R. Crumb, Helen Wheels and NYC Punk (1981)

Houston’s Henry Wild Dog was a prolific letter writer. And by prolific, we mean he has a mind bending collection of correspondence with more than a few punk icons from the early underground music scene nationwide. Out of a stack of ZIGZAG magazines, we culled out a manilla package with Henry Wild Dog’s scrawl titled, “The Helen Wheels Band Promotional Materials,” including flyers, letters from Helen to WILD DOG zine, Houston’s own first wave punk rock fanzine, an original WILD DOG galley proof featuring the band, and this R. Crumb print dated 1976 and autographed by Helen Wheels in 1981.

Our favorite underground cartoonist of the day, R. Crumb was a fan and friend of the fierce Helen Wheels (Robbins), heralded as one of the “original punks” and “one of the best unrecorded acts in rock ‘n roll” during the formative years of the first wave. According to her record label’s promo flyer for “Postmodern Living,” the band’s premier EP, Helen was a performing staple on the NYC punk rock scene since 1977 and well known before that for her songwriting with Blue Oyster Cult.

Even today, examples of Helen’s early work and music are scarce. We did come across a video of Helen from a NYC punk rock archival project courtesy of Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong, whose punk-era concert footage is being digitized at NYU.

What follows are some reviews from the height of her career courtesy of the archives:

“Heavy is Helen Wheels, who you probably don’t know (but you will). The only way you might forget Helen Wheels would be if someone gave you a frontal lobotomy. Of course that someone could very well be Helen herself. In other words, Helen is unforgettable.” — Creem

“A total original with brains, boas, tattoos, and a long history of outlaw lovers.” — Damage

“Wheels looks like a punk interpretation of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle…Her songs have real flair.” — Newsday

“A cross between Johnny Rotten and Blondie.” — Cashbox

“That woman is a ball-bearing bitch strutting around and wielding an array of formidable looking daggers…offstage Helen Wheels is a charming young lady who’s highly intelligent and very articulate when it comes to her music, which she views as an art form.” — Philadelphia Inquirer

“Helen makes love to one of her daggers as she sings — The New Wave of Sex.” — Penthouse

“Gutteral, erotic, soft-textured hard rock with depth. You’ll get a rush off her will.” — Wild Dog

And from Crumb…

“Helen Wheels has the toughest ass in show business, if not in all America.” — R. Crumb, cartoonist in Punk

 

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