Four Decades Of Suicide, Martin Rev & Alan Vega

In: music
Suicide - Ghost Rider

The Gutter from Which Punk Grew

Listening to Suicide's legendary 1977 album over three decades after it was made, you can literally hear the influence in every buzzy synth, every muffled drum-beat, every vocal yelp, every mechanical clank. From this germinating seed, so much music would grow; whole movements —post-punk, industrial, shoegaze, electroclash, and countless untold genres— sprouting as the years have gone on, and the years have been kind.

Back when Suicide were finding their feet, times were, contrastingly, unkind. When they were born in a New York art-school in 1970, singer Alan Vega and organist Martin Rev were planning on assembling a full rockband; inspired, as they were, by the Velvet Underground and The Stooges. But, no one else wanted to play with them; to make their "punk, funk and sewer music." So they worked with what they had: Vega's disturbing vocals, which sounded somewhere between Elvis and a bowery lowlife, and were laced with reverb; and Rev's clunky old Farfisa keyboard. To 'fill in' the sound they bought a rudimentary drum-machine, which kept a flickering pulse with as much rattle and wheeze as crisp precision.

Stripped of anything resembling rock's basics —no guitar, no bass, no drums, no harmony, little melody— Suicide terrified audiences. There were no familiar points-of-reference for what they were doing; no cultural touchstones, no musical antecedents. When met with disinterest or disdain, Vega would openly bait the audience, and, thus, Suicide gigs often ended in violence. It took them until 1977 to make their debut album because nobody was interested in putting it out.
The Creep Beat

Thankfully, a fellow named Marty Thau, former manager of the New York Dolls, saw fit to put out Suicide's seven-years-coming debut LP in 1977. At the time, no one involved could've anticipated the influence the record would have, but I find it hard to believe that people wouldn't have realized it was, at the least, an awesome album. There's a sense of pure elementalism to the sound; any excess stripped away to a lean, bare-boned sound. Vega is a hugely charismatic frontman, and, on songs like "Johnny" and "Cheree," Rev writes with a sense of (if half-ironic) melodic joy that is unexpected and under-appreciated.

Where Suicide really earns its classic-album stripes is the sense of foreboding, of sheer and utter dread, that the band can summon with just an organ, a beat, and a vocal. Never is this more apparent than in the infamous ten-and-a-half-minute 'song story' "Frankie Teardrop," the piece of performance-art theater so minimal, so uneasy, so creepy that it remains with all who've heard it.

Vega's tale of a 20-year-old Vietnam veteran who murders his wife and child is told via a half-spoken vocal that he delivers with all the irregularity and phrased oddness of a free-jazz player. As the organ and drum-machine rattle on, sounding more like a fridge buzzing or an engine whirring than anything musical, Vega delivers his lines around their central thrust. And then, as his song descends to a disturbing hell, Vega lets loose a bloodcurdling scream; a raw, one-take screech that etches itself into the mind of all who hear it. Whether you heard it in 1977 or hear it in 2027. [By Anthony Carew, Guide]

Record Label: Red Star
Release Date: December, 1977

Αν έχετε γερά νεύρα, ακούστε το...Suicide - Frankie Teardrop

Frankie teardrop
Twenty year old Frankie
He's married he's got a kid
And he's working in a factory

He's working from seven to five
He's just trying to survive
well lets hear it for Frankie
Frankie Frankie

Well Frankie cant make it
Coz things are just too hard
Frankie cant make enough money
Frankie cant buy enough food

And Frankie's getting evicted
Oh let's hear it for Frankie
Oh Frankie Frankie
Oh Frankie Frankie

Frankie is so desperate
He's gonna kill his wife and kids
Frankie's gonna kill his kid
Frankie picked up a gun

Pointed at the six month old in the crib
Oh Frankie
Frankie looked at his wife

Shot her
"Oh what have I done?"
Let's hear it for Frankie

Frankie teardrop
Frankie put the gun to his head
Frankie's dead


Frankie's lying in hell

We're all Frankies
We're all lying in hell

Suicide's punk fliers:

"I titled it a 'punk music mass'. Little did I know that a few years later punk was going to become this big thing. I was saying it more like a joke, because in Brooklyn in those days calling someone a punk meant they were chickening out, of a fight or whatever - the opposite of what its become." - Alan Vega