The search for who invented punk is recursive - every icon along the way was inspired by somebody else. But Richard Hell is one of the better starting points; Malcolm McLaren, who invented the Sex Pisiols, said that Hell's spiked hair and torn clothes held together with safety pins was a huge influence on the British punk style*. And Hell's music is one of the foundations of all punk rock to come. He played in Television, among the most seminal proto-punk bands, and then he formed The Heartbreakers with New York Dolls refugees Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. If you were hanging out on the Lower East Side on the burgeoning punk scene, you would have heard Richard Hell playing.
Blank Generation is the title song to the first album by Hell's fourth band, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and it's seen today as a starting pistol for the entire punk movement. The snotty vocals, the sense of ennui, the pace of the song all show what punk rock would be. What's ironic is that the song is almost totally ripped off from a 1950s novelty record.
And it wasn't even the A-side of a novelty record. Bob McFadden and Dor released the very silly song The Mummy, and the B-side was called Beat Generation. You can listen to that song below:
Here's where this story gets even better. Bob McFadden went on to have a thriving career doing voice-over. Many of you reading this would recognize him as Snarf from Thundercats. And Dor? Well, that was a stage name for Rod McKuen, who would go on to be one of the best selling and most influential poets of the late 60s.
*McLaren's own words, in Punk: An Oral History - "I came back to England determined. I had these images I came back with, it was like Marco Polo or Walter Raleigh. I brought back the image of this distressed, strange thing called Richard Hell. And this phrase, 'the blank generation'. [...] Richard Hell was a definite, 100 percent inspiration, and, in fact, I remember telling the Sex Pistols, 'Write a song like Blank Generation, but write your own bloody version,' and their own version was 'Pretty Vacant'.""