Suicide (band)

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Anamorphic photograph of Martin Rev and Alan Vega before 1988 Toronto concert
Background information
Origin New York City, New York, United States
Years active 1970–present
Labels Red Star, ZE, ROIR, International, Blast First/Mute

Suicide is an American electronic musical duo, intermittently active since 1970 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. The group's music made use of repetitive electronic instrumentation and primitive drum machines, and their early performances were confrontational and often ended in violence.[6]

Suicide was among the first to use the phrase punk music in an advertisement for a concert in 1970.[7][8] Though never widely popular among the general public, they have been recognized as among the most influential acts of their era: Rolling Stone called them "an unmeasurable influence on the industrial dance, noise, techno, ambient, and electronic scenes of the 1980s and 1990s."


Suicide took its name from the title of a Ghost Rider comic book titled Satan Suicide, a favorite of Alan Vega.[9] Rev's simple keyboard riffs, (initially played on a battered Farfisa organ combined with effects units, before changing to a synthesizer), were accompanied by primitive drum machines, providing 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.

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. David Johansen once played harmonica with Suicide in an early show there. Vega and Rev both dressed like arty street thugs, and Vega was notorious for brandishing a length of 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." [10] 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, 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 deteriorated into a riot.

The band's first album, Suicide (1977), is regarded a classic. 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."[11] Nick Hornby in his book 31 Songs described "Frankie Teardrop" as something you would listen to "only once".[12]

Suicide's albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s are regarded as some of the most influential recordings of their time and helped shape the direction of indie rock, industrial music, and dance music. Among others, Steve Albini (Shellac, Rapeman, Big Black), Panthére, Gang Gang Dance, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sisters of Mercy, She Wants Revenge, Henry Rollins, Joy Division/New Order, Soft Cell, Nick Cave, D.A.F., Erasure, the music of Giant Haystacks, The KLF,[13] Ministry, Nine Inch Nails,[14] OMD, Pet Shop Boys,[13] Tears for Fears, Cassandra Complex, Mudhoney,[15] Nitzer Ebb,[16] Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Radiohead, Kap Bambino, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Angel Corpus Christi (covers of Dream Baby Dream and Cheree with Alan Vega guest vocals), Michael Gira, MGMT, Sky Ferreira, Sonic Boom, Loop, The Fleshtones (both of whom have recorded cover versions of "Rocket USA"), Ric Ocasek of The Cars, Mi Ami, Depeche Mode,[17] Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Devo, Ultravox, Massive Attack,[18] Air, Autechre, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin[19] and The Kills, Bono Vox and Bruce Springsteen have all listed Suicide as an influence.[20] Bruce Springsteen was also influenced by the band, as evident by the song "State Trooper" from his album Nebraska. Furthermore, Springsteen also used a solo keyboard version of "Dream Baby Dream" to close the concerts on his 2005 Devils & Dust Tour, and released a studio version of his cover on his 2014 album High Hopes.

In 1986, Alan Vega collaborated with Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy on the 'Gift' album, released under the name of 'The Sisterhood'. Vega and Rev have both released solo albums, and Suicide released their first album in over a decade with 2002's 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 a monthly, limited edition series of 10" Vinyl EP's 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, & The Klaxons. The label also released "Suicide: 1977–1978", a 6 CD box-set, the same year.[21]

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 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've 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.[22]

"Ghost Rider" was recently featured in a sixth season episode of HBO's Entourage. The music is also featured in the films Finisterrae, Attenberg and Praia do Futuro. The riff from "Ghost Rider" was sampled extensively in M.I.A.'s single, "Born Free", released in April 2010.[23]

"Ghostrider" was covered by the garage punk band The Gories and released on the Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2[24]

"Ghost Rider" was featured in the Gotham tv series during episode 21, "The Anvil or the Hammer", as Detective Bullock enters the Foxglove Club.

In May 2010 the band performed the entire first album live at two London concerts, double billed with Iggy & The Stooges performing Raw Power.[25]

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.

In April 2012, Neneh Cherry released a cover of the song "Dream Baby Dream" which appeared on her album, The Cherry Thing.[26]

"Che" was featured on the soundtrack of the 2012 film The Place Beyond the Pines.[27]

In May 2014, Savages released a live cover of "Dream Baby Dream" on the b-side of their single Fuckers/Dream Baby Dream 12".


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 [28] 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]

  • 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 NYC rock club performance. With liner notes by Marty Thau.
  • 2008 – Live 1977-1978—A 6-CD box set containing 13 complete Suicide live performances from September 1977 to August 1978 plus bonus material.



  • 1978 – "Cheree" / "I Remember"
  • 1979 – "Dream Baby Dream" / "Radiation"


  1. ^ Shirley, Ian (2005). Can Rock & Roll Save the World?: An Illustrated History of Music and Comics. SAF Publishing. p. 225. 
  2. ^ Breihan, Tom. "Bruce Springsteen – “Dream Baby Dream” (Suicide Cover) Video". Stereogum. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "Alan Vega: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "All-Star Suicide Tribute". Clash. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  6. ^ Rolling Stone
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Suicide - Chronology". From The Archives. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  9. ^ Reynolds, 2006. p. 143
  10. ^ Moyer, Matthew (January 2003). "Alan Vega". Ink 19. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  11. ^ Dameron, Emerson. "Ghost Songs - Our Favorite Halloween Tunes". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  12. ^ Nick Hornby. 31 Songs. McSweeney's. 
  13. ^ a b David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 188. ISBN 9780946719716. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 9780946719716. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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." 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Paul Smith (2008). "Alan Vega Turns 70- Years Old/Box Set". MV Remix Rock. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  22. ^ "Primal Scream cover Suicide for new single". NME. 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ "Various - Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2! (CD) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  25. ^ "IGGY & THE STOOGES PERFORMING RAW POWER + SUICIDE PERFORMING 1ST LP". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  26. ^ "Various Artists: "Dream Baby Dream"". Pitchfork. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  27. ^ "The Place Beyond the Pines Soundtrack List". SongOnLyrics. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  28. ^ "Video for Way of Life". 


External links[edit]