The words “icon” and “legend” get thrown around easily these days—pretty much anyone with a big social media following becomes iconic and anything that happened before the year 2000 is now considered legendary. But Suicide founder and frontman Alan Vega, who died this past weekend at age 78, was the true embodiment of both.
With his moody rock outfit, Suicide, Vega was an early pioneer of electronic music and goth rock, spawning the post-punk and industrial scenes, and inspiring artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen and Spiritualized. His stage antics were also the stuff of legends—real legends. Gouging himself with safety pins, breaking bones and plunging himself into the audience were all part of Vega’s routine, with Suicide gigs looking more like a riot than any everyday rock show. The violence was an outlet for Vega, but it was also a testament to his power as a musician and performer.
Suicide’s self-titled debut album is a seminal collection of hauntingly romantic, dark electronica filled with distortion and Vega’s guttural lyrics, setting the stage for Joy Division, New Order, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk and many more.
To honor one of punk’s wildest legends, we’ve put together our top 10 favorite Suicide hits.
“Dream Baby Dream”
“Dream Baby Dream,” is a Suicide classic. The 1979 single shows Vega’s softer side, mixing sweeter synths and a nursery rhyme-like bell with a simple melody.
From the band’s 1977 debut album, “Cheree” is the original synth-pop. Combining drawn out, psychedelic guitars, a pulsing synth and Vega’s breathy vocals, the song is Suicide’s version of a love-fueled ballad.
The third song from the band’s second album, “Sweetheart” was produced by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek. Released in 1980, the song is more upbeat and seriously ’80s. With its simplicity and twinkling synth lines, “Sweetheart” is Suicide’s version of early ’60s doo-wop.
“Wild In Blue”
“Wild in Blue,” also produced by Ric Ocasek, is a goth-rock, industrial anthem. From 1988’s A Way Of Life, the band’s third album, this track sounds like it belongs in an action sequence for Hackers or The Crow.
Also from A Way Of Life, “Dominic Christ” sounds like a mix of Devo and “The Monster Mash.” This track is ’80s goth-pop at its finest.
“Girl,” from Suicide’s first album, showcases the band’s refusal to adhere to any genre or rules. Heavy electronica and minimal vocals makes “Girl” an oft-overlooked masterpiece.
Suicide’s 1988 single, “Surrender,” is a brilliant reimagination of the ’60s girl group sound. With luscious backing vocals and thick harmonies, the track reflects some of the best from bands like The Shangri La’s. But Vega’s deep voice and a crispy 808 make “Surrender” irresistibly ’80s.
“Rain of Ruin”
The B-side from Surrender, “Rain of Ruin” is a post-punk banger. Obviously the blueprint for The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “The Living End,” this track is a distorted dream come true.
“Cool as Ice”
“Cool as Ice” is from the 1981 compilation album, Half Alive. A studio outtake, this song shows off Vega’s howl, and remains one of Suicide’s rarest and greatest.
Last but not least is “Ghost Rider.” Another up-tempo track from Suicide’s first album, “Ghost Rider” is Vega’s criticism of American culture. With scratchy guitars, this track is as punk rock as Vega is cool.
R.I.P. Alan Vega. Keep those dreams burnin’ forever and ever.