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Suicide (band)

Suicide was an American musical duo intermittently active between 1970 and 2016, composed of vocalist Alan Vega and instrumentalist Martin Rev. The group's pioneering music utilized minimalist electronic instrumentation, including synthesizers and primitive drum machines, and their early performances were confrontational and often ended in violence. They were among the first acts to use the phrase "punk music" in an advertisement for a concert in 1970.

Though never widely popular among the general public, Suicide have been recognized as among the most influential acts of their era. Their debut album Suicide (1977) was described by Entertainment Weekly as "a landmark of electronic music," while AllMusic stated that it "provided the blueprints for post-punk, synth pop, and industrial rock." Rolling Stone called them "an unmeasurable influence on the industrial dance, noise, techno, ambient, and electronic scenes of the 1980s and 1990s."

History

Some say Suicide took its name from the title of a Ghost Rider comic book issue titled "Satan Suicide," seeing as the band would eventually release a song titled "Ghost Rider." Although the band formed in 1970 and Ghost Rider first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #5 in August of 1972. Alan Vega did however love the comic books.

Rev's simple keyboard riffs (initially played on a battered Farfisa organ combined with effects units, before changing to a synthesizer) were accompanied by primitive drum machines, providing a pulsing, minimalistic, electronic backdrop for Vega's murmuring and nervy vocals. It was the first band to use the term punk to describe itself, which the band had adopted from an article by Lester Bangs. Some of the band's earliest posters use the terms "punk music" and "punk music mass".

Early Notoriety



Suicide emerged alongside the early glam punk scene in New York, with a reputation for its confrontational live shows. Many of the band's early shows were at the Mercer Arts Center, alongside bands such as the New York Dolls and Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps. David Johansen once played harmonica with Suicide in an early show there. Vega and Rev both dressed like arty street thugs, and Vega was notorious for brandishing a length of motorcycle drive chain onstage. Vega once stated "We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage. Just from the way we looked they started giving us hell already." This sort of audience confrontation was inspired by Vega's witnessing of an Iggy and the Stooges concert at the New York State Pavilion in August 1969, which he later described as "great art". After the collapse of the Mercer Arts Center in 1973, Suicide played at Max's Kansas City and CBGB(before being banned), often sharing the bill with emerging punk bands. Their first album was reissued with bonus material, including "23 Minutes Over Brussels", a recording of a Suicide concert that later deteriorated into a riot.

The band's first album, Suicide (1977), was released independently on Red Star Records. Although initial press reviews were divided (with Rolling Stone in particular giving it a scathing review), media recognition has changed over the years. One critic writes: Che', 'Ghost Rider'—these eerie, sturdy, proto-punk anthems rank among the most visionary, melodic experiments the rock realm has yet produced." Of note is the ten-minute "Frankie Teardrop", which tells the story of a poverty-stricken 20-year-old factory worker pushed to the edge. Critic Emerson Dameron writes that the song is "one of the most terrifying, riveting, absurd things I’ve ever heard." Nick Hornby in his book 31 Songs describes the track as something you would listen to "only once".

Suicide released their first album in over a decade with 2002's American Supreme. Sales, however, were slow, and critical reception was mixed.

Other Projects



In 1986, Alan Vega collaborated with Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy on the Gift album, released under the name of The Sisterhood. Vega and Rev have both released solo albums.

Return



Suicide released their first album in over a decade with 2002's American Supreme. Sales, however, were slow, and critical reception was mixed.

In 2005, SAF Publishing put out Suicide No Compromise, a "docu-biography" by David Nobahkt, which featured extensive interviews with Vega and Rev as well as many of their contemporaries and famous fans.

In 2008, Blast First Petite released Alan Vega 70th Birthday Limited Edition EP Series—a monthly, limited-edition series of 10" vinyl EPs and downloads by major artists, honoring Alan Vega's 70th birthday. Among those paying tribute were Bruce Springsteen, Primal Scream, Peaches, Grinderman, Spiritualized, The Horrors, +Pansonic, Julian Cope, Lydia Lunch, Vincent Gallo, LIARS, and The Klaxons. The label also released Suicide: 1977–1978, a 6-CD box set, the same year.

In September 2009, the group performed their debut LP live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series.

In May 2010 the band performed the entire first album live at two London concerts, double billed with Iggy & The Stooges performing Raw Power. The band performed their final concert at London's Barbican Centre on 9 July 2015. Billed as 'A Punk Mass', the show featured solo sets by both Rev and Vega before a headlining Suicide performance. Henry Rollins, Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth made guest appearances. The concert received positive reviews.

Alan Vega died in his sleep on July 16, 2016 at the age of 78. His death was announced by musician and radio host Henry Rollins, who shared an official statement from Vega's family on his website.

Legacy



Suicide's albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s have now become regarded as some of the most influential recordings of their time and helped shape the direction of indie rock, industrial music, and dance music.Among others, Head of David (covered "Rocket USA"), Steve Albini ( from Shellac, Rapeman, Big Black), Panthére, Gang Gang Dance, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, She Wants Revenge, the Membranes, The Birthday Party, 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, Kap Bambino, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Angel Corpus Christi (covers of "Dream Baby Dream" and "Cheree" with Alan Vega guest vocals), Michael Gira, MGMT, Sky Ferreira, Sonic Boom, Loop, The Fleshtones (both of whom have recorded cover versions of "Rocket USA"), 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 have all listed Suicide as an influence. Examples of their influence on Bruce Springsteen include the song "State Trooper" from his album Nebraska and his solo keyboard version of "Dream Baby Dream" closing the concerts on his 2005 Devils & Dust Tour and in his studio version on his 2014 album High Hopes.

Covers



In 1994, The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack contains "Ghost Rider" covered by the Rollins Band.

The Fatima Mansions released a cover of "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" on their 1994 single "Nite Flights".

In May 1999, ? and the Mysterians released a cover of "Cheree" on the album More Action.

The riff from "Ghost Rider" was sampled extensively in M.I.A.'s single, "Born Free", released in April 2010.

In mid-2009, the band The Horrors released a cover of the song "Shadazz" as part of a tribute to Alan Vega and his work. They have performed it many times live, along with another Suicide song, "Ghost Rider". Later that year, Primal Scream and Miss Kittin covered the song "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" for a limited-edition 10-inch vinyl pressing. A total of 3,000 copies were pressed and released on March 30, 2009.

"Ghost Rider" was covered by the garage punk band The Gories and released on the Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2

In April 2011, the influential dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem used a snippet from "Ghost Rider" during the song "Losing My Edge" and covered the Alan Vega solo effort "Bye Bye Bayou" during their final concert, held in a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

In April 2012, Neneh Cherry released a cover of the song "Dream Baby Dream" which appeared on her album The Cherry Thing. Long time fan Bruce Springsteen also covered Dream Baby Dream in 2016.

In May 2014, Savages released a live cover of "Dream Baby Dream" on the b-side of their single "Fuckers"/"Dream Baby Dream" 12".

Discography

Both Alan Vega and Martin Rev have recorded solo albums; see Alan Vega discography and Martin Rev discography.

Studio albums

  • 1977 – Suicide
  • 1980 – Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev
  • 1988 – A Way of Life
  • The 2005 Blast First/Mute/EMI CD reissue has a slightly different mix of the album, most notably the song "Surrender", and includes a live bonus disc recorded in 1987. Videos for Dominic Christ and Surrender by Stefan Roloff.
  • 1992 – Why Be Blue
  • The 2005 Blast First/Mute/EMI CD reissue includes a live bonus disc recorded in 1989 and a complete remix by Martin Rev of the original album and different track order.
  • 2002 – American Supreme
  • Initial CD copies included a live bonus disc recorded in 1998.

    Live albums

  • 1978 – 21½ Minutes in Berlin/23 Minutes in Brussels
  • 1981 – Half Alive—A collection of live and demo material recorded from 1975–1979. Originally released by ROIR on cassette only. With liner notes by Lester Bangs.
  • 1986 – Ghost Riders—A live concert from 1981 – originally released on cassette only.
  • 1997 – Zero Hour—Late '70s live recordings.
  • 2004 – Attempted: Live at Max's Kansas City 1980Soundboard recordings from a NYC rock club performance. With liner notes by Marty Thau.
  • 2008 – Live 1977-1978—A 6-CD box set containing 13 complete Suicide live performances from September 1977 to August 1978 plus bonus material.

    EPs

  • 1978 – 23 Minutes Over Brussels
  • 1998 – 22/1/98 – Reinventing America Recorded live at The Barbican – "Inventing America" launch party.

    Singles

  • 1978 – "Cheree" / "I Remember"
  • 1979 – "Dream Baby Dream" / "Radiation"