To say that my behavior occasionally borders on obsessive compulsive when it comes to some popular music, especially if there is caffeine or alcohol involved, is like saying Bob Marley was into marijuana.
Let’s be honest: John Anthony Genzale Jr.’s reputation as a pharmaceutical repository often threatens to overshadow the scraggly legacy he left behind with the New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers as the toxically charming Johnny Thunders. Taking Keith Richards’ lead by spiking up his blue-black hair and taking up smack, Thunders surprised absolutely no one nearly 15 years ago when his ticket was punched in a manner that came nowhere within sniffing distance of “natural.” He. Was. A. Donkey.
Max’s Kansas City was one of the legendary New York City scenes of the 1970s, home to Andy Warhol’s crew and a musical stamping ground for the Velvet Underground, Heartbreakers, Iggy & the Stooges and countless others.
It’s the club where Iggy met David Bowie and had his career fortunes revived, Debbie Harry waited on tables, Patti Smith went star-spotting and the Lou Reed era Velvets played their final shows.
Former Max’s promoter Peter Crowley is hosting a 50th anniversary round of shows from June 4-8 and the line-ups feature some of the best that what’s left of the old-school NYC underground scene.
The back catalogue of Johnny Thunders is way overdue for re-issue treatment. It’s coming up to 24 years since the talented but terminal ex-Doll checked into a New Orleans hotel and checked out on life. "ho better to revive his recorded legacy than Easy Action?
Whatever your stance on how the media portrayed Thunders, the guy was a walking contradiction. When it came to his image as Rock’s Most Wasted Human Being (aka The Guy Who Makes Keef Look Like a Schoolboy), he alternately kicked against it or embraced it with open, track-marked arms. “Hurt Me” was a poignant collection of stripped-back covers and standards - and a departure of sorts for JT, coming as it did five years after the bleary-eyed party that was “So Alone.”
It would be the ultimate irony if Johnny Thunders’ most consistent album came out 24 years after he died. Any sober assessment of his post-Heartbreakers output would deem it erratic but speckled with explosions of brilliance that outshone the lesser moments.
And so it is with “In Cold Blood”, a double CD package from UK label Easy Action that brings together a number of lost threads. It’s not Thunders’ most well-rounded effort - that’s probably still his first solo LP “So Alone” – but it’s still a significant addition to the JT canon.
The original “In Cold Blood” was a double vinyl affair that came out in 1983 while the outlaw guitarist was still breathing. It paired bare bones studio recordings by ex-Stones producer Jimmy Miller to a disc taken from a 1982 UK gig.
There are few survivors from when New York City’s rock and roll world revolved around a few seedy nightspots in a now unrecognisably gentrified district called The Lower East Side who are still musically active. Joey Pinter is one of them, making spirited, raw guitar music on their own terms, and this is his debut solo album.
Transplanted to Los Angeles and now living in Chicago, Pinter is best known as Walter Lure’s guitar foil in his killer post-Heartbreakers outfit, The Waldos. These guys should have been huge but labels kept their distance and Walter had a career in stockbroking that clipped their touring wings. Their solitary album, "Rent Party", was recently re-issued and kicks arse.
Pinter played in a host of other NYC bands, most notably with Max’s Kansas City regulars The Knots whose solitary 45 “Heartbreaker” b/w “Action” is highly collectable. So he has lots of form.
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?
Achtung! If the name Walter Lure doesn't ring bells, jump right out of the steeple, ya heathen. Taken from a German show in 2007, this is the liveliest of live records. No surprises but no prisoners taken, either.
Recently, I was obliged to dig through about 30 of my 100 boxes from storage and came across Greil Marcus' philosophical punk book “Lipstick Traces”. Highly regarded around the world, I recall reading it with irritation at the time, feeling that... there was a distance to his writing. He just didn't seem excited.
I suppose it was that the man was a music journo, and obliged to listen to so much pap that after a while... everything is part of the same thing. I liked how he got the world-wide impact of what punk did, but I really don't think he came close to nailing his topic.
When I had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with UK author Nina Antonia, I grabbed it with both hands. Nina Antonia is the author of biographies on Johnny Thunders, the New York Dolls and Peter Perrett (The Only Ones) and has a knack of always nailing her topic. She's a delight to read. A quick scamper through bookdepository.com - armed with her name - is always exci
"Will you nail yourself on to a cross for me? Will you blow your fucking brains out with a gun for me?"
James King and the Lonewolves have a reputation that precedes them; evolving out of the Glasgow punk scene in the late '70s and early '80s, the band quickly became renowned as hard-drinking sociopaths whose mercurial live shows featured a punked-up Velvets' approach. Curiously, their singles tended to showcase the catchy pop side of their repertoire, which die-hard fans felt was unrepresentative of the band.
His latest album might have more guests than an open bar at the Playboy Mansion but there’s a consistency to the music that Peter Blast makes on “Painting Without Canvas” that makes it a worthwhile trip.
Blast is a Chicago native, onetime associate of Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators and one of the first people to bring punk rock to the garish glow of the Las Vegas Strip, but he charts a path for the heart of Americana on this one, while never shaking off his Stonesy roots.
In short, “Painting Without Canvas” is like a dinner where Blast’s guests-of-honour are Keef, Gram Parsons and Nicki Sudden.
This is the initial release on the Remarquable label and what a way to start. Basically the deal is that these folks have gotten their hands on some utterly prime Johnny Thunders music that no one has heard before. They are focusing on the year 1978, when Johnny was on Real Records and put out his classic solo album "So Alone".
This first EP (more is promised) is a beautifully-packaged 10" record with four songs ("Leave me Alone"/Great Big Kiss"/"Pipeline"/"London Boys") recorded early January 1978, a mere two weeks after Walter Lure and Billy Rath had called it quits and returned to NYC from London, where the Heartbreakers had relocated to in 1977.
I ain't owned that beautiful Nina Antonia book about Johnny Thunders for years-poor people can't have nice things - ya always have to sell it all to eat and smoke. "Everything is in the pawnshop", you dig? But all those swanky Heartbreakers photographs are etched forever in my mind.
Sometimes I think I’m a bastard instead of being just somewhat scatterbrained. See, I put this order in to Easy Action and they sent a couple of other CDs as well. Generous of them. And I never thanked them.
Alright, I’d had a couple of man-flu health ishoos, and there were other inconveniences. But I never fucking thanked them. And they’re a generous, intelligent company. I feel like a small limp dick confessing this. But you should know some of the circumstances.
Well, there are a lot of crappy rock books. This is brilliant, however.
We could start with the book’s blurb:
“‘The One & Only’ is a roller-coaster ride through one of rock’s wildest, most unpredictable careers. Granted full access to the reclusive Perrett and everyone who matters in his story, Antonia unflinchingly traces his path from privileged childhood to drug dealer; from musical obscurity to decadent rock icon submerged in narcotic slumbers in an antique-filled mansion... before the dream spectacularly fell apart. The story of The Only Ones became an industry by-word for how not to succeed in the record business; yet the music, along with the allure of Perrett’s mysterious persona, has endured… Despite the casualties that careen through these pages, including Johnny Thunders and Sid Vicious - Perrett played with both - this is ultimately a story of redemption and rebirth.”
And, frankly, that lot should be reasons sufficient for any self-respecting rock’n’roller to pick this one up, pay at the counter, and scurry home, nose and eyes down. Apart from that, if you own the Johnny Thunders’ album, "So Alone", but no Only Ones, you have a little Perrett in your collection.
Far be it from me to claim that I had my finger completely on the punk rock pulse of the Murder City back in the late '70s and early '80s, but try as I might, I just can't remember this show ever taking place, but nearly a quarter century of recreational beverages, better living through chemistry, three kids, and a 15-year adjustable rate mortgage may have dulled my synapses a tad.
The spirit of New York City’s Lower East Side (circa 1979) is alive and well and living under the nom de plume The Disconnects in Neptune City, New Jersey.
In many respects that’s good to know because in these horrifyingly gentrified times, it couldn’t exist any longer in safe and antiseptically clean Manhattan. Even its neighbour, Brooklyn, has become respectable. New York Punk (the Heartbreakers variant) was swept under the carpet years ago - so good on The Disconnects for flying that ragged flag.