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  • Writer's pictureGuy G. Gorman

Destiny Street

At University of Notre Dame I was one of about three people who liked Richard Hell and the Voidoids. I think the other two were just humoring me :-D . His music had an energy, fun, cleverness, cynicism, and puerile humor that appealed in a big way. Even the name of the band still makes me chuckle. C'mon: "Voidoids"-- it's funny.

I've recently gotten my LPs back in order and have been reacquainting myself with my "old friends". (See here:

That's how "Destiny Street" ended up on my turntable the other day.

I finally got to the title track, in which Richard Hell meets himself, only ten years younger. He speaks his thoughts and describes the interaction over a funky/arty groove.

I remember playing the album incessantly when I first got it. (It remained on heavy rotation for years.) I was so excited that RH had finally put out another LP. (He was not a very prolific.) I cut out one of the few reviews I could find (Robert Palmer in the New York Times) and taped it to the inner sleeve. I was disappointed at Robert Christgau's postive review of the records, which was not over-the-top-enough for me. How could he not LOVE the goofy vocals, wordplay, rocking beat, the screeching, edgy guitar interplay between Robert Quine and Naux? I even wrote my own review, which I found tucked in the cover. I gushed as best I could and lamented that the album went over even worse than a lead balloon--not even a thud, just silence.

As I listened I realized that I too was walking down "Destiny Street".

I still like the album a lot, but I don't worship Hell anymore. I understand the criticism of the muddy production. A big part of the joy of Hell was his immediacy. "Blank Generation," his first album, comes right at you, crystal clear without apology: the missed notes on vocals, the edgy, careening guitars, the thumping drums, the sophomoric, cynical, poetic, lyrics. "Blank Generation" is an example of the punk aesthetic at its best.

I still get a kick out of the song "Destiny Street" itself. I like the beat, the sharp-edged, wailing guitars. I find myself chuckling again (and again) at the childish joke, "I was playing with myself."

I no longer find the nihilistic, emptiness as insightful. I think there's more to life. (Frankly, I think Hell didn't really believe it all either. There was too much humor in his sensibility, and he retired from rock n roll pretty early on.)

I love the concept of "Destiny Street."

I've been fascinated with the idea of identity and consciousness for a long time I really don't feel any different from the little child who bounced up and down on the living room couch while listening to the Beatles, Harry Belafonte, Tom Glazer, "Dance and Sing Mother Goose," and many more. In fact I even remember the moment I contemplated consciousness at about four or five years old. I was trying to understand how it was that I was looking OUT of myself but that I could look AT others.

I'm the same.

But I'm not.

I still think that "Meet the Beatles" is what rock n roll music is all about.

Shake-a-Puddin', one of my favorite foods as a young boy, bothers me on several levels now.

I've gone from being a Brussels sprouts hater (too intense) to a sprout lover (Yum!).

On a deeper level:

I understand algebra now (or at least I think I do). I was so confused in ninth grade. I remember thinking, 'What is "x"'? Of course that was the whole point--figuring out what "x" is.

On an even deeper level I've become much more spiritual.

What would punk rockin', college Guy think about the current Guy who loves Frankie Valli or the Beach Boys or doo wop.

How would optimistic Guy 2018 react to meeting that punk rockin' Guy with his sometimes-tasteless jokes and darker, fatalistic sensibilities.

I'm still the same Guy, but I'm not. How is that?

As I teacher I walked down "Destiny Street" more than once. I had a hard time getting angry at students who did the same thing I did in middle school. I remember very clearly when Billy and Brendan played with a large map box in the back of the room. They'd lift the top and inch or so and let it drop back down. It made a sound very reminiscent of a fart, which is, of course, the funniest sound in the universe for a middle-school boy. They did this a dozen or more times. (First rule of middle school humor: if it's funny once, it's one hundred times funnier a hundred times.) Fighting back a smile, I gently suggested that they stop. (Admittedly, I still rank that sound in my Top 40 funniest. I think I can speak for most men on this.)

Parents probably walk down "Destiny Street" regularly. I recently saw a conversation between friends on facebook. One was asking the other in a paternal sort of way as to whether he wore a motorcycle helmet. It occurred to me that both guys had been on both sides of this conversation as fathers and sons.

Feelings, tastes, opinions, outlooks change.

But something essential doesn't.

Richard Hell and the Voidoids, "Destiny Street":

Richard Hell and the Voidoids, "The Kid With the Replaceable Head":

Richard Hell and the Voidoids, "Blank Generation":

Shake-a-Puddin' commercial:

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