Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
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About Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
Shortly after the disintegration of the New York Dolls in 1975, guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan formed the Heartbreakers (not to be confused with Tom Petty's Heartbreakers). The original lineup consisted of the duo plus former Television bassist Richard Hell. The group played regularly in New York City, becoming part of the early CBGB punk scene. Thunders assumed the vocal duties, while the music was quite comparable to the trashy rock that the Dolls patented, except that just about every song was about either the pursuit of the opposite sex or drugs (all the bandmembers were addicted to hard drugs, so much so that at one point, Thunders considered changing the band's name to "the Junkies").
Hell's tenure in the band didn't last long, especially when it became clear that Thunders was the leader of the group, and there would be little room for Hell's original compositions (Hell would soon after resurface as the leader of Richard Hell & the Voidoids). Taking Hell's place in the group was Billy Rath, and a second guitarist, Walter Lure, was welcomed aboard as well. Although the Heartbreakers didn't have a recording contract, they were offered a slot as part of the Anarchy Tour (alongside such Dolls disciples as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned) in the U.K. during the fall of 1976. The tour was banned at most dates due to the public's preconceived notion of punk, but it succeeded in creating a buzz overseas for the Heartbreakers, resulting in a recording contract with the Track label.
Their debut album, 1977's L.A.M.F. (short for the phrase "Like a Mother F****r"), failed to catapult Thunders and his cohorts to the same commercial heights that the other bands on the Anarchy Tour were enjoying, but has subsequently gone on to become one of punk's all-time classics, spawning the drug abuse anthem "Chinese Rocks" (a song co-penned by the Ramones' bassist, Dee Dee Ramone). The quartet's hard-living lifestyle quickly began to take its toll on the group, as they split shortly thereafter, but would reunite from time to time over the years, right up until Thunders' drug-related death in 1991 (with Nolan following his longtime partner in crime to the grave in 1992). Numerous live Heartbreakers CDs have been issued over the years (such as Live at Max's Kansas City '79, Live at the Lyceum Ballroom 1984, and What Goes Around, plus a remixed version of their debut, retitled L.A.M.F. Revisited, among countless others), as well as a video/DVD that documented a 1984 reunion show in England, Dead or Alive. ~ Greg Prato