Suicide Terrorize Audiences at the Mercer Arts Center

Suicide Terrorize Audiences at the Mercer Arts Center

“At the Dolls shows at Mercer’s,” Paul Zone said, “there would be opening act Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps, and Patti Smith would be doing poetry, and Suicide would be in one of the other rooms.” Suicide keyboardist Marty Rev and frontman Alan Vega eschewed the traditional rock group lineup by forgoing bass, drums, and guitars altogether—opting instead for synths, drum machines, and vocals. “We weren’t interested in rehashing the same rock ’n’ roll,” Vega said. “We wanted something new, and we weren’t even necessarily thinking musically, but theatrically.” Suicide tried to bring Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty into music by breaking down the boundaries between performer and audience. As he physically and psychologically terrorized the audience, a rigid Rev produced a wall of sound from behind a bank of primitive keyboards and other crude electronics. “As you were leaving Mercer’s, you would hear something,” Zone recalled. “You would open the door and it would be Suicide, with no one in there, and of course we would go in. Alan would be in silver makeup and wearing a blond wig.” Vega wasn’t that crazy about the New York Dolls’ songs, which to him sounded like backward-looking 1960s party music. “The Dolls’ audience definitely didn’t like what we were doing,” Vega said, “but when we played the Blue Room their audience had to walk through it when they exited, because it was like a central corridor. If the Dolls’ room was like a party, our room was like a scene of carnage. Sometimes I would block the exit if people tried to leave. People thought I was fucking insane, and I guess I was, but I never, ever tried to hurt people. Myself, yes, I hurt myself. I would cut myself with a switchblade. I would always do it so that I got the most amount of blood with the least amount of pain.”

From Chapter 27 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Mercer Arts Center
240 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012