When it comes to American punk bands, the first one that often comes to mind is the Ramones - but those Queens moptops were but one of the entrants in the New York punk scene. Indeed, among their contemporaries, Richard Hell and The Voidoids might not have found the same degree of commercial success, but the importance of their debut album is difficult to understate.
Recorded between New York’s Plaza Sound and Electric Lady Studios, Blank Generation was co-produced by former Television bassist Hell and Richard Gottehrer, who had already cemented his status as a rock and roll legend as a part of The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy”) and co-writing and co-producing the 1963 Angels single “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Gottehrer only became more iconic from there, founding Sire Records with Seymour Stein in 1966, which is how he found his way into Hell’s orbit.
With a lineup featuring Hell on bass, Robert Quine and Ivan Julian on guitar, and Marc Bell on drums, Blank Generation was initially recorded over the course of a three-week period in March 1977, but after the album’s release ended up being delayed as a result of Sire changing distributors, Hell – who’d listened to the resulting album and felt that he could’ve done some things better – was granted permission to return to the studio in June and re-record the whole affair.
In the end, a trio of songs from the original sessions – “Another World,” “Liars Beware,” and “New Please” – found their way onto the final version of the album, but the rest of the LP consisted of versions from the new sessions. Beyond that, they also included a version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Walking on the Water,” a cover which Hell and The Voidoids had begun to feature in their set.
When Blank Generation was released, it received critical acclaim; Lester Bangs called it “essential to any record collection,” and Ira Robbins described it as combining “manic William Burroughs-influenced poetry and raw-edged music for the best rock presentation of nihilism and existential angst ever.” In a later review, The New York Times acknowledged that it helped define punk but more specifically said of the LP, “It's literary, romantic (boy-girl), Romantic (intellectual tradition) and, because of Robert Quine's guitar solos, intensely musical, an album of high-grade improvisation."
Hell’s generation might’ve been blank, but as far as the music of the era goes, he definitely helped define it.