An Oral History of Punk by Alan Vega, Suicide’s Main Man
By Legs McNeil
Photo courtesy of Bob Gruen.
Old friends are dying off at such a rapid pace that I can barely grieve before news of another one’s passing surfaces on Facebook. Arturo Vega, Ronnie Cutrone, Mick Farren, and Allen Lanier all died within the past couple of months. These names are familiar to a few, but not so famous as to merit headlines. Just some nice eulogies on the web and maybe a few postings of a YouTube video or two. I guess that’s what the modern world comes down to: a video obituary posted on a Facebook page with a funny quote written in the comment box.
The world is moving way too fast. It’s like, OK, you’re dead—NEXT! I thought I’d try to slow things down. Maybe stop them for just a minute or two. A moment to give me the time to catch my breath before the next awful event transpires.
I was talking to photographer Bob Gruen the other day and he told me he’d just come from visiting our old friend Alan Vega, the lead singer of the band Suicide, in the hospital. I immediately thought, Oh shit, not another one.
Thankfully, Alan’s OK. If you don’t know about him for some reason, Alan’s a guy who revolutionized rock ‘n’ roll (along with his long-time collaborator Martin Rev) with his two-piece combo Suicide back in the 70s and 80s. The band was about 30 years ahead of its time. Like the Silver Apples and Kraftwerk, Suicide was the forerunner for all the techno-rock played in today’s trendy clubs and restaurants—that monotonous, endless drone without any guitars, humming so loudly it makes conversation obsolete.
Suicide was anything but boring. Far from it. This was dangerous, wildly unpredictable, chaotic performance art. They were really quite a spectacle and left anyone who stumbled into their concerts at CBGB or Max’s with their mouth open, thinking, What the hell is this? If you haven’t already, you might want to check out their first, self-titled record on Red Star Records. Trust me, you’ll love it.
Here’s what Alan told me about Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, and Chrissie Hynde’s period.
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