version of Another World ] and the album of the same name is one of my favourites. However regarding this book I found Hell's writing style and self deprecatory manner to be quite re-assuring - giving the book a down to earth quality. Its really interesting to read about the early bond between Tom Verlaine and the author. Such a shame that the alliance did not last { thanks to control freak Verlaine mainly ] Although it has to be said that when one hears the bass of Hell on the Eno demo's it does sound clunky, out of place and just wrong.
There are some great if cautionary tales of life on the road and how the drudgery of the tour of the UK gnaws at Hell's enthusiasm for music. However the book ends on an upbeat note which bodes well for a future that was, I think, always meant to literary. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in Hell, early Television, and the punk scene in the USA and the UK at the time. Excellent!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2014
Richard Hell is a good writer because he's honest. Most of the important details have been previously covered, particularly in the excellent 'Please Kill Me', yet this is still a pleasure to read and that's down to Hell's style. I particularly enjoyed his tales of England including his frustrated respect for John Lydon, elsewhere, for someone so opiated, he has killer recall and can reminisce over the smallest of details.

If there is a criticism, it seems to end rather abruptly and for such a visual character I would have preferred many more pictures. Overall this is not a great book but it is a good one. Perhaps I expected too much but can you blame me when you consider the man played a key role in the bands Television, The Heartbreakers, The Voidoids, as well as having written a number of highly acclaimed poems and books. There will always be a place in my heart for Mr. Hell, how could there not be when he still finds the phrase 'Let's run away' full of excitement.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2013
I've read a few biographies of the Punk era but this one stood out as it was a very personal and frank recollection of the early life and for most readers, the main story 1973-1984. As it ended I kept flicking through the pages to find more but it ends rightly with his retireal from music in 1984. If helps to listen to his music as you read the book. What lifted me was in his description of the infamous tour of the UK with the Clash in 1977/1978, when he was "junk sick" an hated the Brits preoccupation with the potato, he did have a kind spot for Scotland , where he said he loved the crowds and the places. I was lucky enough to see two gigs on that tour in Dunfermline and Edinburgh.
Not too sure I agree with his claim that punk was a New York movement mainly in CBGB's and only lasted a couple of years. Most of the audience in there were either in bands, went out with band members or were writers and artists. In the UK Punk was a youth movement that spread like a plague rat to every small outpost of the country. Great read though and I'm currently re reading Go Now, his first novel and trying to get a hold of his other short novel, God Like but it is currently out of print, or available at a whacking price on this very site. Buy it read it and then read it again.
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on 1 March 2015
As a fan of Richard Hell, I wasn't expecting this book to make me re-evaluate how substantial a musician/artist he was, but that was the effect. He doesn't describe his pre-music poetry endeavours as particularly worthwhile, and the stories of Neon Boys, Television, the Heartbreakers suggest he was frustrated by his musical ability, and relationships with other musicians - and it is true that he didn't make a contribution to any classic recordings with those groups. It wasn't until the first Voidoids LP that he seems to have made something that he was genuinely proud of musically, but then there wasn't much more after that, until he gave up music in the 80s. He doesn't seem very interested in music as an art form. I was surprised by this.

He is more interesting, self-aware and reflective than many of his big ego peers, and sometimes seems almost too self-deprecating. As if it was simply the way he looked, and his charisma that defined 1970s punk rather than anything he did. He seems regretful of this possibility but doesn't come across as the obsessive, visionary artist like some of his peers from the time - Patti Smith, Verlaine etc. Maybe his charisma and looks worked against him - it was maybe too easy to find sex and drugs, and other distractions. His sexual prowess is described vividly in the book - of the 30 or so women mentioned, there is barely one of them that he doesn't describe having sex with.

There are good stories of New York in the 70s, the bookshops, the housing, the music and musicians, the urban decay that led to the punk music and culture that still seems so dominant now. I think he holds his professional writing career in higher esteem than his music so it is maybe a shame he doesn't cover this here, but he say this book isn't an autobiography of him as an artist - it's about his story exemplifying the idea of rock and roll as the art form of young people.
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on 22 October 2014
Overall any fan of Richard Hell will find much to enjoy from this well written book.

As a man who always thought of himself as a poet first and a musician second it is hardly a shock to find that - despite his forays in to drugs - he is an eloquent writer.

His take on the whole 'who invented punk?' debate feels balanced and helpful. There is lots to learn here about the likes of Johnny Rotten, Johnny Thunders and his old sparring partner Tom Verlaine.

The reason for dropping a star is that in places Richard becomes pointlessly vitriolic (Bob Geldof gets a verbal slapping) or offers misplaced philosophy. His criticisms of ('potato obsessed') England in 1977 are disappointing. If he didn't have a good time (what junkie on a never ending bus journey would?!) then that is fair enough and he should tell us about it in a biography. My disappointment comes from his critique of the 'miserable' country at that time. As a vehemently anti nationalistic Englishman I have no issue with him slagging off the country and its people. I did however get continually disappointed with his clear lack of understanding of our culture and what drives us - while offering inaccurate critiques of the same.

I did enjoy this book (even much of the England slagging - he liked Scotland!) but the best bits are when he sticks to the facts. The end of many chapters do tend to turn in to 'Richard's views on how life should be' which can get a bit tedious.

Don't be put off by my minor gripes. Most of this book is just what you'd hope it would be. A great tale about a teenage runaway NYC punk.

N.B. The Hardback is an attractive thing. The pages look hand cut and under the dust jacket the lettering is a rather cool 'black on black' embossed arrangement.
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2014
Enjoyed this biography a lot...Hell has always been a bit of a man of mystery to me. I listened to his music and read his books..he played with some interesting Noo Yoik influential musicians....best mates with Tom Verlaine...until they fell out.....best mates with Johnny Thunders...until they fell out.....played with Robert Quine.....until they fell out...although with Quine...it was probbaly Hell's addictions that cause the relationship to dissolve...I just finished reading the Martin Hannet biography before this...and I left that feeling quite "dirty"...some of the detail of the drug antics left me feeling physically sick. However ...Hell survived...and theres not so much griminess here..although quite clearly he had BIG problems with drug addiction...and despite that ...seemed to charm some very attractive ladies...?? Well even Paula Yates turned up in his story....and then a few days after I'm finished....Peaches Geldof hits the news.
One for the interested fan of music from that glorious era..or possibly if you have delved into his poetry...I'm afraid I haven't.
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on 18 July 2015
EXCELLENT READ!!
Now the look of the man was always great ... he looked PUnk before the word existed in the music scene .. sculptural face born to be Richard Hell ...
He claims to be a poet but the poems are VERY poor from where i am reading .... the music was never very good but something within it was essential [BLANK GENERATION !!!]..
What he is REALLY good at is being a trend-setter ... you learn here that MMCLaren took his look {messed-up haiR torn t-shirt and SAFETY PIN and sewed it on the Pistols} ; so all that is HIS... what he says about all the players from the NY and London Punk scene is neon true and of a level of honesty rarely seen elsewhere...
He turns this diamond-cutting analysis to himself all the time ... and i am sorry will say this again NOT A POET not even near; but as a writer ... wow RSPKT²¹ [on Nick Kent and their shared junkie modus vivendi : "we climbed a bunch of cold London stairwells together (p 237)"] love it/recommend it even if you were never a fan but love the whole CBGB PUNK years and all the players therein ... also and did not surprise me heck of a ladies' man ...
READ IT!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2015
The thing most NY punk had over most UK punk was, duh - BRAINS. The thing Hell had over MOST NY punk was, duh - BRAINS. 10/10
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on 13 May 2013
Hell had spoken about writing his biograpy for a number of years and he has finally delivered.
If you are a fan of his other writings then you won't be disappointed, hells writing style is full of purpose and well thought out. It's a warts and all bio and tells of his life as well as his thoughts up until he retired from the music business.A must read book from one of the pioneers of punk
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