To wander the streets of a bankrupt, often lawless, New York City in the early 1970s wearing a T-shirt with "Please Kill Me" written on it was an act of determined nihilism, and one often recounted in the first reports of Richard Hell filtering into the pre-punk UK. Pete Astor, an archly nihilistic teenager himself at the time, was most impressed. The fact that it emerged (after many years) that Hell himself had not worn the T-shirt but had convinced junior band member Richard Lloyd to do so, actually fitted very well with Astor’s older, wiser self looking back at Blank Generation. Richard Hell was an artist who could not only embody but also frame the punk urge; having seeded and developed the essential look and character of punk since his arrival in New York in the late 1960s, he had just what was needed to make one of the defining records of the era.
This study combines objective, academic perspectives along with culturally centred subjectivities to understand the meanings and resonances of Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation.