Wednesday September 20th 2017

JOHNNY THUNDERS

johnny

JOHNNY THUNDERS

 

“Living in the jungle it’s not so hard, but living in the city it’ll tear out your heart
Born to lose, born to lose, born to lose. Baby, I was born to lose.”

JOHNNY THUNDERS
Born To Lose

 

Johnny Thunders is one of my favorite guitar players but that doesn’t mean much, just coming from me. But listen to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Mick Jones of the Clash; you can hear in their playing how much they liked him. And though he sounded nothing like him and disagreed strongly with his lifestyle; Johnny Ramone when asked to name a favorite guitarist picked Thunders.

Just as Keith Richards took Chuck Berry’s style (which was around before Berry, by the way) and changed it with his own take on it, so did Johnny. His style was loud, aggressive, non-technical and exciting and was a burning, slashing chunk of noise that was totally unique in its sound. Oh, and just about every glam metal guitarist from the eighties not only tried to sound like him but look like him, as well, an extremely influential guitar player on glam, punk and metal bands to this day.

Unfortunately, when you talk about Thunders you can’t avoid writing about drugs. One of his well-known songs is, “Chinese Rocks,” more written by Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell but Thunders tried to take credit for royalties and it’s about scoring Asian heroin. He was a lifelong drug addict who allowed drugs to hurt his relationships, gigs and creative output. And it’s said his band, The Heartbreakers, first introduced heroin into the English punk scene on their first tour there, therefore, helping create the Sex Pistols as well as destroy them at nearly the same time.

JOHNNY THUNDERS
Chinese Rocks

 

His shows had a reputation for being a catastrophe and I felt bad that some people just went to see the spectacle of someone completely wasted trying to perform. I passed on a show in Cambridge in the eighties where a local guitarist, Johnny Angel, of the Thrills and Blackjacks, had asked him before the show to play with him during a song. He got the okay but by the time in the show, when Angel was supposed to approach the stage, Thunders was too wasted to recognize him, hit him with his guitar and a physical fight erupted on stage. This was typical of Thunders and of him using people for money and drugs and all the other behavior that goes with most addicts.

The trouble is drugs are like magic, they make people disappear. Like they did Johnny Thunders, like they did my friend from the eighties, Roberta- who I recently found out died of suicide last year after a long struggle with drugs. And I can think of Maria from the same time, still alive, but her personality has disappeared for a while now. I don’t want to preach but the damage from drugs is a lot more than from drink and when you lose your friends to them you should start to think they’re not cool anymore.

The Heartbreakers, (not to be confused with Tom Petty’s) was Johnny’s band after the demise of the New York Dolls. Along with the excellent Dolls drummer, Jerry Nolan, Walter “Waldo” Lure on guitar and vocals and Boston boy Billy Rath on bass they created a band that got away from the glitter/glam trappings of the Dolls for a more straight ahead, gritty street rock’n’roll. Influences of garage and surf abound but Johnny’s influences (like fifties rock’n’roll and sixties girl group music) were long formed before punk reared its spiky head. Maybe lyrically it might be punk, but this is just true kick ass rock’n’roll.

JOHNNY THUNDERS JOHNNY THUNDERS JOHNNY THUNDERS JOHNNY THUNDERS
Get Off The Phone
Baby Talk
I Wanna Be Loved
One Track Mind

 

Here’s a surf instrumental cover, one with that Thunders often started his shows.

JOHNNY THUNDERS
Pipeline

 

Here’s a song that was taken from Chuck Berry’s song, “Too Much Monkey Business.”
This one, written by the other guitarist/singer Walter Lure, tells Johnny’s story all too well.

JOHNNY THUNDERS
Too Much Junkie Business

 

This is a well-known ballad by him, covered by Guns N’ Roses and others. It’s a reflective song but I read that Thunders got the title line from an old “The Honeymooners” television comedy from the fifties and sixties said by Jackie Gleason to his wife on the show.

JOHNNY THUNDERS
You Can’t Put Yout Arms Around A Memory

 
 

“Do You Love Me,” ends this video/docu.

Do I love you, Johnny? No, I don’t. I think you were a fuckin’ asshole that had an amazing gift of guitar playing and songwriting and performing but decided to spend most of his efforts scoring drugs. So, fuck you, Johnny! Here’s my tribute to you….bastard.

JOHNNY THUNDERS
Do You Love Me

 

(Slimedog)

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