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I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  924 ratings  ·  157 reviews
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 f
ebook, 248 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Ecco (first published 2013)
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If you are interested in lengthy descriptions of the floor plan of every New York City apartment Richard Hell ever lived in, then this is the book for you.
There are a lot of really wonderful things about this book, in particular its direct ugliness and Hell's willingness to confront those parts of himself that are shameful, vile, and ridiculous. He's an engaging and very entertaining writer--often damned funny--and a salacious dirt-disher as well. I know the mythology of the New York scene very well and yet still felt I learned nearly as much from this book as I did years ago from Please Kill Me-- though I'm sure it's about as untrustworthy. From ...more
Richard Hell's autobiography makes 1970s New York sound like an artist's playground, and I got the same warm tingly yet detached feeling as I got from Patti Smith's Just Kids--though while Smith's antics were centered around the Chelsea, Hell seemed to bounce all over town, hopping across bright and dull constellations alike flecked with girls, music and drugs. One of my favorite lines:
"I probably peaked as a human in the sixth grade."

He knows this is not true, and it should definitely be said t
I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp disappointed me. Mr. Hell, this shit may fly at a party where people give a shit about your "scene" or whatever, but your memoir feels carping and whiny. You either attack or praise then belittle just about everyone you've ever met. Dude, did you have to point out how fat Richard Lloyd's grown? What an asshole move. Honestly, you're only a minor figure in the punk canon, at least outside of Manhattan, and your story isn't that interesting. And you sound like a ...more
Jeff Jackson
The casual flow of this memoir belies the offhanded stylishness of Richard Hell's prose. He's constructed a compelling story of childhood tramp dreams, burning down Florida cornfields with truant Tom Verlaine, dating famous painter's ex-wives, the boredom of early '70s NYC, starting a lit mag and rejecting solicited poems from Allen Ginsberg, and - most crucially - realizing how the apparatus of a rock band could express a new sound, style, and cultural attitude. Hell settles some scores here, b ...more
Q: Why did the punk rocker cross the road?
A: He was pinned to a chicken.

I know. Bad joke. It could have been worse. I could have asked you why Jesus crossed the road.

But this is a book review, so...

I'm not exactly sure if Richard Hell is an household name. He was at the start of the punk rock movement in the seventies. He is often given credit for the punk rock look of torn clothes and safety pins, which explains the chicken joke. Malcolm McLaren gives Richard Hell credit for the visual look, if
Ah, I never really care about the bass players.

This starts off very well and deteriorates very quickly. Fragmentary at best as an autobiography; rather it can be seen as an excuse for Richard to revel in his memories of every pussy he ever saw/fucked/licked/stuck a finger into/illuminated with a torchlight in the dark - well, pick the one you like best. Richard also offers us precious wisdom (Being a rock and roll musician was like being a pimp).

But I'm exaggerating; it's actually quite a fun bo
The beauty of the memoir is not only the writer's life, but also the placement of the story. For me Richard Hell's great book “I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp” is not only about Hell's life, but also a great New York City narrative. With out the actual city New York, there would be no N.Y. Punk Rock. Even though Richard Hell met Tom Verlaine somewhere else, they needed Manhattan to do what they had to do. And the same goes for the NY Dolls, Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground and for god's sa ...more
Like another reviewer, I read I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp on the heels of Just Kids by Patti Smith. There are parallels between the two works, to be sure. Smith and Richard Hell were contemporaries, living in New York at the same time, working at the same bookstores, performing in the same scene. Both are considered punk rock pioneers. Hell and Smith considered themselves poets and artists above all else. For both, the music grew out of a need to express themselves in the most immediate a ...more
P.J. Morse
As a rock-book aficionado, I couldn’t help reading Richard Hell’s book without imagining him in a cage match with Patti Smith, the singer/poet/muse who authored “Just Kids.” Hell probably thinks his book is different from Smith’s since Smith focuses on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and Hell covers his life from the beginning until he quit music, but there are so many similarities that I couldn’t ignore it. To review Hell’s book, I have to compare it to Smith’s point by point:

J Edward Tremlett
Who the hell is Richard Hell? If you have to ask that question, you haven’t been paying attention.

In the 70′s and early 80′s, Hell (real name Richard Meyers) was the cofounder of three bands: Television, the Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. He quit both Television and the Heartbreakers due to conflicts with other band members, and then went on to form the Voidoids, where he could actually drive the bus for a change.

While saying that all three outfits were incredibly influential
Marxist Monkey
Yeah, so, I hated Richard Hell when I was younger and a bass player. I hated him because he was a terrible bass player, because he couldn't really sing, because his songs were weird, because he seemed to think that punk was more about hair and fashion and some intangible personal edge than it was about music. Now that I'm much older, I can see that Richard Hell is a very smart man and an accomplished writer who had a much better sense of what the CBGB scene was about than I could imagine. I stil ...more
Steve Bennett
First things first. This is an extremely disturbing, unsettling book. On the basis of this memoir, Richard Hell is incapable of forming any type of long-lasting, meaningful relationship. Not with a woman, not with a friend, not with a family member, a bandmate, or even a pet. Well, he does travel from NYC apartment to apartment with a dead turtle he keeps in a box. There is almost zero discussion of any family members, even the death of his father when Richard was 8 is dismissed as an annoyance. ...more
Peter Landau
What's more entertaining than watching something you hate? For me, few things, though that thing must be on TV, maybe a movie, but never, ever a book. Watching is passive, but reading I'm invested in (and I'm a slow reader), so that book, those hundreds of densely packed pages better do more than give me the self-satisfaction of mocking. That's why I approached Richard Hell's autobiography with caution. Of course I love the period, the place and the people he is writing about, but every time I'd ...more
Julie Barrett
I had a real Jekyll & Hyde reaction with this book. Some parts I loved and felt very sympathetic to him and other times - - other times he was such an insufferable twat. The pretentiousness - make it stop! I think it's because he was a high school dropout and was surrounded by famous intellectuals and artists so he overcompensated by being a bit of a megalomaniac. He did have some good reasons to think highly of himself (when he wasn't beating himself up) - he was sexy, charismati ...more
After readings this one I can't even recall why I ever thought Richard hell was a bright guy. Maybe from reading 'Please Kill Me' by legs McNeil? I remember liking his book 'Go Now' but I probably read it in high school. This book is pretty solipsistic, after a point it seemed. Ike a lot of banal observations about nothing much and weirdly he tries to take credit for a bunch of punk innoventions. He implies that his look inspired the uk sex clothing store run by Malcolm mclaren and Vivian Westwo ...more
About 2/3s of the way through, Hell remarks "Sophisticated people discreetly refrain from speculating about, much less judging, what goes on between couples. Every marriage is its own culture, and even within it, mystery is the environment." In view of the remarkable detail up to that point, and even more to follow, about every woman he slept with, what exactly they did and specifics about her body, one could wish a little more mystery had been allowed to remain (although his actual marriage tha ...more
At the beginning of "20,000 Days on Earth," Nick Cave says something to the effect that he has been the stage persona of Nick Cave so long that the performer and the performance have merged and there is no longer a real difference anymore. If you're expecting some sort of distance between the Richard Hell you hear on the records and the one writing this book, there isn't much. There's some older and wiser (he's not doing drugs anymore) but he's just as arrogant and self righteous as he was in 19 ...more
This is the book people have been waiting for Richard Hell to write. Few people were on the inside of the whole New York CBGB’s punk scene as much as Hell and he has something to say about great legends like Patti Smith, Johnny Thunders, and Dee Dee Ramone. Equally of great import are his memoirs of teenage pal Tom Verlaine and The Neon Boys, later Television.

There’s a lot of dope about his band The Voidoids, especially Robert Quine, and even more dope about celebrity girlfriends like Sable Star
Ettore Pasquini
Richard Hell comes out as pretty full of himself judging from how he writes, but he is so damn honest describing his ego that you have to forgive him, even when it entails very private moments. And his love for sex. One time I kind of cringed because I really didn't need to know all that detail. But it's great to have people that can just say things like they are, unfiltered, with no shame, in your face. I don't think Europeans can do it like that, with the same openness.
The music-related anecdo
Beki D
This is the first book review i have written but i was forced to by feeling repugnance towards the author. What a completely arrogant,self indulgent, misogynistic,egomaniac and generally unlikeable protagonist. This book is written very pretentiously as he believes was some kind of undiscovered visionary poet. Obviously he is very bitter as he felt he was above all his contemporaries in intelligence, style and talent. He has nothing vitriol for anyone else who maybe in direct competition with h ...more
Caryn Rose
I cannot remember a book I was so excited to read that I could barely bring myself to finish.

My TBR pile languished because I was reading this book. I thought I would certainly plow through this one quickly, I was so eager to read it, and then got to the point in the book where I just could not take it any more.

The book is well written. The descriptions of NYC in this time period are interesting and valuable and I'm glad we have them. Hell makes no bones about owning up to his faults. I just co
In slightly better-than-workmanlike prose, Hell gives a dazzlingly unsentimental and un-self-serving account of his life up to his drug crackup/retirement from music. His astute cultural analysis makes this an indispensable nugget of punk history.
I'm a fan of Hells' writing. I frequented CBGB's in early '75 and I was lucky enough to catch Television in Hells' last days with the band in April '75. Parts of the book are conversational. My sympathies go out to the girlfriends described herein.
When Hell describes how he felt when running away, starting Television, the liberating power of rock 'n roll and punk rock, he writes such beautiful and ecstatic prose that I had to read some paragraphs again to relish them.
I know some of the people
There are two things I don't like about Richard Hell's autobiography "I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp." First is the author himself and second is his maddening style of writing. While it's certainly possible to enjoy an autobiography even if one doesn't care for the writer, it's not easy. The story has to be very compelling, but moreover, the writing must pull the reader into the history. Herein, Hell fails.

His style is deliberately (and predictably) non-traditional, with rambling almost inco
I was exited when I found this book because frankly I didn't know anything about Richard Hell besides the groups he help pioneer in the midst of a new generation of rock and roll that came to be called punk.
I found Richards life to be fascinating up till he was a full time junkie. I don't find junk all that romantic and by that point his bitterness was beginning to boil into an annoyed lost junkie.
Want I really loved was his childhood up to when he arrived in New York and decided to become a p
Hell’s memoir is kind of the antithesis of Patti Smith’s Two Kids. It is nastier, bitterer, and full of unresolved anger, theories on art and music, and failures. Maybe it was because Hell was a junkie during his music years, or maybe it is because Smith is more of a romantic. I also feel that Hell’s book is more honest if a bit less enjoyable because of that. He was nasty dude and this is a fairly nasty book. Read both memoirs and compare (Get Please Kill me to while you’re at it).
The title comes from a piece of creative writing by an 8 year old Hell (ok, Richard Meyers at that point) after a curious attempt to sneak away from home that his father worked out and even "helped" him with, just a few weeks before dying suddenly. This tragedy gets given very little importance by Hell, as does the rest of his family after he drops out of college and leaves them in the South while heading off to New York City.
The typical rock bio arc includes the rebellious youth, the kindred sp
Jacob Frank
A strangely apathetic and slapdash memoir, though thoughtful at points. Hell claims to have invented the spiky hair, torn clothing, and safety pin fashion of punk, which was then supposedly appropriated by Malcolm McClaren and transmitted via the Sex Pistols. His relationship to Kathy Acker, which he alludes to a couple times, seems intriguing and might have been fleshed out a bit more. His description of Nancy Spungen, who he dated, more or less coincides with Cheetah Chrome's in the latter's m ...more
Leah Wescott
In 1985 I met Richard Hell's mother while she was on her way to see her brand new granddaughter. She beamed as she told about her rock-icon son and his wife, pop star Patty Smyth. I'd never heard of her boy but I was curious. It took almost 30 years for this goody two shoes to mature enough to understand or appreciate punk. Richard has now walked me through it.

Just as Hell's young life was directionless and itchy, so begins his book. His painstaking descriptions of the countless hovels he lived
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Born in 1949, Richard Meyers was shipped off to a private school for troublesome kids in Delaware, which is where he met Tom (Verlaine) Miller. Together they ran away, trying to hitchhike to Florida, but only made it as far as Alabama before being picked up by the authorities. Meyers persuaded his mother to allow him to go to New York, where he worked in a secondhand bookshop (the Strand; later he ...more
More about Richard Hell...
Go Now Godlike Hot and Cold: essays poems lyrics notebooks pictures fiction The Voidoid Artifact: Notebooks from Hell, 1974-80

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“In fact I thought life was pretty much a losing proposition, and I didn't mind saying so.” 5 likes
“I think love is sort of a con you play on yourself. I think the whole conception of love is something the previous generation invents to justify having created you. You know I think the real reason children are born is because parents are so bored they have children to amuse themselves. They're so bored they don't have anything else to do so they have a child because that will keep them busy for a while. Then to justify to the kid the reason he exists they tell him there's such a thing as love and that's where you come from because me and your daddy or me and your mommy were in love and that's why you exist. When actually it was because they were bored out of their minds.” 3 likes
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