By Rob Jones
Kris Needs is an acclaimed musical journalist with a wealth of experience and a catalogue of credits. ‘Needs Must: A very Rock n Roll Story’ is the1999 autobiography of a renowned writer and this riveting read gives kudos to its talented writer. Needs has also explored the careers of Blondie, George Clinton and others but it is now the turn of Suicide, the New York electro punk pioneers.
The ‘Dream Baby Dream: Suicide: A New York City’ story published by Omnibus Press spans the 45 years of a unique act. However, Needs goes way back beyond 1970 and collates a series of scenes, sounds, figures and phenomenon that led to the meeting and momentum of the key components of one of the cult colossuses of modern music. The research is remarkable and there is a gradual build up to the union of Marty Rev and Alan Vega (who become the sublime Suicide). This potent pair of players created a monster and wedded experimentation sparked through factors such as: a strong jazz background, basic (and maybe broken) instrumentation, an anti-war stance (added to other political opposition) andthen the fire of Iggy Pop iced the product!
There is so much more to assess in this counter culture, aural art account-and, Needs does justice to a tantalising tale. The literature most definitely claims official backing from Suicide because their views and visions are extensively shared. To experience the on and off stage battles that Suicide encounter would have led to the majority of musicians to call it a day. These street survivors have physical knives thrown at them and literal knives placed in their backs! Nonetheless, as the years pass and others plagiarise or popularise their template Suicide refuse to be beaten.
To offer an assessment of Suicide these couple of comments are poignant, i.e. If ‘Elvis joined Kraftwerk to make soundtracks for horror films’ and ‘nerve jinglingly terrifying’! There are plenty of high profile fans including Nick Cave, Bobbie Gillespie, Marc Almond and Ric Ocasek. Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen and The Horrors amongst others have covered Suicide tunes. Rev and Vega were ahead of their time and of no time at all! Suicide billed themselves as ‘punk music’ several years before that genre was even identified and their anarchic attitude was riddled with rebellion. The problem was that their sometimes sonorous savagery and a wish to prod paying punters led to riots on the stage circuit-and, that was exemplified by their tumultuous 1978 UK tour with The Clash and The Specials. A mate of mine was present at a Cardiff gig on this schedule and he said that the songs of Suicide were difficult to decipher as the crowd bayed for blood! An extremely hostile audience offered a torrent of abuse and countless projectile objects aimed at the performance area confirmed that the audience wanted Suicide to vanish a.s.a.p.
During this era the likes of the first two Suicide albums appeared and even when played today these works stand the test of time and make for an amazing listening experience. As the years have passed whether together or as solo entities Rev and Vega have continued to push the avant-garde envelope while at the same time composing some incredible pop pleasures.
Love or loathe them but if you claim to be a rock fan there is absolutely no way that Suicide can be ignored. To parallel an extensive recording back catalogue with this well constructed book is a rewarding task. Check out both the tunes and this text! Suicide lives!