The Heartbreakers - Just A Bunch Of Junkies?
Johnny Thunders & Jerry Nolan had just quit the New York Dolls. Malcolm McLarren's shiney red leather suits, hammer & sickle motif's & political inuendo had done nothing for the group's image or their reputation & they were falling apart. The heroin had done little to help - it now fueled the need to get a new band together fast.
Scoring Richard Hell from Television & Walter Lure on bass, The Heartbreakers were put together as a basic r&r band in less than no time at all. Their set initially comprised material from their members earlier oufits as well as cover versions (most notably, Dee Dee Ramone & Hell's "Chinese Rocks" which Thunders continued to claim as his own) - their reputations alone secured bookings. CBGB's regulars & Max's Kansas City stalwarts, The Heartbreakers had four habits to feed that required regular servicing.
Hell soon departed to form the Voidoids, leaving the others to recruit Billy Rath to play bass & Lee Black Childers to handle their management. They got a call from McLarren to join the Anarchy tour almost immediately & caught the first available flight out to London (taking their habits & their influence along with them). The UK's treatment of RDA's (Registered Drug Addicts) was surely a contributory factor to their decission to decamp to the UK, free heroin substitutes on confirmation of a tollerance was a whole bunch cheaper than Bowery brown.
The UK punx were in awe of The Heartbreakers - The Clash attempted to outsneer them outside the Music Machine on their first meeting - The Heartbrekers responded by blowing them & The Pistols off stage at every opportunity on the Anarchy tour. The Pistols sulked back with "New York" on "Nevermind The Bollocks", Thunders would carry "London Boys" around with him till his death by way of reply.
The Heartbreakers signed to Track Records in 1977 & delivered the legendary "L.A.M.F." lp. Boasting notoriously poor sound quality but stuffed with the band's greatest songs (Born To Loose, Chinese Rocks, Pirate Love, It's Not Enough etc etc), "L.A.M.F" remained unavailable on anything but it's orginal vinyl for many years. The (lack of) production values were sited as the reason for the departure of Nolan shortly after the lp's release, the rest of the band & Childers were not far behind leaving Thunders to hang out with Peter Perrett of The Only Ones amongst others - The Heartbreakers had finally od'd.
Thunders persevered for many years afterwards on his ownsome - in the USA as well as the UK & Europe. His solo career was represented by such high points as "Carnt Put Yr. Arms Around A Memory" & the "So Alone" lp, but many will remember the shambolic live "performances" & the gradual deterioration in "health". Many have since lambasted Thunders for providing future generations with a suitable junk role model, detailed study of proper heroin abusers like William Burroughs will confirm that it is not aktually the drug but the "industry" that kills. Modern ananysis of the "heroin problem" has confirmed this beyond any doubt - blame is subsequently difficult to pin down - moralists are on very shakey ground here.
Needless to say Jonny Thunders got nowhere near his 4 score years & 10 - not even close. He died a lonely man in a dirty room with only his memories wrapped around his arms like a tourniquet. The fact that Burroughs continued to self administer his habit until his death in his 80's is substantial proof that heroin alone will not kill you - it's just the way its marketed.
Jean Encoule 2001