An essential part of learning history is questioning it, asking what has become part of our cultural memory and what might have been left out. When it comes to the history of punk music, there are few bands who have been as overlooked as Pure Hell.
The band’s story began in West Philadelphia in 1974, when four teenagers – lead vocalist Kenny ‘Stinker’ Gordon, bassist Lenny ‘Steel’ Boles, guitarist Preston ‘Chip Wreck’ Morris and drummer Michael ‘Spider’ Sanders, set out to follow in the footsteps of their musical idols. A shared obsession with the sounds of Iggy, Bowie, Cooper, and Hendrix inspired them to create music that was louder, faster and more provocative than even those artists’ most experimental records. Pure Hell’s unique sound led them to New York, where they became characters in a seminal subculture recognised today as punk. As musicians of colour, their contribution to a predominately white underground scene is all the more significant. “We were the first black punk band in the world,” says Boles. “We were the ones who paid the dues for it, we broke the doors down. We were genuinely the first. And we still get no credit for it.”
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