A member of important NYC groups like the Neon Boys, Television, the Heartbreakers, and the Voidoids, the Kentucky-bred Hell (real name: Richard Meyers; current age: 63) ran away from a Delaware boarding school to New York City, where he met up with his fellow delinquent pal Tom Miller (later Verlaine) and they schemed and dreamed their way to literary and musical notoriety. Hell’s haphazardly spiky haircut and safety-pinned, torn and frayed T-shirts as well as his preternaturally cool demeanor and whip-smart lyrics planted fertile ideas in the mind of Malcolm McLaren, which led to the conception of the Sex Pistols.
Hell’s memoir also serves as a sharply observed portrait of New York’s world-historical music-biz actions during the ’70s, from the perspective of an impecunious poet/musician working at indie book and video shops. He also dishes some dirt on the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, and other key figures of NYC’s late-’70s/early-'80s musical milieu. In the process, Hell’s famous formulation, the “Blank Generation,” comes off as paradoxically rich. (He also has a fantastic way with describing the effects of the drugs he used.)
Hell paves his Destiny Street with vivid, arresting prose, unspooling incisive observations and anecdotes up through 1984, two years after the release of the album of that name, at which point his musical career was effectively over. An epilogue depicting a chance meeting with Verlaine—several years estranged from Hell—looking at books in a dollar bin is incredibly touching—healing, even.