Destiny Street by Richard Hell and The Voidoids was first released in 1982 as the follow up to the seminal punk album Blank Generation. Hell was never satisfied with the sound quality of the original and since the record company said the masters had been lost he figured there was nothing he could do about it. However in 2009 he came across a cassette of some basic tracks which allowed him to re-record vocals and guitars and release Destiny Street Repaired.
But the odyssey didn’t end there as only recently three of the original 24 track recordings were discovered in the original record companies attic. Yes an attic. Hell couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally fix all that was wrong with his original work and now thanks to Omnivore Recordings we have Destiny Street Complete. This two CD set not only contains all three versions of the record remastered, but the demos Hell made for the original album (The new remastered version of the LP will be released on vinyl for Record Store Day)
Now, most of you are probably saying what’s the big deal about the release of yet another attempt at remixing an album from the early 1980s. Well, the thing is Hell was one of the architects of punk in New York City. He was the founder of the bands Television and The Heartbreakers before he went on to form The Voidoids.
As well as being a musician of the finest order, he’s also a writer whose critiques of art and literature are some of the most erudite and intelligent you can hope for. He may set your back up with some of his opinions, but he’s always honest and insightful.
This also applied to his music. For while Hell’s output was sparse, and the only thing he’s done recently was contributing a couple of lines to a Pussy Riot Song, it was some of the best and most original to come out of New York City in the 1970s and 80s.
To be honest, one of the reasons I was so interested in this album was Hell has written the liner notes for the new release. As you would expect he’s honest, almost to a fault, about the original recordings and the songs themselves. In some ways reading the notes is like a dive into his process which is fascinating and inspiring.
As to the music itself, well, the remastered versions of the songs are brilliant. While the two previous recordings have been touched up, listening to the latest version is like hearing the album for the first time again. There are nuances that were simply not there on the original or even the “Repaired” version.
Even more amazing is how the music and the lyrics seem as fresh and intelligent as they did when I first heard them in 1982. Who else would have the idea to write a song about meeting yourself ten years earlier as Hell does on the title track, “Destiny Street”? Even more, who would turn the song into a kind of möbius strip where he begins wondering when this meeting actually takes place? Is it his past self receiving a visit from the future or vice versa?
If this doesn’t sound like your typical Ramones three chords and noise type song that’s because its not. Which is why this album is important. Punk music at its best is an artistic statement, not just about anarchy. Richard Hell and Destiny Street Complete are timely reminders that the music and lyrics of punk are about more than being cool and arrogant.