‘Cause I wanna be there wit cha and I know what to bring …
Ya don’t get no respect until ya die, if you’re a friend of mine…
ALONE IN A CROWD (-by Daddy Rollin’ Stone and the Endless Party)
It ain’t no fun being a symbol. Once you come to represent something powerful in other people’s imaginations or various tribal mythologies, you are reduced to a flat concept, a logo, a Hello Kitty or Nike swoosh, a one dimensional cartoon, a Ramones logo-it is dehumanizing whenever people objectify you, even if it is as a symbol of blind devotion or grandiose religious adoration, in your own time. If people can only love you as a character, and from afar, is that even real love? Or kinda like empty idolatry? It is said that Jim Morrison only looked like the Dionysus in the American Poet poster for five minutes. If you do a photos session with a syringe in your hat brim, that image might stick, a fixed image. Most people are capable of being a heartbreaker, a hero, a demon, a doll, or a junkie at different stages of their lives, ya know? Sometimes, all at once. I had a friend who was all those things, I’m writing a song about him: “most talented dude I’ve ever known/was hated and fated to die alone”. There are no flawless saints, or perennial all purpose villains. Nobody’s an album cover. That’s why it was so poignant when Bermondsey Joyriders put out a single called “Johnny Thunders Was A Human Being”. He’s probably sold more t shirts than New Kids On The Block, but his own short life did not seem to be that joyful, or romantic, in spite of his many remarkable contributions to the rock culture. Immortal rags like, “Only Wrote This Song”, “Lonely Planet Boy”, “Short Lives”, “Blame It On Mom”, “Some Hearts”, “It’s Not Enough”, “In God’s Name”, and “Subway Train”.
Back in my day, Sonny, they could hound you out of public schools for wearing makeup, or dressing like Johnny Thunders. I still remember how excited we were to lay our black fingernail polished little claws on the first edition of that extremely coveted book by Nina Antonia. Johnny ain’t home, but everybody protectively owns their own sainted and martyred idea of him, because he resides in each of us. The fans don’t always wanna know how their idols are capable of unkind, or less than chivalrous behaviors, but the angst, the yearning, the regrets, the mistakes and fuckups, that’s the stuff that fuels the music. The truth is harder to ingest than the t shirt. But what a story, I got lots of compassion for that whole crazy cast of characters-I can see why Jerry Nolan might yell, “Fuck The NY Dolls“, in Florida, after David informs Sylvain, Jerry, and Johnny how they are all replaceable. I can understand how David might be tired of the boys being drunk, or not showing up, or being in the hospital, all the time. Few of us can see our own thirsty nature….glug, glug, glug. Sylvain really was the real die hard torch keeper, always trying to protect their legacy, and who always wanted to put the band back together, he really did seem to love what they were together. I thought that “I Only Wrote This Song For You” tribute cd they put out in the nineties was, by far, the classisest tribute cd, EVER. So good. Willie Deville, Jayne County, Los Lobos. Fantastic stuff.
You can see the Thunders bloodline in the primitive gothic Americana of Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Bryan Gregory, Rowland S. Howard and Spencer P. Jones. In the entire mythology of Amy Winehouse-it can easily be argued that her whole career trajectory was based loosely on Patti Palladin and Johnny Thunders punk rock girl group reinventions. You can even see Thunders long shadow on corporate rock bands, like Nirvana and Guns N Roses. The NY Junk kinda carry a torch representing the more Dylanesque singer/songwriter folk storyteller side of Thunders‘ volatile gutter punk. Joey Pinter from the Waldos finally put out a solo CD last year and it totally has that trashy, gritty, Bowery blues, punk feel. Greg Allen who played with JT collaborators, Two Saints, and Jerry Nolan in the Profilers, has a band called Fringe Religion that will appeal to all you mystery girls and pirate lovers. My favorite modern bands, Dr. Boogie (RIP) and the Sweet Things both had the right kinda storm and drag. Ask Steve Jones or Mick Jones what Thunders meant to them. His deathless influence is everywhere: from the cheesy eighties hairband people to the thoughtful and bruised songwriters. If you go to a show, you might see whole legions of JT wannabes walkin’ around with the stack heels and holsters and umbrellas, but almost no one writes those kind of heartfelt songs, anymore. At the end of the day, nobody can ever be the NY Dolls, except the NY Dolls.
I never understood anyone fretting over achieving or mastering the perfect Thunders sound because his sound was imperfect and belonged to Thunders. A sacred cow in death, the multiple weekly tribute events in his name are always packed around the block, but in life, he made some errors, and also got punked around, a lot. It was a hard knock life. I connected to the sad kid in Thunders probably even more than the platform shoes or cowboy shirts. “So Alone”, the big all star Steve Lillywhite produced affair, remains a standout masterpiece, but “Hurt Me” and “Que Sera Sera” are somewhat overlooked, for some reason. Everybody sees their own stained glass reflection in the elevated arches at the Thunders cathedral. The clowns see someone who was not afraid to laugh. The Tragediennes’s see someone who was not afraid to die. To some, it’s strictly geographical and/or generational, he is the first person, old pal, patron saint of certain local bars that they were old enough to have frequented, in the early seventies, so they are the official guardians of “been there” baby boomer Thunderism. To many others, he is the butch struttin’, high heeled, emo haircut prophetic, confrontational, sneering, glam rock prototype, who had the perfect pre Nikki Sixx/Mike Monroe/Steve Stevens done up hair all the way back in 1973 and those of us who know someone competent with a razor who is qualified to successfully give us that elusive black raven’s nest as Nina calls it, without fucking it up and giving us a humiliatingly awful Joe Dirt/Joe Elliot custodian’s mullet instead, can sashay around in the Oscar Wilde Room of our mind, and feel somehow vicariously validated by his angelic DTK presence, like we carry forth a swaggering piece of shaggy Thunders wildness. Some people mainly worship him as the holy rollin’, illuminated, golden prophet, gringo on a wooden cross, immortal drug taker, put some pills in the collection plate, forever justifying their own get high preferences, like Ringling Sisters sang in “53 Reasons To Go Downtown”, or like his former Gang War band mate, Wayne Kramer sang in, “Junkie Romance”. You got people who resonate with his lonely, wounded songs about not fitting in, or never feeling a lasting sense of family, so he is their orphan deity. I’ve had friends who resonated primarily with his “I’m A Boy, I’m A Girl” androgyny. I got friends who think the Heartbreakers are the best rocknroll band of all time. People can argue all day about the memories and their personal preferences, but the point is we’re all still talking about that courageous cat, ’cause we rarely see artists even half as gutsy and desperately sincere as Johnny was, anymore. Memories can become like a cross to bear, if that’s all we got to put our arms around, ya know, unless we have another forty bucks for another lousy t shirt.
Johnny’s old pal, Uncle Walter, has been faithfully keepin’ the old Heartbreakers/Waldos songs alive, he’s got a new platter out that is really good-particularly his charming rendition of “You Talk Too Much”, check out the hot new video for “Damn Your Soul”. I remember him, always so fondly, as being one of the best frontmen/singer/guitarist/rabble rousers I ever saw play live. His “Rent Party” crew were my favorite 90’s band, besides the Humpers and Pillbox. I miss the old NYC when all the legends were still alive and you could see all those guys walking around and playing small clubs. Death is pitiless, though, it just keeps coming for all of us. One by one, relentlessly. I don’t know about you, but my life is like a ghost town. The esteemed Walter points out that Thunders lived a long time, like, fifteen precarious years, on the ledge. I found the Peter Perrett anecdotes particularly revealing, because it was always pretty clear to me, however adept those guys were at the piercing stares and Sha Na Na, chain wielding, hot rod gang reputations, we’re talking about the dude who wrote the most naked and brave and unflinchingly honest songs in the world:”and then, I’m goin’ to sleep…” They may have been delinquents, but they were very loving and passionate and probably good hearted delinquents. They came from a 50’s NY macho working class culture, they probably never had access to the proper skill-sets, or role models to learn how to be nurturing parents, or romantic partners, by today’s standards.
When I was around him, he never struck me as dangerous or indestructible, more like a frightened, little boy blue, whom I wanted to make a grilled cheese and bowl of tomato soup for, and I was still a bit of a lost teenager, myself, back then! Concerned adults advised me to give a wide berth to all the scuzzy 70’s punk guys, which naturally made me more determined to follow them around Alphabet City like a happy puppy. I saw some good shows, and some not quite so good shows, and always admired and appreciated how Thunders‘ exceptionally loyal friends and Oddballs band-mates always stood-by and protected him, like a tight-knit gang. They carried him when he was not in top form and really brought some light and life to his ever more observant and socially conscious songs. He dropped some of the self destruction blues tunes from his set.”Critic’s Choice” is still one of my very favorite Johnny tunes. This book of insightful Garcia interviews with people like Andy Shernoff, Bob Gruen, Phyllis Stein, Night Bob, Cynthia B-Girl, Chris Musto, and Alison Gordy features sacred texts and candid testimony from some of JT’s closest intimates and allies, and a is roll call of the best musicians left alive-Syl and Sami, Walter Lure, Stevie Klasson, Timo Kaltio, Neil X, John Perry, as well as words once spoken by insiders who are no longer with us, like Leee Black Childers and Marty Thau, and Billy Rath. It is heavy duty stuff. Essential reading for the faithful and even the more casual Thunders acolytes. Be forewarned, once you crack open the pages, you will start hearing his old songs in your head, all day. Jamie Heath’s stirring saxophone on “Society Makes Me Sad” is playing in mine, as I type. A lot of love went into this book project. I never knew that just Johnny and Billy Rogers did some of those recordings, or that Thunders played bass. Simon Ritt from the Daughters, Darlings and Unattached adds some interesting tidbits to the tumultuous tale of woe and glory. Parts of it are harrowing and hard to get through, he was undoubtedly a lonely and helplessly tormented character at certain points of his life, especially when he became estranged from his family and Jerry Nolan. It’s hard to cope with being separated from your beloved children. It is a very humanizing book, that kind of shows how even people who loved him were unable to really change his fate, it’ll make you start wondering about your own life, your own twists and turns and what might have been different, if only this or that had happened. It’s powerful reading. It made me start wanting to listen to his music again, after many years of being kinda burntout on the same five albums I listened to everyday, in my teens and twenties. He’s got a lot of great content buried among the glut of exploitative product. I forget, sometimes, how good he really was, I probably just got somewhat turned off by all the copycat imitators and forever titillated, second hand, sensationalists. Sometimes, it has felt like there were way more plunderers, than actual thunderers.
I kinda hate those tribute-night cattle-call concerts, now. Too much half hardhearted kareoke from people unconnected to the emotional aspect of the material, though Liza Colby really impressed me by belting out such an emotional, hellaciously full hearted burst of sincere passion when covering, “Baby I Love You”, I mean, she really tore it up. That’s how you do it. You have to pour real feelings into the music. She’s a big blast of white lightning, we don’t see enough of that, from our performers, anymore. She don’t even play guitar, but you can see clearly, how she carries on the tradition of Johnny Thunders, in her own way. She is courageous. Soulful. Badass. A firestorm of feelings. I don’t even go see shows much anymore, or care to watch that awful garbage pop they play on tv. It’s just wretched, dreadful, empty. Everybody’s sleep walking, just phoning it in, expecting the paid-for threads, robot-beats, and pay-to-play platforms to be the same as throwing down intimate pieces of one’s heart. Everybody wants to buy a piece of the long gone legend. So many want to steal his face and be him, without the unique, original, singular innovations, or his totally authentic (“more reverb!”) voice, and without ever enduring that depth of sorrow and despair. You got fans of every Thunders era, who still believe David Jo was a better singer than either Thunders or Walter, and a far better lyric writer, who hold firm to the belief that the original NY Dolls with both Murcia and Nolan were a magical elixir-the perfect mixture of volatile elements. You got your pre-Billy Rath, dedicated, Richard Hell Heartbreakers partisans. You got your “David Jo-hasbeen” people, who hate the camp, show-bizzy aspects of the Dolls, and strictly worship at the Heartbreakers 50’s greasy hoodlum-punk alter. Your Two York Dolls enthusiasts, who like Steve Conte best, maybe because he is more accessible than all these other elusive apostles. What a hard job he got himself tangled up in, ya Know? TWICE! Some people argue that Joey Pinter was approximately as good of a guitar player, but received little to no fanfare because he did not wear makeup and feather boas, satin or frills, in the Max’s days. His fire fingered set with the Heartbreakers at that Thunders Memorial show was a fiercely devotional performance. I thought pretty much everybody shined brightly that night, even through the grief and tears. Patti Palladin. Cheetah with Spacely on harmonica.
In the past 30 years, we’ve just seen so many assembly line clones doing the lackluster impersonations of the holy trinity of Deadboys/Dolls/Ramones, that it’s hard to reach back and remember what that music really meant to us, when it still had all that first-cut, revolutionary fury, and soul power and original impact. I tend to only like the artists who develop voices of their own, who may be informed or influenced, by those who came before us, but I wanna hear people who bring their own thing, their own statement, their own fresh set of ideas, to the table. Otherwise, what’s the point? Nick Kent brought a real snarly, upfront, Thunders like energy to writing, back in the seventies and eighties. There were people who only came on the scene when these pioneers were helplessly spiraling ,and enabled some unhealthy habits for five minutes, who think that makes them their personal stand-in spokes models, henceforth. I personally appreciate artists, like Morrissey, for instance, who maybe don’t slavishly ape his guitar style and call it original, or steal his look precisely, and we all know dozens of those who do, but who heard something anarchic and soulful and streetwise and reckless in his runaway train solos; or something truthful and heroic, in his calls for social justice and delicate little boy confessions, that made them want to express their own vulnerable truths, courageously. For example, if you listen to my early mentor, Ratboy play guitar, it actually sounds very little like Our Holy Jetboy Of Perpetual Grace, but you can see how he was inspired by Johnny’s adventuresome, anything goes, boundary bending spirit and dynamic, intuitive, first or second take, hell for leather attitude. By my way of thinkin’, Dave Kusworth and Kevin Junior, are two more distinctive artists with an unmistakable Johnny Thunders influence, who took it in a totally different and unexpected direction, and cultivated their own, equally as valid, and unique personal voices, and that’s what I’m interested in, it’s cool to play covers when you’re young and learning how to play, but at some point, we’re supposed to say our own thing. I don’t usually go for too many of the greasy kid bands, because it’s just always the same old going through the motions, without the soul. Just feels like somebody’s bankrollin’ their wardrobe. I wanna hear somebody who makes me care, who makes me believe, ‘has some real skin in the game, who makes me feel something, besides sheer boredom or mild resentment.
I never understood falling in love with just one Doll. I loved each and everyone of ’em. Syl says he’s the biggest Dolls fan and who am I to argue? I met Jerry Nolan once and he was just the picture of patient, dapper, paternal generosity and sincere appreciation for his clingy young fans. All the Oddballs and Waldos seemed like wonderful people. How can anyone not love Sylvain Sylvain or Arthur Killer Kane? I was never into “Hot, Hot, Hot”, but I can hear “Frenchette”, “Donna”, and “Funky But Chic” all day, and I’ll get down in any neighborhood I swear that my friends’ll take me. I remember seein’ both the Waldos and Heartbreakers shows around the same time when Big Tony C and Uncle Walter played in both bands and some nights, the Waldos were the best band in town. “Maimed Happiness” was a really deep song from the Sami Yaffa/Steve Conte era rebooted Dolls Gang, but there was only one Johnny Thunders.
Everybody loved Johnny Silvers, ’cause we all got a part of him deep inside, sang Tyla and the Dogs D’Amour. I only brushed with the guy briefly in real life, but yeah, he’s been a constant presence in my sad journeys since I was oh, probably, a fourteen or fifteen year old kid. I was surprised when I moved to the big city to see all the proudly obsessive Thunders collectors with their overflowing and colorful shrines, who had purchased all the artifacts and bootlegs and yellow guitars and shit, cause meanwhile back in the states, Thunders was no status symbol, most people had honestly never heard of them, but you were probably still gonna get approached, physically, by less conscious aggressors, for even wearing a Dolls t shirt, or for wearing some hairspray or red patent leather, but yeah, it was always interesting to visit all these different churches of Thunders. The consumerist aspect of the gotta own it all Thunders devotees still startles me. Probably as many varying denominations by now, as in any big organized religion. I even knew a cab driver once who hung around with a hillbilly El Duce and GG Allin fan, who both seemed to mostly revel in his pre P.C. profanity and onstage hecklings. When I think of JT’s multi-faceted legacy, his “bad words” aren’t what comes to my mind, but there really are those who have even celebrated him as mostly being an outrageous wiseguy obscenity spewer-a Dice Clay, or Mentors, or Geto Boys, which was not how I predominantly choose to remember him. The bullshit drug laws that mainly serve the interests of the CIA and prison shareholders, still have a loudly broadcast, ugly stereotyping, demonizing presence, in corporate media, and I blame them for vilifying people who have addictions. Peter Perrett refers to it as a con. The prison profiteering bipartisan drug war zealots. If Thunders or Coltrane took drugs, or struggled with addictions that adversely impacted their private lives, I don’t see how that makes them criminals. Once you get branded as an outlaw by society, even if you were a sensitive loverboy who spent his last years soulfully singing about feeding the homeless, and advocating for children’s rights, some people are only ever gonna remember you as that cocksure Jesse James gunslinger and the media will not even bother retracting lies about your cause of death, cops won’t even investigate all the shady circumstances, they just dismiss you as a bad boy punk rocker.
I love this book and film because they feature the memories of those who knew and loved the wounded and funny and sometimes sick or troubled human being(!) behind the red rodeo chaps and big hair. It ain’t all P.C., p.r. photo shopping, or image makeover white washings, which I appreciate. For me, it kind of only affirms that which I felt about him, already-like all of us. How he self medicated to cope with his inner conflict relating to both his family of origin, and also, while struggling to provide for his own, and to be a positive parental presence in his kids’ lives. It’s a lotta pressure to face rooms full of people every night and to have to gig to make any money. He might have even felt like his kids were being held for ransom, if he did not earn enough to ever satisfy the various in laws. He was a product of another time, he made mistakes. Maybe he was a fuck up, but he sure seemed to have a whole lot of help when it came to fuckin’ up, which is what Westerberg was probably trying to point out in his eighties Replacements song, “Johnny’s Gonna Die”. In the book, Gail Higgins talks about how much it really hurt him to not see his kids. Nina Antonia remembers how he always took a picture of his sons with him everywhere he went. Robbing someone of their children, particularly, if it is not a genuine safety issue is an incredibly damaging and destructive move. All these years later, Johnny is still everywhere. There’s a little bit o’ Thunder in Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde, surely in Andy McCoy, Izzy Stradlin, and Brian “Damage” Forsythe. Tyla, Nikki Sudden and Mike Scott all borrowed a trick or two from the gypsy troubadour. Power pop stars, the Beat Angels, looked like a whole flock of Johnny Thunders‘. So did the Alarm. Bluesy country honk cowboys, Rock City Angels, had a risky sense of spontaneity and raw, unvarnished feelings. In the sleaze punk underground, you can feel Johnny in the guitar playing of the Hangmen/Junkyard‘s Jimmy James and the Humpers Billy Burkes. Band like Black Veil Brides have mainstreamed his original image a mere fifty years later, made it a common Hot Topic/Target look you see in every food court in every mall. Steve Conte from Michael Monroe and the latter day Dolls reformation has played some really haunting, emotion charged licks, like on “Temptation To Exist”. As Iggy Pop sang, “they called him Thunders ’cause he had the spark.” To celebrate the publication of “LOOKING FOR JOHNNY” on Punk Hostage Press, the essential companion to Nina Antonia’s books and Danny Garcia’s heartfelt film, I hassled some of my fellow banditos and rocknroll amigos, favorite creators and former collaborators, to talk about what Johnny Thunders means to them. If anyone wants to let Santa know I am hoping for a copy of Sylvain’s “Ain’t No Bones In Ice Cream” for Christmas, I’d appreciate it. If you wanna make some stray rocknroller happy, wrap this book, “Looking For Johnny” up in some pretty paper, and place it under the tree. “Looking For Johnny”. By Danny Garcia, on Punk Hostage Press. Garcia is a very astute and caring historian and I can not wait to see his movie about Stiv Bators. What was it about Johnny Thunders that was so profoundly pure and resilient, eternal and unalterable, that makes his legacy clang so loudly through the decades? What about him most impacted you?
The World Famous Mister Ratboy of Motorcycle Boy, Pillbox NYC, Sour Jazz, Ace Killers Union, and the Golden Rat recalls: “In 1978, there were not many rock musicians as authentic as Johnny Thunders. Having perfectly digested the roots of American music, he was spitting them back out with an attitude similar to the popular UK bands of the period, but not as commercial. His acute fashion sense, eternally wasted looks, and reckless bohemian lifestyle, along with the constant rumors of his impending death created an appealing element of danger nowhere to be found in today’s rock scene. His behavior made millionaire ‘rebels’ like Keith Richards look like choirboys and the sheer volume of his truly unique playing injected white blues into punk rock. His guitar dominated every single song he ever played on, and his electric sound was unmistakable. Along with Ron Asheton, he taught me that intensity and emotion matter more than technical ability.”
Brian Morgan from the Saviors, Disruptors, and Carvels NYC says: “Johnny Thunders appealed to me before I even heard him. Photos of the New York Dolls in ’72 or ’73 showed an over exaggerated Keith Richards in white platform boots. I was an 11 year old Alice Cooper fiend so, y’know, cool, tell me more! I had to have the album, and it was everything I wanted. A band who clearly gave zero fucks. And Johnny Thunders embodied this better than anyone else. His guitar actually sneered. No, really, it did, go listen. Everything since has carried at least a trace of that attitude.”
Deanne Clapper from The Sacred: “I first discovered Thunders after buying the NY Dolls double LP put out by Mercury in 1977 with all 5 faces on the sleeve.
The buzzsaw rhythms and tilting pinball machine leads, turning the fader on the stereo to one side to just hear Johnny’s guitar. I’d never heard anything like that before.That was truly what made me want to play guitar.”
Hiroshi The Golden Arm from the Remains, Golden Arms, Ace Killers Union and Golden Rat: “Yes , I’m very influenced from Thunders and Dolls.
Four about how I were most personally affected by Thunders …
1. Guitar Riffs & Licks by Gibson Les Paul Jr. （with Deep-Reverb）
2. Attitude – “Fuck’em If they can’t take a Joke”
“Hey, What is this shit? “
3. The Letters D. L. A. M. F. （Down Like A Mother Fucker ）and D. T. K. （Down To Kill ）
4. R&R Image of “Black & Magenta”
Jeff Ward from Gunfire Dance, Electrajets, and NY Junk: “When I read the message asking me to contribute to this article I was on a New York subway with a Les Paul at my side, heading to a rehearsal. Right then and there the question of Johnny Thunders‘ influence on me was answered. My old band Gunfire Dance viewed New York and CBGB’s as our Mecca, so we made our way there in 1993 and went onstage after Walter Lure. Many years later, the Gunfire‘s drummer and bassist, Ozzie and Ray arranged an English tour for Walter, with them and Jez Miller as his backing band. It was at their 100 Club gig that I played some ElectraJets songs and met Cynthia Ross and Joe Sztabnik of New York Junk. Every word I’ve written so far could have been interspersed with the words ‘Johnny’ and ‘Thunders’, such is his interconnecting influence on me andd my friends. Nikki Sudden said something like, ‘Johnny Thunders will be remembered the same way as Robert Johnson‘. I’ve always thought this was a perfect description of him. Now that we’re all ‘old’ white bluesmen and women, Sudden‘s words seem to ring more perfectly than ever. But not just for the old’ens, Thunders influence is seemingly timeless, his songs and clothes, and guitar playing cross-pollinate with a new crop of musicians endlessly…Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll!
Jim Jones from Thee Hypnotics, Black Moses, the Jim Jones Revue, and Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind testifies:
“As a youngster, I first awoke to Rock n Roll via the original 50s stuff; Elvis, Little Richard, Eddie Cochrane, Chuck Berry etc.
This early Rock n Roll has swing, it has charisma, it has urgency, it has spirit and style and class. A lot of music that followed the original explosion has nothing .. it became watered down, it became a business, and in many cases it just became shit.
When I first became aware of Johnny Thunders music, all I knew was I liked it, mostly because it sounded tough and dangerous, and it went against a lot of stuff I thought was stupid ..
I went to see him play on several occasions, and I loved him, I felt a spiritual significance, he had the charisma of the explosion; I couldn’t fully articulate that stuff at the time, I just knew: He wasn’t rock .. he was Rock n Roll – there’s a big difference .. and you either get it, or (sadly) you don’t. ”
“I heard about Johnny Thunders before I actually heard him. He died the year after I started playing guitar. When I started playing, I devoured all I could about guitar through reading the monthlies. At the time, from cover to cover, this magazine content was like 1980s metal and roots music. I was hungering for something different. On a whim, I bought the Replacements’ Don’t Tell A Soul. Whatever I could learn about the Mats’, I did, and they spoke of Thunders so I eventually checked him out.
I bought a Dolls Best Of first and then So Alone. With the Dolls, what struck me as how he took familiar rock n’ roll lead guitar vocabulary and made little genius twists that made his runs instantly memorable and instantly timeless. Also, there was a raw-nerve emotionality to his phrasing and a cocksure attitude to his solos. He seemed like one of those guys whose full and pure being came out when he picked up a guitar. It didn’t seem like anything was put on—it was all attitude and fearlessness. So Alone showed a vulnerable side that touched me. It was a deep level of artistry beyond so many musicians—he was the guitar hero and the wounded romantic balladeer. Another thing that resonated with me is that Johnny’s warped sense of humor came through in both these polarities—it didn’t matter whether he was making you cry or making you dance, he could always make you laugh. ”
Lorne Behrman, guitarist (The Sweet Things, L.E.S. Stitches, Dimestore Haloes, The Dead Tricks)
Jonny Kaplan from the Gutter Cats and Jonny Kaplan And The Lazy Stars: “Johnny, man…where to begin…My first vision of that perfect rocknroll hair was the cover of the Dolls 2nd album, ‘Too Much, too Soon’. Johnny with his Yellow TV Special and what appears to be him holding a doll in his right hand. I must’ve started with side A, because my memory of my first listen to ‘Puss N Boots’ was that the record must be skipping! Next up, ‘Chatterbox’. Razor sharp guitars and a razor sharp, nasally squeal was my introduction to this ultimate amalgamation of the Sex Pistols and Keith Richards, by way of Chuck Berry. Fast forward to 1988 or so, and this kid is living in New York city in the bathroom of a club called Nirvana at Number 1, Times Square. I was there to see Sylvain Sylvain play, and while having a pee, in walks J.T. himself to use the urinal next to me. He shot out, ‘What’s up, kid?’ I was starstruck. He made my night. I saw him play many times over the years, and even played a show with him, in Hollywood, once. Sometimes great, sometimes, terrible, he was always THE Johnny Thunders. about a year before his death, we had a few drinks together in New York City’s Scrap Bar. I was stoked that he remembered me. He is a legend, albeit, a sad one.”
Darren Birch from the Godfathers, Black Bombers, and Gunfire Dance:
“Thunders….!! The hair….!! The clothes..!! The nose…!!
Like Chuck & Bo before he created his own voice within those 3 chords……
When struggling for sartorial inspiration you could always don that black suit…mess up the hair….And you were transported to the cover of ‘So Alone’…..But..You could never REALLY be Johnny….??? R.I.P. X (A great big one)…!!”