R.I.P.: Alan Vega

For me, the most unfortunate turn for Vega and Rev’s band Suicide was that I did not hear their debut until after I was infatuated with the first wave of pure punks. If it had come out in, oh, ’72-’73 (when they had been performing for years, anyway) I know I would have Embraced The Weird. As it was, Suicide sounded like the wrong shock wave to me — overdone, anti-pleasure, an arty project meant to be red hot that felt cold.

Even so, boosters like Bruce Springsteen and Ric Ocasek had damned astute ears, so there must be something going on I couldn’t discern. Whap! Here comes Alan Vega in 1980 (still have the promo LP on PVC/Ze complete with bio and track-by-track explanation and misspellings) and everything fell into place. Vega was around 10 years older than most of the punks and was a lot more shaped by rockabilly and roots rock in general rather than girl groups, surf or even garage. Ah-ha! Heard this afternoon, that solo debut holds up all the way (even “Bye Bye Bayou” seems more Iggy-crazy and not too long). The surprise is that the stark, experimental edge of it glowers in the sunshine. Nailing your own voice is always an avant move.

The other Vega vinyl I saved was his Boston album, Saturn Strip, produced by Ocasek with contributions by him and Greg Hawkes. After this record, I thought both Vega’s sound and songwriting went down the slope. And sure, it’s his “commercial” gesture. Suicide loyalists will carp that this is too much like a Cars record with Vega on vocals.

I still like it. Not going anywhere.

PS: Knew how to pose and strike a stance. Ideal for the Interview age.

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