Pure Hell

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Pure Hell is a punk-rock band,[citation needed] established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1974,[1] during the high point of punk culture in New York City, London and Los Angeles.[2][3] It has been cited by Bad Brains "as an early influence".

Among the pioneers of the post-garage, acid rock, glam-theatre era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pure Hell was among the first of its kind, comparable to the MC5, Sex Pistols, Dead Boys and Germs. Commercially, the band had little success and only released one single ("These Boots are Made for Walking" b/w "No Rules")[4] and one album (Noise Addiction), which was unreleased for 28 years.[1] Founding member writer/vocalist Kenny Gordon and drummer Spider of Pure Hell also has an unreleased album produced in the mid-1990s by former members of L.A. Guns, Nine Inch Nails and Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, entitled The Black Box. This album has Kilmister singing background vocals in a rare song titled "The Call". In 2012, Pure Hell reformed to play their first gig since 1979 at the Rebellion Festival at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool alongside Rancid, Buzzcocks, Public Image Ltd and Social Distortion.

Without a doubt; Pure Hell were the first black punk band. Forming in Philadelphia in 1974 and hanging out with the New York Dolls, they also played with the even-more-ill-fated Sid in 1978 when he moved to the Big Apple. Coming on like a speeded up Dead Boys having a fire-fight with the Stooges while the MC5 held their leather jackets, their music still is an exciting drive all these years on. Like their protégés the Bad Brains Pure Hell were excellent musicians who used the punk format to cram in as many intricate notes as possible, while still remaining as tight as the proverbial gnat’s chuff and never losing the kick and vital snap in their music.

Curtis Knight (R n B singer of the Squires, who also featured a young James Hendrix on guitar) became their manager and oversaw their career for better and for worse – the reason these recordings didn’t see the light of day until many years after being put on tape was at Knight’s insistence. Along with managing the band, he also produced one of the two sessions presented on the CD part of this package – the other at the end of 1978 in London was amazingly recorded by the Groundhogs main man Tony McPhee. This London jaunt turned out to be the last hurrah for Pure Hell as Knight fell out badly with them and refused to release their album. Even a well-received UK tour and an appearance alongside the ascendant Subs at the Lyceum couldn’t stop them splitting on their return stateside.

All they left behind was one single, a cover of the Nancy Sinatra song “These Boots Are Made For Walking”/”No Rules”, which are both included on this collection along with 13 other blasts of high power, energy-driven Punk Rock with more than a slight Hendrix influenced guitar at some points. Some of the tracks, particularly “The Girl With The Hungry Eyes”, (about Nancy Spungen, who charismatic lead singer Kenny Gordon knew from his schooldays) verge on proto-hardcore. Definitely they must have some influence on the coming CBGBs scene of that ilk, coming smack between that and the original scene of the Ramones and Patti Smith. Pure Hell take you on a super-fast ride round the 70s Rotten Apple and the thrills keep coming, cheap, nasty, but irresistible.


  1. ^ a b http://swindlemagazine.com/issue10/pure-hell/ Archived December 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ A.D. Amorosi, "Along Came a Spider", Philadelphia City Paper, April 25-May 1, 2002
  3. ^ MTV: "Afro-Punk: Five Years Of Rebellion"
  4. ^ James Porter and Jake Austen, "Black Punk Time: Blacks in Punk, New Wave and Hardcore 1976-1984 (Part 3)", from Roctober #32, 2002

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