Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers



by butcherboy USER (123 Reviews)
April 30th, 2017 | 13 replies

Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I'm thirsty!

In the spring of 1975, with New York City’s first wave of punk on an exponentially wild upturn, two of the most frantic and doomed members of the New York Dolls pulled out of the group and were joined by ex-Television bassist Richard Hell to make scuzzy unhinged rock, but mostly to plunge headfirst into narcotics without label reps and band fellows tormenting them about addiction and liability. Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan carried the heart of the Bowery squalor and all the artistic death that came with it like a badge of honour. By 1992, both of them would be dead, Nolan from a drug-induced stroke, and Thunders from an overdose, whose suspicious nature would fuel rumours of murder for years to come. However untimely or tragic, they were fitting ends to two spitfires eagerly dedicated to the half-life dash of rock n’ roll. In the meantime, they had regrouped with Hell, freshly sour from Television’s overtly pragmatic tendencies, and circling his own nosedive into scag. The one album the Heartbreakers would cut in ’77, along with Thunders’ phenomenal turn on his So Alone the next year, were the last shattered breaths of NY punk’s visceral brand of opiated rock roots, that would soon give way to noise, no-wave and art-punk.

Anyone already attuned to the Dolls’ modus knows what they’re getting here. The album’s purposeful, even ideological dumbness is a nihilistic bacchanal for rebels without a cause; from the rallying cry of ‘I’m thirsty!’ on Born to Lose, to the professed love and need for crack on the Dee Dee Ramone-penned Chinese Rocks. Thunders unceremoniously smashes through songs, teeming with unhinged riffing, and cracking out one rollicking solo after another. The song titles read like a B-movie sequence. GoingSteady, All By Myself, One Track Mind all state their mission from the outset. The Heartbreakers embrace wine-soaked anarchy with open arms, declaring an unabashed moratorium on purpose.

Hell’s presence seems almost a sore thumb in the line-up. His tenure with Television, and subsequent work as leader of the Voidoids, always walked a more intellectual, if a bit mannered line. And if the subject matter of pussy, junk and rock n’ roll is a bit removed from his more gilded pursuits, he at least gets plenty of opportunity to show off his chops. The bass-work on tatty anthem Pirate Love and the momentum-packed Baby Talk is stellar.

The ragged production on L.A.M.F. has long been maligned, and by now has suffered through two failed attempts at re-mastering. In some ways, the album’s muddy sound is only a fitting representation of the ethos of the men and the culture behind it. For all the polished frenzies that Thunders brought to playing guitar, his train-wreck lifestyle is mirrored perfectly in the music’s sloppy, muted rage.

The Heartbreakers would go on to capture one of their agitated, violent live shows on film at Max’ Kansas City before falling apart, reuniting for sporadic shows with rotating bassists until Thunders’ demise. But their legacy remains, no matter how marred by personal malfunction and fluctuating music trends. It is punk in its first formation, devoid of manicured tattoo sleeves, mosh pits, crazed screams of suburban fury, or handsome short-haired gym freaks prostrating on stage. Just some old-fashioned rock n’ roll, played at the speed of life…

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user ratings (73)
other reviews of this album
Pedro B. (4.5)
An excellently executed half-hour portrait of 1970s New York proto-punk and its performers, every bi...

Comments:Add a Comment 
April 30th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

like a motherfucker..

April 30th 2017


Sweet. More great history from possibly Sputnik's top musical historian. Well done, butcherboy.

April 30th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

haha.. thanks very much, Divaman!

April 30th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Gonna jam this tonight! Review has me fairly excited

May 1st 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

good album, nice review, have a pos

May 1st 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Sin, you're a gent..

Sandwich, I hope you like it.. glam rock at its finest..

May 11th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Listening to this atm

Some of it is kind of annoying, but mostly very good

May 13th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

haha, yea, Flag, downside of purposefully dumb rock n roll, is at some points, the balance tilts towards plain dumb..

June 23rd 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

Butcherboy knows his shit

September 2nd 2020


Im a few years late in this but couldnt let it slip.
Walter Lure just passed away and i have been perusing reviews of LAMF. Kind of going down nostalgia tour.
I was heartened to see the review and the respect given. However, I am not too clear on a few things. First, please tell me I am missing the joke?! Chinese Rocks is about CRACK? U r kidding? Richard Hell may be on the demos but was never in the recording studio for the album. The pressing of the album created the muddy sound as the sound was crystal clear on the cassettes. What else can I point out? Probably more than I care to elucidate. One thought, get your shit together before you blog on Rock and Roll....cuz this aint punk its Rock and Roll...their attitude was punk but not the music.

September 2nd 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

uhh did you read the last paragraph

December 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 3.5

You finally met your Waterloo!

December 22nd 2020


Album Rating: 4.5

@JK i have been listening to the cassette mix for this (at least the video states it's the cassette mix) and it's still muddy as all heck.

Also, yes, Chinese Rocks is about going into debt in order to buy crack (the titular Chinese rock). This is focumented, among other places, in the booklet to the renastered edition of the Ramones' End of the Century, which features da Bruddas' own take on the song.

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