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I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,056 ratings  ·  234 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
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
This book had been sitting on my shelf about five years--the Bronze Age in relation to some of my other neglected books whose provenance could place them in Precambrian times.

I'm fascinated by people like Hell. He grew up Richard Meyers in Lexington, Kentucky and Norfolk, Virginia for the last couple years of high school. I've been to Lexington and Norfolk and it's hard for me to imagine someone originating from these places dropping out of high school, as Hell did, and riding the Greyhound to N
Aug 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Although Richard Hell was heavily involved in the punk movement, starting several influential bands and appearing regularly in the glory days of CBGB's, he never managed to achieve the same level of fame as other punk icons like Johnny Rotten, the Clash, or the Ramones. But when you look at the history of punk rock, Richard Hell's fingerprints are all over it. He wasn't the founder, by any means, but he was definitely one of the early pioneers of the entire punk movement. I Dreamed I Was a Very ...more
Sep 21, 2016 rated it liked it
This is quite a difficult review to write. On the one hand, Hell is a great writer, and his life has certainly been interesting enough to keep you glued to the page, so on that level it’s great. But on the other hand there seems to be this underlying resentment directed at all those from the same scene who have profited more then himself. Whenever he throws a compliment someones way he’s very quick to shut it down with multiple jabs in the next sentence. His bitterness seeps through every page.

Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
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
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: punk-rock-etc
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
Aug 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, music
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
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Diana Stegall
Jan 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I can't remember the last time I deliberately abandoned a book, I will almost always stick it out to the finish, but this is GARBAGE. Jesus, Richard Hell is an embarrassment. I'm boggled by how many people describe this book as "self-effacing" - are y'all won over by humble bragging in real life too?

A) Richard Hell is too boring and narcissistic to have any insight into his remarkable life. He sounds like a spoiled 12 year old nursing decades of insecurity and petty jealousy without realizing i
P.J. Morse
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
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
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Hell's unsentimental memoir, which ends in 1984--the year he quits drugs and retires from music--can really be considered a parallel companion book to Patti Smith's super soulful Just Kids. Born in '49, Hell and Smith take separate paths to a frayed NYC, scraping by as young and hungry teens, both bent on pursuing lives as poets and writers--only coming into their respective rock careers later. Both narratives are largely set in downtown NY and the Lower East Side--especially Hell's--where both ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa
Ultimately, not only are we all the same, but what happens is out of our control. (...) All there is is the entertainments, pastimes, of love and work, the hope of keeping interested.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll. In roughly that order (and a bit of poetry). Richard Hell's autobiography of his early life and brief punk stardom before deciding to quit the whole circus before the inevitable overdose has all the usual trappings of a rocker memoir, with two exceptions: One, that Hell never really
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, fin-2013
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, charismatic, i ...more
Steve Bennett
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rock-sleaze
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
Paul Wilner
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
If you don't have anything good to say, come sit by me...Richard H's journey into the punk void is engaging, if often depressing. He can write well, for a musician, as they say, and the gossip is good even if the life lived seems needlessly harrowing... ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sporting my favourite book title ever, I would have given this memoir a 5 star rating even if the pages were blank. I like the way Hell writes. Lines like "It tasted like cold God" send shivers down the literary spine. ...more
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: much-loved-bios
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
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't believe this was poorly written nor do I think it was a complete waste of my time. I just wish it wasn't seeping with arrogance. Humility is not a word Richard Hell seems to be familiar with. I enjoyed certain aspects of his story but overall, it seemed just to be a recollection of his cavalier views on specific individuals and his various encounters with pussy. I found it incredibly hard to finish this book. What I did appreciate were the few recollections concerning his interviews. I f ...more
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was glad to make it to Hell's book talk when he came to Chicago. He seemed a little bored (he shared that this was one of the last of many talks he'd already done on a long tour). The audience may have been starstruck, and everyone asked uninteresting questions that elicited factual answers. Despite him being one of my favorite artists, I couldn't come up with anything more interesting to ask either.

The obvious things to be said about this book have been repeated several thousand times in oth
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Beki D
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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).
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
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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

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