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Suicide (band)

Anamorphic photograph of Martin Rev and Alan Vega before 1988 Toronto concert
Background information
Origin New York City, New York, United States
Genres Synthpunk, electronic,[1] art punk,[2] protopunk,[1] lo-fi
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.

Though never widely popular among the general public, Suicide have been categorized 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." The group's music made use of repetitive electronic instrumentation and primitive drum machines, and their performances were confrontational and often ended in violence.[3] The band was among the first to use the phrase "punk music," in an advert for a concert in 1970.[4][5]


  • History 1
  • Discography 2
    • Studio albums 2.1
    • Live albums 2.2
    • EPs 2.3
    • Singles 2.4
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Suicide took their name from the title of a 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. They were the first band to use the term punk to describe themselves, which they had adopted from an article by Lester Bangs. Some of their 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 their confrontational live shows. Many of their early shows were at the Mercer Arts Center, alongside bands like 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." [7] 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.

Their 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 young 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."[8] Nick Hornby in his book 31 Songs described "Frankie Teardrop" as something you would listen to "Only once".[9]

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,[10] Ministry, Nine Inch Nails,[11] OMD, Pet Shop Boys,[10] Tears for Fears, Cassandra Complex, Mudhoney,[12] Nitzer Ebb,[13] 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,[14] Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Devo, Ultravox, Massive Attack,[15] Air, Autechre, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin[16] and The Kills, Bono Vox and Bruce Springsteen have all listed Suicide as an influence.[17] 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.[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 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.[19]

"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.[20]

"Ghostrider" was covered by the garage punk band The Gories and released on the Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2[21]

"Ghost Rider" was featured in the Gotham tv series during episode 21, "", 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.[22]

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.[23]

"Che" was featured on the soundtrack of the 2012 film The Place Beyond the Pines.[24]

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

  • 1977 – Suicide
  • 1980 – Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev
  • 1988 – A Way of Life The 2005 Mute / Blast First 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 [25] and Surrender by Stefan Roloff
  • 1992 – Why Be Blue The 2005 Mute / Blast First 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

  • 1981 – Half AliveA 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 RidersA live concert from 1981 – originally released on cassette only.
  • 1997 – Zero HourLate 70s live recordings.
  • 2004 – Attempted: Live at Max's Kansas City 1980Soundboard recordings from a NYC rock club performance. With liner notes by Marty Thau.
  • 2008 – Live 1977-1978A 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. ^ a b
  2. ^ "All-Star Suicide Tribute".  
  3. ^ Rolling Stone
  4. ^ 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..  
  5. ^ "Suicide - Chronology". From The Archives. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  6. ^ Reynolds, 2006. p. 143
  7. ^ Moyer, Matthew (January 2003). "Alan Vega".  
  8. ^ Dameron, Emerson. "Ghost Songs - Our Favorite Halloween Tunes". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  9. ^ Nick Hornby. 31 Songs. McSweeney's. 
  10. ^ a b David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 188.  
  11. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166.  
  12. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166.  
  13. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166.  
  14. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166.  
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ David Nobahkt (2004). Suicide: No Compromise. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 166.  
  17. ^ 1001 Songs (2007). Frankie Teardrop - Suicide. Hardie Grant Publishing. p. 89.  
  18. ^ Paul Smith (2008). "Alan Vega Turns 70- Years Old/Box Set". MV Remix Rock. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  19. ^ "Primal Scream cover Suicide for new single".  
  20. ^ Brown, August (August 23, 2010). "Snap Judgment: M.I.A. drops new track, "Born Free" (and gets Suicide paid)".  
  21. ^ "Various - Cheapo Crypt Sampler No. 2! (CD) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  23. ^ """Various Artists: "Dream Baby Dream. Pitchfork. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  24. ^ "The Place Beyond the Pines Soundtrack List". SongOnLyrics. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  25. ^ "Video for Way of Life". 


  • Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984.  

External links

  • Suicide Story on ZE Records official website
  • Suicide and You, by Matthew Moyer
  • "Suicide Watch" article by Simon Reynolds on Alan Vega, including some information on Suicide in general
  • Complete concert chronology
  • Very complete discography
  • Martin Rev official site
  • Alan Vega official site
  • Dominic Christ: "Video for Way of Life". 
  • Video for Way of Life by Stefan Roloff
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