Look. Its pretty fucking simple and you must be hip to it by now - Rock n’ Roll should be wild, sensual music. That’s why Elvis’ hips set the world (and all teenage girls loins) on fire and why Rockabilly (above all other developments) sounds like freedom should sound.
So when Alan Vega and Martin Rev formed Suicide it must have seemed natural to link their demented analogue programming to Rockabilly rhythms and to worship the Church of Elvis at CBGBs with nothing but a drum programme. Suicide were years, maybe decades, ahead of their time.
Suicide were one of the most demented, and most disliked, bands I ever saw. It wasn’t unusual back in the day for people to become militant about a support act, to boo and throw shit, even though you don’t see those type of reactions much anymore. But Suicide attracted haters to the point that fights would break out and that was just the band fighting the audience. It wasn’t a total surprise that Vega often carried a length of bike chain on stage as a prop.
Suicide dressed like New York street Punks.
Suicide were New York Street punks.
The 22 minute long live recording of the band live in Belgium (supporting The Clash & Elvis Costello – some bill!) is the stuff of legends. An act ploughing the good groove in the face of hostility. Hostility verging on warfare. And at the front – Alan Vega’s demented howlings continue in spite of constant booings, goading them on. Hear it here or skip to the studio recording of their showpiece “Frankie Teardrop”, a song so harrowing that people say you only need to hear it once. People talk about real soul music .. and here it is - Alan Vega’s heart on vinyl, over Martin Rev’s simulation of his heartbeat.
All of this history simply hides the fact that Suicide are fucking brilliant. The first two albums are pioneering pieces of electronic music, effortlessly tying the past of Rock N’ Roll with a future then unheard. A future that still sounds modern and now. With Rev’s angry buzzing rhythms and Vega’s plaintiff vocals, there are so many good tracks it’s impossible to pick one only. And whilst it's tempting to go with the vaguely optimistic Dream Baby Dream lets not. Let's choose instead the best ever tribute to a cartoon superhero .. Ghost Rider (motorcycle hero)
and whilst you listen to its flaring, pulsating, brilliance think about this list of acts that Wikipedia claims they influenced …
“Steve Albini (Shellac, Rapeman, Big Black), Panthére, Gang Gang Dance, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sisters of Mercy, She Wants Revenge, Henry Rollins, Joy Division/New Order, Soft Cell, Nick Cave, D.A.F., Erasure, the music of Giant Haystacks, The KLF, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, Cassandra Complex, Mudhoney, Nitzer Ebb, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Radiohead, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Angel Corpus Christi ),Michael Gira, MGMT, Sky Ferreira, Sonic Boom, Loop, The Fleshtones Ric Ocasek of The Cars, Mi Ami, Depeche Mode, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, R.E.M.,Devo, Ultravox, Massive Attack,Air, Autechre, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin and The Kills, Bono Vox and Bruce Springsteen”
Isn’t that like everyone we ever liked? And they might have influenced DFA, MSTRKRFT & Death From Above, Moby & Fischerspooner too! Among so many others. Every act that changed our lives had theirs changed by Suicide.
Rest In Peace Alan Vega. You rocked our world like a low rent Elvis. And there’s no higher praise.