Suicide (1977 album)

Suicide is the debut studio album from the American rock band Suicide. It was released in 1977 on Red Star Records and produced by Craig Leon and Marty Thau. The album was recorded in four days at Ultima Sound Studios in New York and featured Martin Rev's minimalist electronics and harsh, repetitive rhythms paired with Alan Vega's rock and roll-inspired vocals and depictions of urban life.

A white square shape featuring the a red star at the top center. Below the word Suicide is written diagonally across with blood seeping from it.
Studio album by
ReleasedDecember 28, 1977 (1977-12-28)
StudioUltima Sound (Blauvelt, NY)
LabelRed Star
Suicide chronology
21½ Minutes in Berlin/23 Minutes in Brussels
Singles from Suicide
  1. "Cheree"
    Released: May 1978

Upon its initial release, Suicide was greeted with some favorable reception from the UK press, but was universally panned in the United States, where it failed to chart. However, the album would soon be regarded as a milestone in electronic and rock music. In 2013, Pitchfork named Suicide one of the greatest albums of the 1970s, while in 2012 and 2020, Rolling Stone ranked it as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1] The album also influenced artists in various genres, including Bruce Springsteen, the Fleshtones, Spacemen 3,[2] and Peaches.


Craig Leon (pictured) was one of the producers on the album.

Suicide was the first group to sign to Marty Thau's Red Star record label.[3] Thau had previously worked at Paramount Records and Buddah Records and had sold his assets to Richard Gottehrer to create Red Star Records.[3] After hearing a demo tape from Suicide, he asked if he could see Suicide perform live which led to them being signed to Red Star.[3] Red Star hired Craig Leon to co-produce the record.[4]

Suicide entered the studio with much of their songs already written and rehearsed from having spent the previous five years playing shows.[5] The recording of the album was done in four days.[4] Leon had previously worked with reggae musicians Bob Marley and Lee "Scratch" Perry and seen them create dub-like effects with their music and used an Eventide digital delay unit to create these echo effects on the album's vocal tracks.[6] Leon returned to California after four days of work which led to Marty Thau to work on the rest of the production.[4] Alan Vega changed the lyrics of "Frankie Teardrop" during the mixing sessions of the album.[5] Thau remixed the tracks "Ghost Rider", "Rocket U.S.A." and "Cheree".[4] Leon returned to New York where the two remixed "Frankie Teardrop".[4] The album was mastered at Frankford/Wayne in New York.[5][6]


Musically, Suicide has been described as synth-punk,[7] electronic rock,[7] and synth-pop,[8] while also being labeled electronic[9] and minimalist.[10] All the songs on the album have a "stripped down" sound with Martin Rev providing a backing combining "harshly hypnotic organs" and "dense, unnerving electronics".[11] The vocals on the album provided by Alan Vega have been described as similar to Gene Vincent.[11] In 2012, Vega stated that "originally I was a rock'n'roll kid; I was born into the rock'n'roll era of 45s in the late fifties" and that "Elvis Presley to me is like God, and Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, they're my triumvirate."[12][13] "Johnny" was described by the online music database AllMusic as a showcase for the band's "affinity for '50s melodies and images, as well as their pop leanings."[11]

Martin Rev described the songs "Frankie Teardrop", "Johnny" and "Cheree" as being about street people.[5] "Frankie Teardrop" was influenced by a story Alan Vega read in a newspaper about a factory worker who lost his job and resorted to murdering his wife and child before committing suicide.[5] The lyrics of the song were improvised by Vega, who attempted to get into the mindset of both the factory worker and his family.[5] "Cheree" was about a girlfriend of Martin Rev.[7]


Suicide was first released in December 1977. Howard Thompson of Bronze Records in the United Kingdom received a copy of the album from the United States. After listening to it he went to New York to see the group perform live and negotiate a deal to license their music for Bronze.[14][15] The album failed to chart in both the United States and the United Kingdom.[7] A single for the song "Cheree" was released in May 1978 on both 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl formats.[16][17] The single featured a remixed version of "Cheree" with the B-side "I Remember".[16] John Lydon reviewed the single for the NME, referring to it as "Je t'aime with tape hiss".[16]

The album was re-issued by Red Star Records in 1980.[18] The album has been re-released on other labels including Mute Records in 1998 and Blast First Records on compact disc and digital download formats with varying bonus tracks.[19][20]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [11]
Christgau's Record GuideC+[21]
The Line of Best Fit9/10[22]
The List     [23]
Q     [25]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [26]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[29]

Music journalist Tony Fletcher stated that the album "struggled for immediate attention" due to it being an independent release.[30] The album received positive contemporary reviews from the NME, Time Out and Melody Maker in the United Kingdom.[31] Writing in Sounds, Jon Savage was more circumspect, saying "Granted that the monotony is intentional, much of the cut is chilling – the screams and drift of the instrument into landscapes of blankness – and reaches the sought level of terror. Yeah, and then the mood is broken by dumb lyrics".[32]

Reception to the album in the United States was strongly negative. Music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a C+ rating, stating "there are little problems like lyrics that reduce serious politics to rhetoric, singing that makes rhetoric sound lurid, and the way the manic eccentricity of this duo's live performance turns to silliness on record"[21] Rolling Stone also gave Suicide a negative review, referring to the album as "absolutely puerile" and Alan Vega's vocals as "nothing but arrogance and wholesale insensibility".[33]

Rolling Stone placed Suicide at number 441 on its 2012 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[1] and at number 498 on an update of the list in 2020.[34] Online music magazine Pitchfork placed the album at number 39 on its list of best albums of the 1970s.[35] The album is listed in the reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[36] In her review of Suicide for AllMusic, critic Heather Phares wrote, "Proof that punk was more about attitude than a raw, guitar-driven sound, Suicide's self-titled debut set the duo apart from the rest of the style's self-proclaimed outsiders."[11] Spin's Joe Gross described the album as "beyond classic" and found that "no one has ever come close to replicating its monolithic vibe."[28]

In Popular CultureEdit

The album was influential in the development of many musical genres, including post-punk, synth-pop and industrial rock.[11] Tony Fletcher wrote in All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927–77 that it would "in its own way", become as influential as other acclaimed punk albums such as Horses, Ramones and Marquee Moon.[30] In 2017, Henry Rollins, singer for Black Flag and Rollins Band, described "Frankie Teardrop" as "the single most intense song I've ever heard in my life".[37]

Songs from the album have been featured in various forms of media since the album's initial release. Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder contacted Red Star to get the rights for "Frankie Teardrop" for his film In a Year of 13 Moons.[33] The song is featured during a party scene.[33] "Cheree" was used by director Edo Bertoglio for his film Downtown 81, a film shot in the early 1980s but not completed until 1999.[38][39]

Several music artists and groups have covered songs from Suicide. Fellow New Yorkers the Fleshtones recorded a cover of "Rocket U.S.A." for their debut album Blast Off!. The album was produced by Marty Thau and when Alan Vega visited him when he was recording the album at Blank Studios, he was invited to sing while the group performed the song.[40][41] Question Mark and the Mysterians recorded a cover of "Cheree" in 1996. English rapper M.I.A.'s song "Born Free" was based on a sample of "Ghost Rider". Bruce Springsteen stated that his song "State Trooper" from the album Nebraska was heavily influenced by "Frankie Teardrop".[13] He frequently covered "Dream Baby Dream" live. In 2008, a series of EPs were released in tribute to Suicide by various recording artists to celebrate Alan Vega's 70th birthday.[42][43] Songs from the album that were part of the series included "Johnny" covered by Peaches, "Frankie Teardrop" covered by Lydia Lunch, "Che" by Sunn O))), Spacemen 3 and Pan Sonic, and "Rocket U.S.A." covered by Nik Void[42][44][45][46]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Alan Vega & Martin Rev.

Side A
1."Ghost Rider"2:34
2."Rocket U.S.A."4:16
Side B
6."Frankie Teardrop"10:26
Total length:31:51
Reissue bonus tracks
8."Cheree (Remix)"3:46
9."I Remember"3:11
10."Keep Your Dreams"4:50
Bonus disc
1."96 Tears (Live at CBGB's)"3:48
2."Keep Your Dreams (Live at CBGB's)"3:19
3."I Remember (Live at CBGB's)"5:11
4."Harlem (Live at CBGB's)"4:05
5."23 Minutes Over Brussels"22:56
11."Mr Ray (Live at CBGB's)"6:29
12."Las Vegas Man (Live at CBGB's)"4:23


Credits adapted from liner notes.[47]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  2. ^ "Spacemen 3—Just Say Gulp". Conflict. No. 48. Summer 1988.
  3. ^ a b c Nobahkt 2004, p. 83.
  4. ^ a b c d e Nobahkt 2004, p. 89.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Nobahkt 2004, p. 91.
  6. ^ a b Nobahkt 2004, p. 90.
  7. ^ a b c d Irvin 2007, p. 394.
  8. ^ Fortune, Drew (May 14, 2012). "The 70 Best Albums of the 1970s – 38. Suicide, Suicide (1977)". Paste. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  9. ^ Romano, Nick (July 17, 2016). "Alan Vega dead: Suicide band singer dies at 78". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
  10. ^ Longley, Martin (February 17, 2015). "Suicide still bringing the noise: 'We can't predict the content, but who would want to?'". The Guardian. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Phares, Heather. "Suicide – Suicide". AllMusic. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  12. ^ Graham, Ben (May 12, 2012). "Interview: Martin Rev". The Stool Pigeon. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Turner, Luke (May 4, 2010). "New York Blues: Four Decades Of Suicide, Martin Rev & Alan Vega". The Quietus. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  14. ^ Nobahkt 2004, p. 86.
  15. ^ Nobahkt 2004, p. 87.
  16. ^ a b c Nobahkt 2004, p. 119.
  17. ^ Nobahkt 2004, p. 214.
  18. ^ Popoff 2010, p. 1140.
  19. ^ "Suicide – Suicide | Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  20. ^ Taylor 2006, p. 254.
  21. ^ a b Christgau 1981.
  22. ^ Oinonen, Janne (July 10, 2019). "Suicide's 1977 debut hasn't lost any of its elemental power". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  23. ^ Trew, Jonathan (February 20, 1998). "Suicide: Suicide (Blast First)". The List. No. 326. pp. 44–45. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  24. ^ Masters, Marc (June 27, 2016). "Suicide: Suicide / Alan Vega Martin Rev". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  25. ^ "Suicide: Suicide". Q. No. 354. January 2016. p. 117.
  26. ^ Coleman 1992, p. 682.
  27. ^ "Witches, Crusties, XTC ...". Select. No. 94. April 1998. p. 90.
  28. ^ a b Gross, Joe (August 1998). "Retro Active". Spin. Vol. 14, no. 8. p. 139. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  29. ^ Reynolds 1995, p. 383.
  30. ^ a b Fletcher 2009, p. 399.
  31. ^ Nobahkt 2004, p. 88.
  32. ^ Savage, Jon (February 4, 1978). "Suicide: Suicide". Sounds. Retrieved July 20, 2018 – via Rock's Backpages.
  33. ^ a b c Nobahkt 2004, p. 96.
  34. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  35. ^ Richardson, Mark (June 23, 2004). "The 100 Best Albums of the 1970s – 39. Suicide: Suicide". Pitchfork. p. 7. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  36. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (revised and updated ed.). Universe Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  37. ^ The Sound of Vinyl (October 12, 2017). "Henry Rollins Recommends: Suicide". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  38. ^ Strong & Griffin 2008, p. 97.
  39. ^ Crow, Jonathan. "Downtown 81 (2000)". AllMovie. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  40. ^ Nobahkt 2004, p. 121.
  41. ^ Nobahkt 2004, p. 122.
  42. ^ a b Allen, Jim. "Shadazz – The Horrors". AllMusic. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  43. ^ "Bruce Springsteen & Horrors Kick Off Suicide Tribute Series". The Quietus. September 23, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  44. ^ Murray, Robin (August 5, 2010). "New Peaches Single Due". Clash. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  45. ^ Allen, Jim. "Frankie Teardrop – Lydia Lunch". AllMusic. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  46. ^ O'Malley, Stephen (June 11, 2009). "Sunn O))) & Pan Sonic". Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  47. ^ Suicide (liner notes). Suicide. Red Star Records. 1977. RS 1.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)

Works citedEdit

External linksEdit