Richard Hell and the Voidoids: Blank Generation 40th Anniversary Edition Reviewed (How Deluxe Do You Want It?)

On Friday Richard Hell and the Voidoids seminal Blank Generation was issued as a deluxe two-disc set. As a fan of this record, I was nervous that Richard Hell oversaw another reissue from his catalog. Despite having performed and demoed material in groundbreaking bands like Television and the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell himself only released three proper studio albums in his career. Blank Generation and Destiny Street with the Voidoids and the self-titled Dim Stars. His work on 2009 issued Destiny Street Repaired that improved certain aspects of the album’s fidelity but lost major elements of the record’s appeal. His newly recorded vocals lacked the frantic and fragile delivery of the 1982 release and the loss of Robert Quine’s chaotic lead assault robbed Destiny Street Repaired of it’s atmosphere. Blank Generation did not suffer the same fate.

The deluxe reissue of Blank Generation is the definitive available version of the album. The original cd release had multiple detrimental flaws. First was the loss of Blank Generation’s iconic cover. What replaced it felt, forcibly upbeat and new-wave with its pink border and floating green circles spelling out the title. The second sin was the decision to replace Down at the Rock and Roll Club with an alternative take. Though just as strong as the original, there was no reason not to include it as a bonus track. Finally, the release’s greatest failing was the remastering or lack thereof. The 1977 vinyl had a warm yet assertive quality where the cd reissue sounded like the album got shoved into a rusty tin can. However, the original cd did include two bonus tracks, the incredible I’m Your Man and the cover of All The Way not represented on the current deluxe edition… more on this later…

The Deluxe 40th Anniversary edition repairs all these major issues. The mix and master remain true to the 1977 release, they included the original take of Down at the Rocks and Roll Club and brought back the iconic cover. If you wish to hear the album in its true intended form, buy this edition now. Unless you track down an original pressing, there’s nothing that comes close.

Thankfully they chose to include a second disc of unheard studio outtakes and live performances. These are worth the price of admission alone but not without issues. The first problem is the nature of Richard Hell’s career. If you’re a fan of an iconic artist whose musical career only lasted a few albums, it is easy to become a completist. The bonus disc leaves off alternative takes present on the compilation Time. Though a possible result of aging tapes, these alternative versions had slightly better fidelity than those present here. The deluxe edition also makes the curious choice to include Another World off the Ork Records EP while abandoning You Gotta Lose and the band’s first released version of Blank Generation. Though not as iconic, it’s a slightly more relaxed and interesting take on the song.

Altogether the 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is the best out there. However, I would argue considering it’s limited release and dedicated fan base that a box set would have been more appropriate. Rather than Hell’s typical slow leak from his archives, it would have been better with a disc dedicated to each alternative take with the addition of I’m Your Man and All The Way. Then rounding out the third disc with the Ork EP and assorted live tracks. Then again, he might be holding out for the 50th Anniversary to give us that.

If you never heard this album, here’s a member by member reason why you must hear it.

Richard Hell served as a key creative member in both Television and the Heartbreakers. He invented the iconic image of punk rock being the first to rip up his clothes and spike his hair. This and the song Blank Generation fascinated Malcolm Mclaren to the degree he attempted to export him back to England to be the singer in the yet to form Sex Pistols.

Marc Bell the Voidoids’ drummer was one of the most talented players in the first wave of punk. He gives the album its drive and swing, a sheer powerhouse behind the kit. If you don’t recognize his name you’re more likely to know him as Marky Ramone.

Ivan Julian’s career is often the most overlooked among the Voidoids members.  He’s continued playing and producing music since exiting the band and writing killer rockers like Young Man’s Money. If you haven’t heard his music there’s a chance you’ve heard his contributions to the Clash or Mathew Sweet. 

Robert Quine remains one of my top ten guitarists of all time. He went on to become a key force in Lou Reed’s band during his early 1980’s comeback. Quine plays on the Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts and Lou Reed Live in Italy. Like Ivan Julian, he went on to record with Mathew Sweet.