Suicide (band)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rev and Vega before a 1988 concert
Rev and Vega before a 1988 concert
Background information
OriginNew York City, New York, U.S.
Years active1970–2016 (intermittently)
LabelsRed Star, ZE, ROIR International, Blast First/Mute
Past members

Suicide was an American musical duo composed of vocalist Alan Vega and instrumentalist Martin Rev, intermittently active between 1970 and 2016. The group's pioneering music utilized minimalist electronic instrumentation, including synthesizers and primitive drum machines, and their early performances were confrontational and often ended in violence.[7] They were among the first acts to use the phrase "punk music" in an advertisement for a concert in 1970—during their very brief stint as a three-piece including Paul Liebegott.[8][9]

Though never widely popular among the general public, Suicide have been recognized as among the most influential acts of their era. Their debut album Suicide (1977) was described by Entertainment Weekly as "a landmark of electronic music",[10] while AllMusic stated that it "provided the blueprints for post-punk, synth pop, and industrial rock."[11]


Rev and Vega met and became friends in 1970. After the former's avant-jazz band broke up, they decided to form a band together. The initial line-up was - Vega (aka "Nasty Cut" or "Nasty Punk"): guitar, trumpet, vocals; Rev (aka "Marty Maniac"): drums, keyboard and Paul Liebegott (aka Cool P) guitar. Their first show was June 19, 1970 at the Project of Living Artists in lower Manhattan. They soon began billing themselves as "punk music". Liebegott left at the end of 1971, and they continued as a duo. By that point, Vega was no longer playing any instruments, and began performing only vocals. Rev stopped playing drums and blowing whistle by early 1975. By 1973, they had become part of lower Manhattan's underground music scene, and played shows with the likes of the New York Dolls and the Fast. Their first release was Rocket U.S.A., which was included on the 1976 Max's Kansas City compilation. The following year, they recorded and released their debut album. They played their first overseas shows in 1978 playing support for Elvis Costello and the Clash in the UK and Western Europe. They continued on and off, until playing their final shows in 2015. Shows scheduled for the following year were cancelled, due to Vega's declining health, and eventual death.[12]

According to a 2002 interview of Alan Vega, the name of the band was inspired by the title of a Ghost Rider comic book issue titled "Satan Suicide". He further explained, "We were talking about society’s suicide, especially American society. New York City was collapsing. The Vietnam War was going on. The name Suicide said it all to us."[13]

Rev's simple keyboard riffs, which were initially played on a battered Farfisa organ combined with effects units, before changing to a synthesizer, were accompanied by primitive drum machines. This provided a pulsing, minimalistic, electronic backdrop for Vega's murmuring and nervy vocals. It was the first band to use the term punk to describe itself, which the band had adopted from an article by Lester Bangs. Some of the band's earliest posters use the terms "punk music" and "punk music mass".

Early notoriety[edit]

Suicide emerged alongside the early glam punk scene in New York, with a reputation for its confrontational live shows. Many of the band's early shows were at the Mercer Arts Center, alongside bands such as the New York Dolls and Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps. During an early show at the Mercer Arts Center David Johansen played harmonica with Suicide. Vega and Rev both dressed like 'arty street thugs', and Vega was notorious for brandishing a motorcycle drive chain onstage. Vega once stated, "We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage. Just from the way we looked, they started giving us hell already."[14] This sort of audience confrontation was inspired by Vega's witnessing of an Iggy and the Stooges concert at the New York State Pavilion in August 1969, which he later described as "great art". After the collapse of the Mercer Arts Center in 1973, Suicide played at Max's Kansas City and CBGB (before being banned), often sharing the bill with emerging punk bands. Their first album was reissued with bonus material, including "23 Minutes Over Brussels", a recording of a Suicide concert that later deteriorated into a riot.

The band's first album, Suicide (1977), was released independently on Red Star Records. Although initial press reviews were divided (with Rolling Stone in particular giving it a scathing review), media recognition has changed over the years. One critic writes: "'Che', 'Ghost Rider'—these eerie, sturdy, proto-punk anthems rank among the most visionary, melodic experiments the rock realm has yet produced." Of note is the ten-minute "Frankie Teardrop", which tells the story of a poverty-stricken 20-year-old factory worker pushed to the edge. Critic Emerson Dameron writes that the song is "one of the most terrifying, riveting, absurd things I’ve ever heard."[15] Nick Hornby, in his book 31 Songs, describes the track as something you would listen to "only once".[16]

Other projects[edit]

In 1986, Alan Vega collaborated with Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy on the Gift album, released under the name of The Sisterhood. In 1996, Vega collaborated with Alex Chilton and Ben Vaughn on the album Cubist Blues.[17] Vega and Rev have both released solo albums.


In 2002, Suicide released their first album in over a decade, titled American Supreme. Sales, however, were slow, and critical reception was mixed.

In 2005, SAF Publishing put out Suicide No Compromise, a "docu-biography" by David Nobahkt, which featured extensive interviews with Vega and Rev as well as many of their contemporaries and famous fans.

In 2008, Blast First Petite released Alan Vega 70th Birthday Limited Edition EP Series—a monthly, limited-edition series of 10" vinyl EPs and downloads by major artists, honoring Alan Vega's 70th birthday. Among those paying tribute were Bruce Springsteen, Primal Scream, Peaches, Grinderman, Spiritualized, The Horrors, +Pansonic, Julian Cope, Lydia Lunch, Vincent Gallo, LIARS, and The Klaxons. The label also released Suicide: 1977–1978, a 6-CD box set, the same year.[18]

In September 2009, the group performed their debut LP live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series.

In May 2010, the band performed the entire first album live at two London concerts, double billed with Iggy & The Stooges performing Raw Power.[19] The band performed their final concert at London's Barbican Centre on 9 July 2015.[20] Billed as 'A Punk Mass', the show featured solo sets by both Rev and Vega before a headlining Suicide performance. Henry Rollins, Bobby Gillespie, and Jehnny Beth made guest appearances. The concert received positive reviews.[21][22][23]

Alan Vega died in his sleep on July 16, 2016, at the age of 78.[24] His death was announced by musician and radio host Henry Rollins, who shared an official statement from Vega's family on his website.[25]


Musicians who have listed Suicide as an influence include, among others, Television, Chrome, Wire, Public Image Ltd, Gary Numan, Richard Hell, Pere Ubu, Patti Smith, Talking Heads,[26] Cabaret Voltaire, Steve Albini (from Shellac, Rapeman, and Big Black),[27] The Jesus and Mary Chain,[28] Bauhaus,[29] The Sisters of Mercy,[30] Soft Cell, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, The Birthday Party,[31] Joy Division,[28] Nick Cave,[32] D.A.F., Erasure, the music of Giant Haystacks, The KLF,[33] Ministry, Nine Inch Nails,[34] OMD, Rocket from the Tombs, Cassandra Complex (and covered "Frankie Teardrop"), Mudhoney,[35] Nitzer Ebb,[36] Depeche Mode,[37] R.E.M. (covered "Ghost Rider"),[38] Devo, Ultravox, Massive Attack,[39] Autechre, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin,[40] The Kills, AFI,[41] and Bruce Springsteen.[42]


In 1994, The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack contains "Ghost Rider", covered by the Rollins Band. That same year The Fatima Mansions released a cover of "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne", as part of their 1994 single "Nite Flights". In May 1999, ? and the Mysterians released a cover of "Cheree" on the album More Action.

The riff from "Ghost Rider" was sampled extensively in M.I.A.'s single, "Born Free", released in April 2010.[43] Martin Rev joined M.I.A. to perform the song on the Late Show with David Letterman.

In mid-2009, the band The Horrors released a cover of the song "Shadazz", as part of a tribute to Alan Vega and his work. They have performed it many times live, along with another Suicide song, "Ghost Rider". Later that year, Primal Scream and Miss Kittin covered the song "Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne" for a limited-edition 10-inch vinyl pressing. A total of 3,000 copies were pressed and released on March 30, 2009.[44]

"Ghost Rider" was covered by the garage punk band The Gories, and released on the album Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2.[45] In April 2011, the influential dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem used a snippet from "Ghost Rider" during the song "Losing My Edge", and covered the Alan Vega solo effort "Bye Bye Bayou" during their final concert, held in a sold-out Madison Square Garden. The song was also covered by British duo The Last Shadow Puppets at New York City's Terminal 5, as a tribute to Alan Vega, shortly after his death in 2016.[46][47]

In April 2012, Neneh Cherry released a cover of the song "Dream Baby Dream", which appeared on her album The Cherry Thing.[48] In May 2014, The band Savages, also released a live cover of the song as a b-side of their single "Fuckers"/"Dream Baby Dream" 12". Other artists who covered the song include, long time fan, Bruce Springsteen in 2016, and Many Angled Ones & Guy McKnight, in August 2018.


Both Alan Vega and Martin Rev have recorded solo albums; see Alan Vega discography and Martin Rev discography.

Studio albums[edit]

  • 1977 – Suicide
  • 1980 – Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev
  • 1988 – A Way of Life
    • The 2005 Blast First/Mute/EMI CD reissue has a slightly different mix of the album, most notably the song "Surrender", and includes a live bonus disc recorded in 1987. Videos for Dominic Christ[49] and Surrender by Stefan Roloff.
  • 1992 – Why Be Blue
    • The 2005 Blast First/Mute/EMI CD reissue includes a live bonus disc recorded in 1989 and a complete remix by Martin Rev of the original album and different track order.
  • 2002 – American Supreme
    • Initial CD copies included a live bonus disc recorded in 1998.

Live albums[edit]

  • 1978 – 21½ Minutes in Berlin/23 Minutes in Brussels
  • 1981 – Half Alive (A collection of live and demo material recorded from 1975–1979. Originally released by ROIR on cassette only. With liner notes by Lester Bangs.)
  • 1986 – Ghost Riders (A live concert from 1981 – originally released on cassette only.)
  • 1997 – Zero Hour (Late '70s live recordings.)
  • 2004 – Attempted: Live at Max's Kansas City 1980 (Soundboard recordings from a New York City rock club performance. With liner notes by Marty Thau.)
  • 2008 – Live 1977–1978 (A six-CD box set containing 13 complete Suicide live performances from September 1977 to August 1978 plus bonus material.)


  • 1978 – 23 Minutes Over Brussels
  • 1998 – 22/1/98 – Reinventing America (Recorded live at The Barbican – "Inventing America" launch party.)



  1. ^ Segal, David (2016). "Alan Vega, Agitational Vocalist for Synth-Punk Innovators Suicide, 1938-2016". The Stranger.
  2. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Alan Vega: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  3. ^ "All-Star Suicide Tribute". Clash. 25 June 2008. Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  4. ^ Greene, Doyle (March 2016). Counterculture and the Avant-Garde, 1966-1970: How the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground Defined an Era. McFarland. p. 101.
  5. ^ DK (2013). Music: The Definitive Visual History. Penguin. p. 337. ISBN 9781465421265.
  6. ^ Magazine, Various Mojo (2007-11-01). The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition - Various Mojo Magazine. p. 394. ISBN 9781847676436. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  7. ^ "Suicide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  8. ^ Reynolds, Simon (January 29, 2002). "The second gig took place at the Soho gallery OK Harris, where Vega also held his first show. "On the gig flyers, we announced it as a Punk Music Mass. We didn't invent the word—I probably got it from an article on the Stooges by Lester Bangs—but I think we were the first band to describe our music as punk."". Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  9. ^ "Suicide - Chronology". From The Archives. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
  10. ^ Romano, Nick. "n Vega, singer of electronic music duo Suicide, dies at 78". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  11. ^ Phares, Heather. "Suicide [First Album] – Suicide". AllMusic. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  12. ^ "Suicide- Concert Chronology / Gigography". From The Archives. Retrieved 2022-04-12.
  13. ^ "Infinity Punk: A Career-Spanning Interview With Suicide's Alan Vega". Pitchfork. July 19, 2016. Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  14. ^ Moyer, Matthew (January 2003). "Alan Vega". Ink 19. Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  15. ^ Dameron, Emerson. "Ghost Songs - Our Favorite Halloween Tunes". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  16. ^ Nick Hornby. 31 Songs. McSweeney's.
  17. ^ "Cubist Blues - Alan Vega, Alex Chilton, Ben Vaughn | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  18. ^ Paul Smith (2008). "Alan Vega Turns 70- Years Old/Box Set". MV Remix Rock. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  19. ^ "IGGY & THE STOOGES PERFORMING RAW POWER + SUICIDE PERFORMING 1ST LP". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
  20. ^ "Suicide: A Punk Mass". Barbican. Archived from the original on 2016-08-04. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  21. ^ "Requiem For A Scream: Suicide's 'Punk Mass'". The Quietus. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  22. ^ "Suicide: A Punk Mass: Barbican Theatre, London – review". Louder Than War. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  23. ^ "Suicide, Barbican, review: 'one of the strangest concerts I've ever seen'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  24. ^ Yoo, Noah (17 July 2016). "Suicide's Alan Vega Dead at 78". Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  25. ^ Rollins, Henry. "Alan Vega 7-16-16". Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  26. ^ Suicide related Television, Chrome, Wire, PiL, Gary Numan, Richard Hell, Pere Ubu, Patti Smith, Talking Heads. Retrieved 23 March 2022
  27. ^ Vish (August 10, 2016). "Ep. #275: Incredible Love – Alan Vega & Suicide Remembered by Steve Albini, Jehnny Beth, Brendan Canty, Kid Millions, Robyn Phillips, Priya Thomas, & Mike Watt". Kreative Kontrol. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  28. ^ a b Alexandre Breton (2017). Alan Vega: Conversation with an Indian. Le Texte Vivant. ISBN 9782367230443.
  29. ^ Rob Sheffield (July 17, 2016). "Remembering Suicide's Alan Vega: Screamer of Truths, Dreamer of Dreams". Rolling Stone. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  30. ^ Sisters of Mercy song 23 March 2022
  31. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music: Rich, Young and Pretty. Muze. p. 10. ISBN 9780195313734. This US duo was an important influence on Birthday Party , Soft Cell , Sigue Sigue Sputnik , Nine Inch Nails and the Sisters of Mercy with their potent fusion of rockabilly and electronic music on cheap equipment...
  32. ^ Daniel Dylan Wray (October 14, 2015). "People Would Boo, and I Would Scream Back at Them: "I Hate Your Fucking Guts!"". Vice. Vice Media Group. Retrieved 21 December 2020. "Go and see Suicide, everybody go and see Suicide NOW!" So screamed Nick Cave on stage at the end of Grinderman's set at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, 2011
    Conor McCaffrey (August 4, 2017). "No Compromise: Remembering Suicide's Alan Vega – A True One-off". Moo Kid. Retrieved 21 December 2020. . One memorable festival moment of the last few years for me was Grinderman finishing on one stage at Primavera and Nick Cave ordering the crowd to rush over and see Suicide across the way, as "none of us bands would be here without them".
  33. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 188. ISBN 9780946719716.
  34. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. By the end of the eighties, Suicide's influence could be heard in the output of the industrial dance/ rock/noise bands that emerged during that era. DAF's Die Kleinen UndDie Bosen album had much in common with Suicide. There was also The Neon Judgement, Dirk Ivens' Absolute Body Control, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Die Krupps and Front 242.
  35. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716.
  36. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. There was also Bon Harris and Douglas McCarthy's band Nitzer Ebb, who had their own style of 'take no prisoners', beat driven electronic rock 'n' roll that came to form on their 1990 album Showtime.
  37. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. Amongst the synth bands that emerged at the start of the eighties was Depeche Mode. Suicide's influence on their sound is indisputable. Martin L Gore of Depeche Mode told The Times newspaper, "The synthesizer before Suicide was always a clean-cut instrument, whereas they brought in a punk element." He went on to say, "That was a very important step in the history of electronic music, they were way before The Prodigy and the whole industrial scene." Alan Wilder, Depeche Mode's music director and keyboard player from '82 to '95, had taken notice of Suicide's sampled and manipulated guitar sounds whilst recording the 1990 album Violator. Wilder later commented on his Shunt Website. "When we recorded the track "Blue Dress" it was based around using washy sounding, drone guitars (a la Suicide) which formed the backbone of the track."
  38. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "R.E.M.: The Automatic Box > Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  39. ^ Ben Ratliff (September 29, 2013). "A Big, Booming Show With Space for Reflection: 'Massive Attack V Adam Curtis,' a Film and a Concert". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2014. During all of this, Massive Attack — along with the guest singers Horace Andy and Liz Fraser — acts as a kind of house-band mood setter. The band covers at chronologically or thematically specific places songs you may associate with the Shirelles, the Archies, Dusty Springfield, Bauhaus and Suicide.
  40. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. Suicide's influence on electronic music was to carry on into the next decade with the Aphex Twin, Autechre and Two Lone Swordsmen having their Suicide-like moments.
  41. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "AFI - What's in My Bag?". YouTube. Amoeba. Retrieved 21 December 2020. Davey Havok: "I can pull out the Suicide record. What a rough past year we had, because we lost Alan, amidst other great, hugely influential artists. Safe to say that we're all fans here of their work and this record, which is just so wildly ahead of its time and cutting edge in what they were doing with electronics and soundscapes and mood and creating darkness within this minimal crunchy noise art sound."
  42. ^ 1001 Songs (2007). Frankie Teardrop - Suicide. Hardie Grant Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 9781742731483. Suicide's heirs – Devo, Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sisters of Mercy, Daft Punk, Air, Chemical, Nick Cave to name but a few – benefited from their pioneering sheets of industrial music.
  43. ^ Brown, August (August 23, 2010). "Snap Judgment: M.I.A. drops new track, "Born Free" (and gets Suicide paid)". Los Angeles Times. Hiss & Pop blog. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  44. ^ "Primal Scream cover Suicide for new single". NME. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
  45. ^ "Various - Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2! (CD) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  46. ^ "The Last Shadow Puppets played Terminal 5 with Cameron Avery (pics, setlist)". Brooklyn Vegan. August 3, 2016. Retrieved 2022-08-17.
  47. ^ Curley, John (August 3, 2016). "The Last Shadow Puppets deliver a sensational show at NYC's Terminal 5". Goldmine Magazine. Retrieved 2022-08-17.
  48. ^ "Various Artists: "Dream Baby Dream"". Pitchfork. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  49. ^ "R&R". Retrieved 2016-07-17.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]