Magazine article Artforum International

Changing Destiny: Barry Schwabsky on Richard Hell's Destiny Street

Magazine article Artforum International

Changing Destiny: Barry Schwabsky on Richard Hell's Destiny Street

Article excerpt

"I DO NOT REPUDIATE any of my paintings," Henri Matisse once wrote, "but there is not one of them that I would not redo differently, if I had it to redo." Once a painting is out of the artist's hands, of course, the opportunity to rework it rarely presents itself--though Pierre Bonnard is said to have carried a little paint box with him during museum visits in case he felt the need to revise one of his canvases on the spot. Prose writers and poets, on the other hand, more readily revisit their earlier efforts (not always happily, as the onslaughts of Marianne Moore and W. H. Auden against some of their younger works show). And music tends to be a still different story. Composers in the European classical tradition can worry at their published scores the way some poets do with their poems, and of course performers can repeatedly record different versions of the same scores. But rock musicians treat their primary products as, indeed, records--documents of the moment when disparate elements, brought together by technological alchemy, crystallized into something definitive. To truly redo a finished record has been rare. One of the few instances I can think of is Paul McCartney's 2003 revision of the Beatles' 1970 album Let It Be--shorn of the Phil Spector "wall of sound" McCartney had always objected to--as Let It Be ... Naked. But as the title indicates, McCartney's intention was not so much to redo the album as to bring it back to some original condition--a fictional condition, of course, since it was the Beatles' inability to finish the record themselves that led to Spector's intervention.

All of this to say that Richard Hell's Destiny Street Repaired, released this month by the online distributor Insound, might be the first rock record ever "redone" in Matisse's sense--and this despite a title that likewise evokes a lost-and-regained original state preceding the first version of Destiny Street, made by Hell in 1982 with the Voidoids. Destiny Street was the much-anticipated follow-up to the band's brilliant Blank Generation (1977), which had immediately been recognized as a quintessential expression of the punk moment. Its very title was a manifesto of refusal. This very quality, however, made it hardly surprising that what followed was five years of silence. This time lag could perhaps be explained by Hell's increasing substance dependence, which certainly enters into his long-standing dissatisfaction with Destiny Street. He recalls often missing studio sessions, merely phoning in to instruct guitarists Robert Quine and Naux to layer more guitars into the mix. For admirers, the resultant squalls of noise are one of the album's pleasures. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.