LAMF (Definitive Edition) - Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers (Jungle)
In these times of re-packaged music there might well be a sucker born every minute. At various times, that sucker has been you and me. So when an adept pusher of pre-loved material and sometimes extraneous bonus items like UK label Jungle puts out the clarion call for worshipers of Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers to sign up for yet another collection of posthumous mixes, who are we not to answer?
It really is like raking over old bones, this constant re-visiting of the Heartbreakers' legacy. Maybe not on the necrophiliac scale of what happens with the The Doors with the ubiquitous Ray "Maaaaan" Manzarek leading the charge, but it's a Groundhog Day exhumation all the same. The real question, once you've played it all through and are basking in the glow of someone's post-coital cigarette, will be: "How was it for you?" Your own results may vary.
LIke all gloriously-flawed, seminal albums, "LAMF" (if you have to ask you're in the wrong place) is ripe for re-issue every few years. Like a hooker with a freshly painted face, it's sent out into the marketplace by its pimp to be prodded and poked from every angle by punters like us. We've had the Johnny Thunders re-mix. We've had "lost" (read: alternate) mixes. This time, she wears the clothes of "The Definitive Edition".
What that means is a four-CD set, the centrepiece of which is a cleaned-up version of the album's original "muddy" mix. By all accounts, the disastrous original sound was the product of fucked up mastering after a couple of blokes spent too long at the pub - and not Jerry Nolan's tinkering. Niggs copped a bum rap. His subsequent dummy spit and departure from the band might have been equally down to him having itchy feet as taking a stand against crimes against sonic ineptitude. Who really knows? There's an ex-girlfriend on Facebook who might be able to throw some light but who could blame him for deciding three strikes was out after the two messes that passed for production on the Dolls albums?
Yes, you have to have heard the original train wreck that was the first edition of "LAMF" to fully appreciate this version. Fact is, few people have. If you missed the boat, there is a lossy MP3 version doing the rounds on Torrent trackers, and Jungle have helpfully posted a sample on Soundcloud. This mix does sound appreciably better and certainly not as "wide" as the LP version of the Thunders patch-up job. But how much better if it had been re-mixed from the ground up, using the (long lost) master tapes? No such luck. This has been re-EQ'd from a vinyl copy, so touting it as "definitive" is a little rich.
"The Lost '77 Mixes" is a collection has that hasn't been "lost" for very long. It was last issued in 1994. Nice to have if you don't already but completists will blanch. There were "about" 190 tracks for the compilers to chose from. LIke the CD edition of "LAMF" that came out in the "DTK" box, the mastering is first rate but there's not much else to say.
"The Demo Sessions" comes from three separate visits to three studios studios over 13 months and is frustratingly incomplete. If you want the four songs with Richard Hell's vocals from the first January 1976 session, you'll have to go cop (pun intended) the ejected Heartbreaker's "Time" compilation. Six cuts are from a second (Hell-less) session in late '76 and two instrumentals ("I Want To Be Loved" and "Get Off The Phone") have been omitted, probably because they were on the "DTK" box set. The balance (three songs) are from a Track Records session in London in post-Anarchy Tour February '77.
The final "LAMF - The Alternative Mixes" are just that. I'm not going to reel off what's different and what's similar to the final mixes. The glib note in the liners tells you to compile your favourites and I'm telling you to do the same. Again, a bang-up mastering job makes for a pleasing listen - especially on the two versions of the swing-like-a-wrecking-ball "Pirate Love".
Lastly, four badges and a 64-page booklet flesh out the box. Recollections from Waldo and manager Lee Black Childers make for a colourful time without telling us much we didn't already know. That's the problem with telling a story that's been replayed a million times. My only whinge is that biographer Nina Antonia's intro is much too brief. Maybe the detailed track-by-track dissertation that I've avoided could have filled the bill.
Excuse me if my cynicism has been showing. The fact is that there's nothing essential here other than the fact these songs are the work of The Heartbreakers. Even the hidden video of "Chinese Rocks" is re-cooked. If you're a dedicated Norfolk Street boy you'll probably need this box. If you're not, there are more definitive places to get a taste.