Alan Vega of Suicide died on Saturday July 16th, 2016 in his sleep. He was 78.
I didn’t find myself getting into Suicide until just a few years ago. Before that I’d only heard “Ghost Rider” a few times and always found myself drawn to the dark vibes and propulsive synth, as well as the whispered wheezes that came through the mix that turned out to be Vega’s narrative about his favorite Marvel character. Once I picked up Suicide’s debut record just three years ago I got to hear just how forward-thinking Vega and Martin Rev really were. They created this simplistic kind of future punk that was part beatnik poetry and part steampunk nihilism. Their songs were moved along by rickety drum machines and what sounded like pump organs covered in bloodied leather. Suicide was a musical creation at the freaky and filthy crossroads of doo wop, industrial, gothic, electronic, and punk rock. There was nothing like them before or after.
Alan Vega seemed to be the tortured soul at the heart of Suicide and Rev seemed to be the guy creating the dark and pulsating incantations that freed that soul. Vega sang songs that ran the gamut between teen love, street life, and murder ballads, with the latter coming in the form of “Frankie Teardrop”. That song in-particular is one of those songs that elicits such violent and dark visions it’s hard to get through the whole of it. Vega’s pained outbursts throughout the song only go to solidify the narrative of murder and remorse. Then in the next breath Alan Vega is singing “Dream Baby Dream”, a overly optimistic track about following your dream(was it tongue-in-cheek? I don’t know.) Even Bruce Springsteen covered this song several times on one of his recent tours.
Whenever I think of Alan Vega and Suicide I think of the dark New York. The wet, grimy, and dangerous New York of the 1970s. Taxi Driver New York. That’s the New York that influenced Vega. That’s what fueled his storytelling. The sordid, Abel Ferrara, sweat drenched Big Apple that was rotting from the inside out and that filth influenced a whole generation of artists. Alan Vega and Suicide were one of the first to cover their canvas in blood, sweat, fuel, and cigarette ash, all with an earnest and equal love of 50s pop and 60s avante art at the heart of their music.
Keep those dreams burnin’ forever
Keep those dreams burnin