100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #71 Suicide – Ghost Rider

Released : 1977

Alan Vega and Martin Rev’s music felt alien from the beginning: created in an environment where New York’s Lower East Side was indisputably then another planet, it’s roots were in art for art’s sake, their early performances always room-clearing, played at oppressive volume and stalked by the omnipresent threat of violence from the scant audiences.

Having adopted the word punk after seeing it coined in an Iggy Pop interview by Lester Bangs they were subsequently banned from CBGB’s, but eventually – somehow – gained a residency of sorts at it’s rival Max’s Kansas City. Rev bought a Seagrams drum machine and used a cranky Farfisa organ with a guitar amp, whilst Vega sang/incanted. Malcolm McLaren was impressed enough to offer Rev a slot with the nascent Blondie, but he was one of the very few few who were.

Recorded in a few days in 1977 their self titled debut album was like nothing that had come before it, old rock n’ roll spliced with drones, white noise, spectral vocals and a claustrophobic weirdness scraped up from the Big Apple’s pitch black heart. Its centrepiece was Frankie Teardrop, a harrowing story of a familial murder/suicide, but on Ghost Rider the pair found their twisted groove, in doing so pre-empting the birth of electronic music’s darker side. When the little green men finally arrived, you could be sure this would be playing on their flying saucer stereo.

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