You know when you find a song and you just can’t get enough? A track that you’ll start over before it’s even done because you never want it to end? The song that becomes the reason for the repeat button? Here I’ll tell you what song I’ve been listening to over and over again – new or old – and why you should check it out.
RICHARD HELL AND THE VOIDOIDS – “BLANK GENERATION”
I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like I know a ton about punk music because I don’t. I do know that the Richard Hell & The Voidoids song “Blank Generation” is a defining punk song. It’s from the album of the same name, which came out in 1977, right after Hell left one of my favourite bands, Television.
But it didn’t start out as a punk song. “Blank Generation” was a rewrite of Bob McFadden’s swinging, jazzy tune called “Beat Generation” – and maybe because of that inspiration, you could argue that no one’s ever made punk rebellion sound so groovy as Hell does. It’s a song with swagger – one to strut to (in fact, Stray Cats figured that out with their 1981 song “Stray Cat Strut” which bears some striking similarities to this tune). It MAKES you feel like you’re too cool for the squares and the normal people as soon as those cymbals start in.
From the very first line: “I was sayin’ let me out of here before I was even born” – Hell is rejecting the world he has to live in. I mean, it is punk after all… thumbing your nose at a world you don’t agree with, that doesn’t get you, and saying “I can take it or leave it.” The “Blank Generation” is rejecting the idea of an easily named, easily organized group of people the same age, rejecting conformity and saying I DO WHAT I WANT. It’s blank – there are no expectations, you can’t tell us what to do or who to be!
Oh, and then he sings about smashing a television which, yeah, is a pretty obvious “fuck you” to the people in charge. Also, it sounds really fun. Just a thought.
So if you wanna feel above it all, if you’re saying SCREW OFF to society, if you’re feeling an utter dissatisfaction with the state of the world around you… but you wanna look really cool while you do it… get a good sneer going on your face and put this song on repeat, and strut. Or whatever. You can take it or leave it.
The original inspiration, Bob McFadden’s “Beat Generation” — just wait ’til the chorus hits.
Need more? Check out “Stray Cat Strut” by Stray Cats: