I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell
An Autobiography

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While its by no means an easy read, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp is worth every moment spent in its pages. There are moments of sheer poetry among the dirt and grime which shine out like beacons guiding us ever onward in the hopes we will find something redeeming in this story of self-destructive genius.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

The sharp, lyrical, and no-holds-barred autobiography of the iconoclastic writer and musician Richard Hell, charting the childhood, coming of age, and misadventures of an artist in an indelible era of rock and roll...

From an early age, Richard Hell dreamed of running away. His father died when he was seven, and at seventeen he left his mother and sister behind and headed for New York City, place of limitless possibilities. He arrived penniless with the idea of becoming a poet; ten years later he was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, starting such seminal bands as Television, the Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids—whose song "Blank Generation" remains the defining anthem of the era. Hell was significantly responsible for creating CBGB as punk ground zero; his Voidoids toured notoriously with the Clash, and Malcolm McLaren would credit Hell as inspiration for the Sex Pistols. There were kinetic nights in New York's club demi-monde, descent into drug addiction, and an ever-present yearning for redemption through poetry, music, and art.

"We lived in the suburbs in America in the fifties," Hell writes. "My roots are shallow. I'm a little jealous of people with strong ethnic and cultural roots. Lucky Martin Scorsese or Art Spiegelman or Dave Chappelle. I came from Hopalong Cassidy and Bugs Bunny and first grade at ordinary Maxwell Elementary." How this legendary downtown artist went from a prosaic childhood in the idyllic Kentucky foothills to igniting a movement that would take over New York's and London's restless youth cultures—and spawn the careers of not only Hell himself, but a cohort of friends such as Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith, the Ramones, and Debbie Harry—is just part of the fascinating story Hell tells. With stunning powers of observation, he delves into the details of both the world that shaped him and the world he shaped.

An acutely rendered, unforgettable coming-of-age story, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp evokes with feeling, clarity, and piercing intelligence that classic journey: the life of one who comes from the hinterlands into the city in search of art and passion.

 

About Richard Hell

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Since retiring from music in 1984, Richard Hell has focused primarily on writing. He is the author of the journals collection Artifact, the novels Go Now and Godlike, the collection of essays, notebooks, and lyrics Hot and Cold, as well as numerous other pamphlets and books. Hell has published essays, reportage, and fiction in such publications as Spin, GQ, Esquire, the Village Voice, Vice, Bookforum, Art in America, the New York Times, and the New York Times Book Review. From 2004 to 2006 he was the film critic for Black Book magazine. He lives in New York City.
 
Published March 12, 2013 by Ecco. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Photography, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Rachel Kushner on Mar 29 2013

...Hell admits to resenting the Sex Pistols for failing to acknowledge how much they lifted from him.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Mar 19 2013

Mr. Hell’s descent into drug abuse is harrowing. It takes time to hit bottom. He steals drugs from a friend. He betrays a woman he’d planned to marry.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Marcus on Aug 09 2013

While its by no means an easy read, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp is worth every moment spent in its pages. There are moments of sheer poetry among the dirt and grime which shine out like beacons guiding us ever onward in the hopes we will find something redeeming in this story of self-destructive genius.

Read Full Review of I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean ... | See more reviews from Blog Critics

AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Jason Heller on Mar 25 2013

In Hell’s hands, it’s a perfectly delivered anecdote that drives home the brilliance and shortcomings of the lives that precede it.

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Reader Rating for I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp
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