Suicide (1977 album)
|Studio album by Suicide|
|Recorded||Ultima Sound, New York|
|Producer||Craig Leon, Marty Thau|
|Singles from Suicide|
Suicide is the debut album from the American rock band Suicide. It was released in 1977 on Red Star Records and produced by Craig Leon and Marty Thau. The album was recorded in four days at Ultima Sound Studios in New York as the group already had practiced and created songs from their previous five years of music gigs. The album featured songs about urban life and people who vocalist Alan Vega knew in New York. Vega's vocals on the album were influenced by 1950s rock musicians such as Elvis Presley while the backing music was provided by Martin Rev who provided a "dense unnerving electronics" sound.
Suicide was released on December 1977 and failed to chart in the United Kingdom and United States. The album received positive reviews from the British Press and less favorable ones in the United States. Later reception to the album has been more positive with online music site Pitchfork referring to it as one of the greatest albums of the 1970s and Rolling Stone placing it on their list of the greatest 500 albums of all time. The album also influenced artists in various genres including Bruce Springsteen, The Fleshtones, Spacemen 3, and Peaches.
Suicide was the first group to sign to Marty Thau's Red Star record label. Thau had previously worked at Paramount Records and Buddah Records and had sold his assets to Richard Gottehrer to create Red Star Records. After hearing a demo tape from Suicide, he asked if he could see Suicide perform live which lead to them being signed to Red Star. Red Star hired Craig Leon to co-produce the record.
Suicide entered the studio with much of their songs already written and rehearsed from having spent the previous five years playing shows. The recording of the album was done in four days. Leon had previously worked with reggae musicians Bob Marley and Lee Scratch Perry and seen them create dub like effects with their music and used an Eventide digital delay unit to create these echo effects on the albums vocal tracks. Leon returned to California after four days of work which lead to Marty Thau to work on the rest of the production. Alan Vega changed the lyrics of "Frankie Teardrop" during the mixing sessions of the album. Thau remixed the tracks "Ghost Rider", "Rocket USA" and "Cheree". Leon returned to New York where the two remixed "Frankie Teardrop". The album was mastered at Frankford/Wayne in New York.
The vocals on the album provided by Alan Vega have been described as similar to Gene Vincent. Vega has stated that "originally I was a rock'n'roll kid; I was born into the rock'n'roll era of 45s in the late fifties" and that "Elvis Presley to me is like God, and Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, they're my triumvirate." "Johnny" was described by the online music database Allmusic as a showcase for the band's "affinity for '50s melodies and images, as well as their pop leanings." All the songs on Suicide have a "stripped down" sound with Martin Vega providing a backing combining "harshly hypnotic organs" and "dense, unnerving electronics".
Martin Rev described the songs "Frankie Teardrop", "Johnny" and "Cheree" as being about street people. "Frankie Teardrop" was influenced by a story Alan Vega read in a newspaper about a factory worker who loses his job and resorts to murdering his wife and child before committing suicide. The lyrics of the song were improvised by Vega, who attempted to get into the mindset of both the factory worker and his family. "Cheree" was about a girlfriend of Martin Rev.
Suicide was released in December 1977. Howard Thompson of Bronze Records in the United Kingdom received a copy of the album from the United States. After listening to it he went to New York to see the group perform live and negotiate a deal to license their music for Bronze. The album failed to chart in both the United States and the United Kingdom. A single for the song "Cheree" was released in May 1978 on both 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl formats. The single featured a remixed version of "Cheree" with the B-Side "I Remember". John Lydon of the Sex Pistols reviewed the single for the NME, referring to it as "Je t'aime with tape hiss".
The album was re-issued by Red Star Records in 1980. The album has been re-released on other labels including Mute Records and Blast First Records on compact disc and digital download formats with varying bonus tracks.
On its initial release, the album received positive reviews from the NME, Time Out and Melody Maker in the United Kingdom. Music critic Piero Scaruffi gave the album 9.0 out of 10 stars and called this album, "...one of the milestones of the new wave, grafted the infinite modulations of minimalism onto a feverish rockabilly beat, thus coining "psychobilly"." However, music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a C+ rating, stating "there are little problems like lyrics that reduce serious politics to rhetoric, singing that makes rhetoric sound lurid, and the way the manic eccentricity of this duo's live performance turns to silliness on record" Rolling Stone also gave the album a negative review, referring to the song as "absolutely puerile" and the Alan Vega's vocals as "nothing but arrogance and wholesale insensibility".
Rolling Stone magazine placed Suicide on their list of the best 500 albums of all time at 441. Online music magazine Pitchfork placed the album at number 39 on their list of best albums of the 1970s. Online music database Allmusic gave the album four and a half stars out of five, opining that the album was "Proof that punk was more about attitude than a raw, guitar-driven sound, Suicide's self-titled debut set the duo apart from the rest of the style's self-proclaimed outsiders."
Songs from the album have been featured in various forms of media since the album's initial release. Director Werner Fassbinder contacted Red Star to get the rights for the song "Frankie Teardrop" for his film In a Year of 13 Moons. The song is featured during a party scene. "Cheree" was used by director Edo Bertoglio for his film Downtown 81, a film shot in the early 1980s but not completed until 1999.
Several music artists and groups have covered songs from Suicide. The American group The Fleshtones recorded a cover of "Rocket U.S.A." for their debut album Blast Off!. The album was produced by Marty Thau and when Alan Vega visited him when he was recording the album at Blank Studios, he was invited to sing while the group performed the song. Bruce Springsteen stated that his song "State Trooper" from the album Nebraska was heavily influenced by "Frankie Teardrop". In 2008, a series of EPs were released in tribute to Suicide by various recording artists to celebrate Alan Vega's 70th birthday. Songs from the album that were part of the series included "Johnny" covered by Peaches, "Frankie Teardrop" covered by Lydia Lunch, "Che" by Sunn o))) and Pan Sonic, and "Rocket U.S.A." covered by Nik Void
Reissue bonus tracks
- Suicide - arrangement
- Timothy Jackson - artwork
- Larry Alexander - engineer
- Martin Rev - keyboards
- Craig Leon - producer
- Marty Thau - producer
- Alan Vega - vocals
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