Veteran of the 80s Aussie underground wars, MICK MEDEW is back with his first solo album.
A founder member of seminal Brisbane garage band THE 31ST, the guitarist and singer racked up several indie chart hits with his band THE SCREAMING TRIBESMEN, with now classic singles like ‘Igloo’ and ‘Date With A Vampire’.
He would go on to record with Naked Lunch, Mick Medew & The Rumours and most recently, The Mesmerisers, who released their second album Open Season last year.
Psychopharmacologist features nine songs worked up over five years of solo shows in Brisbane and Mlebourne and includes an instrumental retooling of the classic ‘Igloo’.
Psychopharmacologist is out now through I-94 Bar Records and is available to buy through Bandcamp.
Check out the video for ‘When The Wood Is Brown (Full Return)’…
Hollywood rockers FRANKIE & THE STUDS are back with a brand new single and video.
The swaggering, buzzsaw-riffing, irrepressibly melodic ‘(Not Your) Victim’ is the band’s first fruit of a new deal with Australia’s Punktured Media. It was produced at Buzzbomb Studios by Paul Miner of Orange County punks Death By Stereo.
“‘(Not Your) Victim’ is a song inspired by the inherent strength women possess,” explains frontwoman Frankie Clarke. “Through the challenges of living in a patriarchal society, we can never have enough reminders of our innate superpowers as women. Women supporting women is a powerful force to be reckoned with and this song reminds us to do just that.”
‘Not Your’ Victim’ is available from Apple, Spotify and all the usual platforms.
London alt-rockers APEMAN SPACEMAN have a new single out and they’re premiering the video exclusively with Vive Le Rock!
Following on from last year’s ‘Civil War’ single, ‘Truth Is A Thing Of The Past’ casts an eye on the grim absurdity of the current world political climate. The self-made video, edited by Nick Mason (not the Pink Floyd one, we suspect), sees the band members as world leaders engaged in schoolboy larks as society teeters on the edge of the abyss….
Says frontman Johnny Cooke, “We are in danger of losing our democracies to international gangs of sociopathic school boys playing games with the lives of billions, and the very fabric of society is being undermined by a tidal wave of bullsh*t. We must fight for the truth.”
Formed in 2015 out of the ashes of Island Records-signed Top 40 hitmakers DOGS, Apeman Spaceman are Johnny Cooke (vocals and guitar), Rikki Mehta (guitar), Alexi Christou (bass) and Ethan Kennedy (drums).
‘Truth Is A Thing Of The Past’ is available to pre-save on Spotify.
Desert rockers STONE DEAF have just dropped a video for their brand new single.
The bulldozing ‘Polaroid’ is taken from the Colorado band’s third album Killers, which is due out later this year on Coffin & Bolt Records through Golden Robot. It follows on from their 2015 self-titled debut and 2018’s Royal Burnout.
The band was born in a pizza shop owned by singer/guitarist/songwriter Dust Chapin in the small town of New Castle on the Colorado River. Writing and recording the band’s debut album on his own, Chapin says, “The idea was to capture the spontaneity of previous punk bands I played in only having a few hundred bucks to make a record. I’d start at 9 a.m. with nothing tracked and whatever was done by midnight was the end of that song.”
Before long, Chapin recruited pizza shop employee Cody Isaman on bass, drummer Kristofer Petross and second guitarist Scott Anderson. The result is a band sludgy like Kyuss but with the energy of Hellacopters’ action rock and a smattering of post-punk darkness.
Aussie rockers THE MERCY KILLS are back with a video taster for their new mini-album.
Live favourite ‘Fall’ is taken from the Melbourne quartet’s forthcoming 7-tracker X which is due out on Golden Robot Records on 2 October. It’s a remastered version of the track that previously appeared on the b-side of their New Rule EP back in 2010.
Formed in the seaside suburb of St Kilda in 2008, the band, who’ve been described as mixing Appetite for Destruction era Guns N’ Roses with Ramones-style punk began their career sharing stage with local legends like Rose Tattoo, You Am I and Tumbleweed, going on to tour with such international stars as Killing Joke, New York Dolls, Misfits and Supersuckers.
Fast-rising roots rockers RICHARD DAVIES & THE DISSIDENTS are back with a brand new single and video which they’re premiering exclusively with Vive Le Rock!
‘Echo Road’ is taken from the band’s debut album Human Traffic, released in June through Bucketfull Of Brains Records. It’s backed with an exclusive specially recorded version of the Lords Of The New Church classic ‘Russian Roulette’.
Led by Davies, previously guitarist with TINY MONROE, THE SNAKES and PETER PERRETT, the Dissidents are a supergroup of sorts, featuring members of MEGA CITY FOUR, LAST GREAT DREAMERS and CASE HARDIN. They’ve been described as sounding like ‘Johnny Thunders meets Tom Petty’ and received a glowing 9-out-of-10 review in Vive Le Rock from Role Models’ Rich Ragany.
“Echo Road is the first song that I wrote for the album,” explains Davies. “It’s about being unable to escape the past. I think we recorded a few versions, but this one felt like a good radio song. It’s also the first song that Neil [Scully, keyboards] played on. I wanted to write something accessible to as many people as possible. Hopefully I managed to do that!!!
“Russian Roulette has always been a fave of mine. I think it was Tim [Emery, bass]’s idea to record a version. It’s a bit of a sacred cow, but I think we managed to record a good version. Tony James wrote it and I love pretty much everything he ever did.”
The general public will get their first chance to see the band (lockdown permitting) on 26 September when they play The Abbey Arms, Abbey Wood in South London. Also on the bill are King Salami & The Cumberland Three, Oh Gunquit, Sister Suzie and more.
‘Echo Road’ and ‘Russian Roulette’ are out now on Spotify and all the usual digital platforms.
London punks HEALTHY JUNKIES have just unveiled a video for their new single.
‘Last Day In L.A.’ is the first single to be taken from the band’s forthcoming new album Forever On The Road.
The album title reflects the band’s relentless touring and the single, naturally, harks back to a day spent in the city during the band’s 2018 US tour. The album was recorded by the band when they were forced to curtail their touring activities.
‘Last Day In L.A.’ is available now on Spotify and all the usual digital platforms.
Forever On The Road is set for release on 25 September on their own Banana Castle label.
Anarcho-punk legends HAGAR THE WOMB are just one of a raft of bands added to the bill of next year’s Loud Women Fest.
Now on it’s fifth instalment, the festival was postponed this year because of Covid 19, but is set to return on 20 March 2021 at the 229 venue on Great Portland Street, where more than 20 female and female-fronted acts will be appearing across two stages.
Alongside Hagar The Womb and previously announced headliners BANG BANG ROMEO, acts so far scheduled to appear include ARXX, GENN, PINK LEMONADE, I DORIS, BREAKUP HAIRCUT, BUGEYE, HONEY JOY, JELLY CLEAVER, LILITH AI, THE EMPTY PAGE and MIRI. More to be announced…
Captain Sensible and Paul Gray’s side project THE SENSIBLE GRAY CELLS return heralding a brand new album with a single and video.
‘I Married A Monster’ is taken from Get Back Into The World, the DAMNED pair’s second album for the project since the acclaimed A Postcard From Britain in 2013.
“We love all those old Ealing comedies, Carry On films and 1950’s hammy-horror movies like The Blob and I Married A Monster From Outer Space,” explains Paul about the song. “This is our musical tongue-in-cheek spoof homage to them….after all, you never can quite be sure…can you??”
With the world locked down through Covid, and touring effectively cancelled, Sensible and Gray, finding themselves with time on their hands, convened with JOHNNY MOPED drummer Marty Love to record an album of songs exploring and demonstrating their collective affection for 60s psych-pop.
“PG and myself being garage-psych aficionados feel there should be more of this kind of music and this is our contribution to the cause,” explains the Captain. “If I said that some of these songs were ‘Damned rejects’ that shouldn’t be seen as an indication of inferior song writing, more that they’re not wearing the right shirt.
“I’ve never been a prolific writer being a lazy so and so, I think it’s best to wait for inspiration to call, which explains the seven-year gap (how many albums could the Beatles have crammed in that period!) but in the meantime Paul re-joined the Damned and we’ve gigged about a bit, which is always fun – CAN WE HAVE LIVE MUSIC BACK AGAIN PLEASE!”
Speaking about the album, the Captina continues, “It’s sad that high streets around the world have been destroyed by online shopping but nobody’s forcing people to do it – what can you do? These are very strange times we’re living though – I just count myself lucky to have been around to witness the second half of the 20th Century; a fab time for music, culture, ideas and that without even mentioning Benny Hill and On The Buses. The new album coincides with all this virus malarkey, which, unpleasant as it is, will undoubtedly be used by the powers that be to tighten the screws on us little people on behalf of their billionaire paymasters. Blah blah, etc. There’s a bit of that hidden away in the album.”
Set for release on 27 November through Damaged Goods in various formats and limited edition colour options, Get Back Into The World is available to pre-order here.
Rejuvenated post-punks FOLK DEVILS have unveiled another video from their new comeback EP.
‘My Slum Soul’ is taken from the Forever EP, which features the band’s first new music in more than three decades. Along with this and the brand new, previously revealed, title track, the release also features a new recording of the live favourite ‘Ink Runs Dry’.
The poignant video is the work of the band’s new singer Dave Hodgson, who joined in place of the late Ian Lowery when the band reconvened in 2016.
Forming out of the Notting Hill punk scene in 1983, Folk Devils quickly caught the attention of the inkies and John Peel, who awarded them three of his legendary sessions. They also found kindred spirits on support dates with the likes of The Fall, The Gun Club, Screaming Blue Messiahs and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
Recorded at London’s iconic Konk Studios with Grammy-winning producer Rik Simpson, the Forever EP is set for release on 18 September through Optic Nerve Recordings. Available on limited edition translucent red 10″ vinyl, CD and download, it’s available to pre-order here.
Long-lost Edinburgh post-punks SCARS are to have their sole album reissued in a deluxe expanded edition this Autumn.
Formed in 1977, the four-piece were north-of-the-border contemporaries of The Pop Group and Gang Of Four and adopted a similar scratchy funk template, but with a more commercial, almost New Romantic, quality, making their lack of success all the more baffling.
Fronted by Robert King and featuring bassist John Mackie, drummer Calum McKay (then Steve McLaughlin) and brilliantly-named guitarist Paul Research, like Gang Of Four, they released their debut single ‘Adult/ery’ on Bob Last’s Fast Product label before signing to PRE Records, the New Wave sub-label of Charisma, also briefly home to The Monochrome Set, Manicured Noise and Delta 5.
Released in 1981, Author! Author! is rated as a classic in post-punk terms and was rated by The Scotsman newspaper as number 75 in the top 100 Scottish rock and pop albums of all time. The band splitting the following year, the short and tumultuous story of Scars is told in Grant McPhee’s award-winning documentary Big Gold Dream.
Crying out for a reissue, Author! Author! is now presented by Cherry Red Records as a 3-CD set: alongside the original 10-track album, the set also includes stand-alone singles, b-sides and demos featuring covers of Steve Harley’s ‘The Psychomodo’, David Essex’s ‘Silver Dream Racer’ and Jacques Brel’s ‘Next’, previously made famous by Scots rock legends, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
There’s also a full CD of live tracks spanning the years ’78 to ’81, taken from six gigs, including Edinburgh’s White Hart pub and George Square Theatre, Glasgow’s Plaza Ballroom and Valentino’s club, and 11 tracks from a show in Groningen in The Netherlands.
Author! Author! is set for release on 30 October and is available to pre-order here.
Check out ‘Leave Me In Autumn’ from The Old Grey Whistle Test….
Rock legends BLUE ÖYSTER CULT are back with a brand new album, heralded by a new video.
‘That Was Me’ is taken from the album The Symbol Remains, the New York band’s fourteenth studio album and first in almost twenty years.
Only singer Eric Bloom and guitarist Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser remain from the band’s original line-up while guitarist/keyboardist Richie Castellano and drummer Jules Radino have been with the band since 2004 and bassist Danny Miranda returned in 2017 after a long sting in the late 90s and early 00s.
The video features a guest appearance from the band’s original drummer Albert Bouchard on vocals and cowbell, a reference to the enduring Saturday Night Live ‘more cowbell’ sketch.
“The goal was for the new music to stand up to the quality and vitality of our legacy recordings and I believe we have successfully achieved that,” explains Roeser. “Other than that, the sound of our voices and style of our writing and playing can’t help but sound familiar to fans of our work.”
Bloom adds “The album title comes from a quote of an old Sandy Pearlman lyric, which basically we are using to show that the band is back and still rocking after all these years. To me, it means we’re still here and doing what we do.”
Sandy Pearlman was a student colleague of the Cult when they formed at Stony Brook University, London Island in the late-60s, managing and producing the band and contributing to several songs. He would infamously go on to produce Give ‘Em Enough Rope by The Clash.
Pitched between psychedelia, the proto-punk of the MC5 and the biker rock of Steppenwolf, their self-titled debut, Tyranny & Mutation and Secret Treaties (the latter two featuring lyrics by Patti Smith) – have been hugely influential, not least on Radio Birdman and the Australian underground scene of the late-70s and early-80s.
Set for release on 9 October through Frontiers Music on double-vinyl, CD and download, The Symbol Remains is available to pre-order here.
Dapper young songsmith about town, BRANDY ROW is back with a brand new single and video, which he’s premiering exclusively with Vive Le Rock!
The moddish, folksy ‘Crazy World’, recorded with his 12-piece band The Coalition of Sound, is the first single to be taken from Brandy’s forthcoming debut album In Reverse, while the accompanying video by Gary Chandler-Honor casts a lysergic eye over otherwise refreshingly normal-looking London cityscapes.
Having spent several years touring with the likes of Adam Ant, Glen Matlock, Earl Slick and Slim Jim Phantom, East Londoner Brandy has spent four years preparing for the release of the album which draws on such increasingly relevant issues as mental health, spirituality, social climate and addiction.
‘Crazy World’ is available now on Spotify and all the usual digital platforms, while In Reverse will follow later in the year.
This Autumn will see the release of a major new anthology from Irish guitar legend RORY GALLAGHER.
Born in County Donegal by raised in Cork, Gallagher was revered as a player by early contemporaries such as Hendrix and Clapton, and was even shortlisted as a Rolling Stone, going on to put his unique and uncompromising stamp on the blues-rock format.
Passing away in 1995 from complications following a liver transplant at the age of just 47, he released eleven studio albums and three live albums during his lifetime, selling 30 million albums worldwide and influencing a raft of musicians such as Brian May, Johnny Marr, Slash, The Edge and many more.
The Best Of Rory Gallagher has been compiled by Rory’s nephew Daniel, the MD of the Rory Gallagher Archive and draws from material right across the guitarist’s career, from the 1969 debut of his early power trio Taste, right up to his final studio album Fresh Evidence in 1990.
Available as 2-CD, 1-CD, digital and double vinyl editions, the 2-CD and vinyl versions will feature as bonus tracks (the latter as a 7″ single) ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis, and ‘Cruise On Out’ from Rory’s 1978 album Photo-Finish. ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ will also be given as an instant download on digital pre-orders.
Set for release on Friday 9 October, The Best Of Rory Gallagher is available to pre-order here.
Check out ‘Shadow Play’ from Photo-Finish live in ’79 at Middlesex Poly for the BBC’s Rock Goes To College…
Southcoast sisterhood MAID OF ACE are back with a new video which they’re premiering exclusively with Vive Le Rock!
The irresistibly anthemic ‘Live Fast Or Die’ is the title track from the band’s brand new album, the band’s third following on from 2014’s self-titled debut and 2016’s Maid In England. The video is the work of acclaimed punk filmmaker Mark Richards.
Produced once again by Dan Lucas, the 11-track album includes previous singles ‘The Terror’ and ‘Repent’. The band are looking forward to touring the new album in 2021.
Live Fast Or Die is available to download now from Bandcamp and pre-order on vinyl and CD here. It will be available on all digital platforms here soon.
Read a new interview about the making of the album and what the band’s been up to in the new edition of Vive Le Rock!, available here.
Devon rockers MORIATY are back with a brand new single and video.
‘Shake’ is the first single to be taken from the duo’s new album The Die Is Cast, which is due out in October.
“It’s a riff that popped into my head whilst driving to a rehearsal,” says singer and guitarist Jordan West. “As soon as we set up I played it straight away, and moments later we had a song. It’s one of those songs that – quite fittingly – just fell from the sky.”
Hotly-tipped at the time of their debut album The Devil’s Child back in 2013, Moriaty picked up a huge following for their 21st century punk-blues, with several high profile festival slots and dates with the likes of Muse and Seasick Steve. Along the way they’ve picked up numerous celebrity fans, including Thom Yorke and members of IDLES, who’ve even starred in their videos.
Much delayed by such life-changing events as births, deaths and Covid-19, The Die Is Cast is set for release through Easy Action Records on 23 October.
‘Shake’ is available now on Spotify, Apple and all the usual platforms.
As the last Heartbreaker checks out, Vive Le Rock pays tribute to Walter Lure with this archive interview by Mark McStea. Below, Duff McKagan, Billy Duffy, Michael Monroe, Gilby Clarke, Jim Jones and Mick Rossi salute NYC’s finest…
As THE HEARTBREAKERS’ sole studio album ‘LAMF’ celebrates its 40th birthday, Mark Mc Stea tracked down Water Lure, the band’s sole surviving member, to get his take on risks taken and chances lost.
‘LAMF’ sounded simultaneously old and new at the same time. Drawing on all the roots of rock ’n’ roll, it put a streetwise NYC spin on the familiar themes of lust, love and scoring drugs. Where bands like the Pistols, The Clash and others sounded angry, ‘LAMF’ went against the grain; the excitement of great songs played fast and loud, with no other agenda than to have a good time.
The Heartbreakers had the coolest looks and the biggest hooks – truly tapping into the romantic soul of rock ’n’ roll. No need to get hung up on nihilistic dogma, or ‘I’m So bored’/’Destroy’ tropes, the Heartbreakers cut their own groove in an age where predictable non-conformity became the new orthodoxy.
And let’s also just nail this revisionist myth – it was The Heartbreakers on the cover of the album – not ‘Johnny Thunders and’. Even the name – The Heartbreakers – perfectly sums up the entire history of bad boy rock ’n’ roll. You know instantly what you’ll be getting – and not the torpid, tepid Tom Petty misappropriation.
In spite of the general disappointment over the muddiness of the mix when it was released, nothing could blunt the sharpness of the writing and playing. The various subsequent re-released/remastered/repackaged incarnations only reinforced what was always there – killer songs played by a band at the very top of their game. The over-emphasis on its sonic failings can be a little overstated; for those back in ‘77 without mega hi-fi systems, the inherent brightness of their cheap stereos somewhat compensated for the darker sounding mix.
Certainly, the negative take from the reviewers at that time certainly had no influence on sales as far as I can see – I know of no-one who didn’t buy it purely because the sound quality was a bit off. There are a number of websites that explore the various takes and mixes available around the world from when the album was first released, and some of the differences are quite striking. Perhaps the ultimate evaluation of ‘LAMF’ would be to track down the whole lot and run each version of every song back to back.
Of all 1977’s major players, only the Ramones – with whom the Heartbreakers had various ties – share that escapist “we’re in this band to have a good time, fuck angst, art and artifice” attitude. The notion that the Heartbreakers were too out of it to deliver needs to be laid to rest. True, they were clearly not choir boys, and prone to all the standard rock ’n’ roll excesses – Johnny Thunders in particular – but a little chaos goes a long way. Thunders always liked to bait audiences, but it was reasonably under control in the Heartbreakers – although in later years some of his rants could be fairly lengthy.
This was always part of Johnny’s make-up – part of his streetwise, wise-guy persona. Former Arrow, Alan Merrill (writer of ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll’), remembers a time in a New York guitar shop in 1972 when Merrill’s band mate, Jake Hooker, was playing a Les Paul. Johnny walked up to him and said, “Hey, that sounds pretty good – How long you been playing? Two weeks?”
Whereas Walter Lure similarly over-indulged, he still seemed to be keeping at least one hand on the wheel – rarely missing cues, words or solos. The Heartbreakers were about economy of motion – no wasted effort – songs pared down to the essential. Walter, who shared vocal and guitar duties with Thunders, occupies that role in the Heartbreakers that is sadly becoming all the more common these days, as the grim reaper continues to cut down our heroes – that of the last man standing.
The Heartbreakers are hardly the only thing that Lure’s done in a career that has taken him from punk legend to the world of high finance on Wall Street. He’s had several bands since the days of the Heartbreakers – most notably the Waldos – and continues to tour on a fairly regular basis around the world. The Waldos’ ‘Rent Party’ album is a no-brainer, essential purchase for any Heartbreakers fan – mining that same rich seam of pure rock ’n’ roll gold.
It is inevitable though, that he will forever be questioned about that era. The Heartbreakers arrived in the UK on the day of the Pistols/Grundy shitstorm, and were scheduled to join the Anarchy Tour. The problem was that very few dates escaped the small-minded, small town councillors clutching desperately to their small vestiges of power with their Victorian sensibilities.
It’s often said that the Heartbreakers brought heroin culture to the UK scene – as well as the notorious Nancy Spungen. Whatever negatives there were, they certainly supplied a sack full of ready-made charisma and credibility via Johnny Thunders’ and Jerry Nolan’s New York Dolls past. Sadly Johnny fully embodied the entire ‘live fast, die young’ credo. He was found dead in New Orleans under suspicious circumstances in 1991 at only 38. Officially overdosed, it was later revealed that he was in the advanced stages of leukaemia, which helps explain how bad he looked near the end. Jerry Nolan didn’t last much longer – dead at 45 in 1992 of a stroke, having been in the advanced stages of meningitis and also suffering from pneumonia. Billy Rath was the last to pass in 2014 at 68, suffering from throat cancer.
‘LAMF’ was the only Heartbreakers studio album, although there have been a few official and semi-official live albums that have appeared over the years – some featuring different line ups.
I know that the band you were in before the Heartbreakers was the Demons; are there any recordings from your time in the band? Walter Lure: “They made one album after I left them for the Heartbreakers but I didn’t play on it. I only played a few gigs with them in the early days and don’t know if there are any recordings with me on them.” [NB: Their album is worth tracking down even without Walter’s involvement. Any Heartbreakers/Dolls fan would find plenty to like therein]
Who were your initial influences? “As a guitarist my main influences were the top three or four Brits in this order: Clapton, Page, Beck, early Peter Green – when he was with John Mayall and early Fleetwood Mac – and finally my favourite overall, just for his sound and phrasing was Mick Taylor, which you might recognize in my solo on ‘It’s Not Enough’.”
Were you a fan of the Dolls? “Yes! Yes! Yes! They changed the whole rock scene and could be considered the progenitors or grandmothers of the whole punk scene. Rock had by that point degenerated to virtuoso musicians indulging in group masturbation – endless solos in endless songs with very little beat to them from groups like Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Flash etc, ad infinitum. The first time I saw the Dolls, they knocked me out because here was a band I could identify with: wild clothes and back to rocking those three minutes or less rock songs – fast and furious. Every young guy like myself could again learn a few guitar chords and start a band and become famous. You didn’t have to be a classically trained pianist anymore. They really gave birth to the whole punk scene in the US and the UK.”
Did much UK glam filter over to the USA in early 1970s? “Yes, we got plenty of it and I also saw most of it. From the mid-60s to the mid-70s I was an avid concert goer, and the only bands I really liked were the British bands. They dressed better and also played better than the American bands like Grateful Dead and others (I know many people disagree on this, but fuck ‘em). In any case, glam started getting really tired by the time the Dolls came up.”
Isn’t it the case that the Heartbreakers arrived in UK on the night of the Bill Grundy incident? “Yes, we landed on the same day the Pistols were on the Grundy show. Malcolm McLaren and his assistant, Sophie, picked us up at the airport. We had no idea what had happened, but Malcolm looked like he was losing his mind and was babbling about the fallout from the show. Next day it was on the front page of every paper in London and TV shows were constantly ranting about it. We were all wondering why everyone was making such a big deal about someone saying ‘fuck’ on national TV, but the British public got really crazy over it. That led to three quarters of the shows being cancelled on the Anarchy tour, but also got us so much publicity that no amount of money could buy.”
What was it like to be dropped into the middle of that storm with gigs being cancelled nearly every night? “The Anarchy Tour was incredible, with all the media hoopla around constantly. Every day we would get to a new city and sit in the hotel until they told us the gig was cancelled. We would all then go to the hotel bar and proceed to drink all night, until we did it all over again the next morning. When we actually got to play a gig it was great. Best thing was that we became good friends with all the bands, and were immediately accepted into the pantheon of British punk royalty just by being associated with the tour.”
The story is that Nancy Spungen only turned up in the UK because she was asked to bring some guitars over for the band… “Yes, that was true. Nancy used to hang out at the clubs in NYC and was always looking to make friends with band members – especially us. She was a topless dancer and part-time prostitute during the day so always had available cash. Johnny and Jerry became friends with her right away – she was helping finance their heroin habits. Johnny and Jerry used to routinely pawn their guitars for dope money so Jerry had his in the pawn shop when we went to the UK. He spoke with Nancy by phone from London and convinced her to pay to get the guitar out of pawn, and then bring it to him in London. She did it of course, so one day she shows up at our flat in London where we were living. She came in with the guitar and literally half an hour later Jerry kicked her out of the flat. She then started to hang out in London and meet all the bands – she must have been whoring as well just to finance herself. She was universally detested by almost everyone that met her – how Sid Vicious got to like her is a question I’ve never figured out. Maybe it was just sheer perversity – he always liked to shock people.”
What did you think of the UK scene? “I loved the UK scene even better than the NYC scene once we got there. NYC was basically a few mini scenes within an entire overall scene – there were the basic punks like Ramones, then the beatnik/artsy gang like Patti Smith and Talking Heads, then the leftover metal heads like the Dictators and Shirts, and also the rockers like us and the Dead Boys, and a few others. I didn’t really consider the Heartbreakers a punk band, but really a rock band that took on some of punk’s ideas and themes. But I did love fast, screaming music. However, when we got to London it was all punks. They all had wild coloured hair like in the Dolls era in NYC and they were all young and crazy. Most of them could barely play their instruments, and their sets consisted of all 90mph songs with screaming vocals that nobody could understand. Basically they were a bunch of screaming kids, and all totally hilarious.
“We’d go out every night to a few clubs to see them, and the scenes were totally wild. I remember seeing Eater for the first time, and they played roughly a 15-minute set at the top of their lungs. They could barely play but made up for it with their enthusiasm. They were all on speed and LSD back then. We actually introduced them to heroin, for better or worse. All of the older bands like the Stones and Led Zeppelin were already junkies for years, but the punks hadn’t gotten into it yet. They all supported one another as well. The Clash put us up for a few weeks in their roadie’s parents’ house after the Anarchy Tour was over so we could get past the Christmas holidays, so we could do our showcase show for the record companies.”
Who were your favourite bands from then? “By far, the Sex Pistols were my favourite from back then, and still are today. They got the best sound at their gigs and on their records. Other faves were Generation X, The Clash – who still sounded rather tinny until they got Topper Headon later on – Siouxsie and the Banshees, who used to tour with us.”
I’m always glad you didn’t change name to ‘The Junkies’, as was often mooted – whose idea was that? “That idea came from Jerry and Johnny backed him up. I didn’t care one way or the other but saw the wisdom in our manager Leee Childers’ idea that the only way we could get away with that was if we all were not junkies. The record company wouldn’t have accepted it either and they told us so. If we did it and stayed junkies, the cops would have arrested us eventually and deported us, if not put us in jail. Besides, junkies are only attractive to other junkies – kids on speed, pot and LSD do not admire junkies – they just look stupid.”
Who came up with the title ‘LAMF’ for the album? “The ‘LAMF’ title was suggested by Jerry Nolan. It was common wall graffiti when I was growing up, used by many of the old greaser street gangs of the ‘50s. They would sign their names and always follow with ‘LAMF-DTK’.”
How disappointed were you when you heard the muddy version, as it was originally released? “We had been hearing it for months. Every time we listened to the record on tape in the studio it sounded fine, but as soon as it got pressed into vinyl, everything came up muddy. We tried God knows how many studios and pressing plants. Nothing worked. Jerry kept blaming the mix, but it was mixed a hundred times as well. In the end, the record company gave us the ultimatum – either release it or find a new label. They needed to have it out for the holiday season. Everyone except Jerry said ‘Okay’. Jerry quit the band at that point and Johnny would also leave to go solo in another six months – one of those crossroads events. When it was released on cassette tape a few years later, and later on CD, the muddiness disappeared – odd.”
What are your favourite songs on the album? “‘Not Enough’, ‘One Track Mind’, ‘Born To Lose’, ‘Chinese Rocks’, ‘All By Myself’, ‘Get Off…’, ‘Going Steady’, ‘Do You Love Me’.”
Were you still friendly with Johnny at the time of his death? “Yes, we were always pretty friendly – he’d come onstage during Waldos shows and do a song or two. We weren’t bosom buddies, especially after I’d gotten off drugs in the late ‘80s and John never did. We had done a big reunion show in NYC in the November before he died, but any shows were usually just a way to make money – the Heartbreakers always drew more people than when he played solo, but he had to split the cash with us, so it probably worked out about the same. John was just a completely drug obsessed maniac for the last 10 or 15 years of his life, so there was never any way to really work with him on any projects. Drugs always got in the way.”
What do you think he might have gone on to do if he’d lived – was it likely you would have reformed the Heartbreakers? “I doubt it would ever have happened. John never really wanted to regroup because he wouldn’t be in control anymore. Jerry didn’t really seem like he wanted to either. As long as John was on drugs, he’d never be able to play with any consistency and he was never able to get off drugs for any length of time. One-off gigs were fine for the cash, but committing to a time consuming project like a band was way out of his abilities at the time. If by some miracle he did get sober then there might have been a chance, but it was highly unlikely.”
What was the writing process for the Heartbreakers – were you bringing separate ideas to rehearsal? “Mostly it was whoever brought something into rehearsal that we all liked, with some exceptions. Stuff like ‘Can’t Keep My Eyes’ and ‘Take A Chance’ were started by Jerry, who had maybe a chorus and part of a verse, but would then ask me to finish the lyrics and sing it live. John mostly brought his own stuff in, with the exception of ‘London Boys’, where I wrote the music and John wrote the words. My stuff like ‘One Track Mind’, ‘Junkie Business’ and ‘Flight’ were written by me, but I shared credits with Jerry because he let me help write his songs. ‘All By Myself’ was written by Jerry and I in a rehearsal before John arrived. Jerry started playing a drumbeat and I played some chords and Jerry started singing ‘all by myself’ at certain parts of the song. I took it home and finished the lyrics.”
Who conceived the Pistols-baiting ‘London Boys’? “I first came up with the music as an answer to the Pistols’ ‘New York’. The music was structured to resemble a Pistols type song – they usually had big descending chord runs like in ‘God Save The Queen’, so I just did a chord sequence that ascended up the neck. I was going to write the words as well, but Johnny begged me to let him do them, as he felt that Rotten attacked him personally in the Pistols song ‘New York’. I agreed and thereby sprung to life the only song that Johnny and I wrote together.”
Were you still rehearsing and working up new material once you arrived in UK? “Not really. After we got signed and then started to record the first album, we were pretty tied up with that, along with constant touring in the UK. Later on, we would come up with new stuff like ‘Junkie Business’, ‘London Boys’, ‘Dead Or Alive’ etc, but they emerged sporadically.”
What is your take on McLaren – I always think he was the supreme opportunist who would see something unfold and then claim he had planned it. “Malcolm was definitely a manipulator, but also a visionary that managed to take advantage of certain trends at the right time. He was a disaster for the Dolls, but they might have been past their prime anyway when he got involved with them. The Sex Pistols were probably his biggest coup, but they didn’t last very long – although I’m sure he made a tidy sum managing them. His alliance/marriage to Vivienne Westwood also helped further his cause because they were making all the clothes that the punks were wearing. I found him to be always personable and friendly, but we were never engaged in a real business relationship. Not sure how he did in his later years, but he never came up with anything as big as the Pistols.”
How did you end up working on Wall Street? “I was strung out and in need of cash in the early ‘80s so my father, who was a retired retail banker, knew a friend who was involved in a computer firm that handled certain stock transactions for major banks. It concerned companies that were merged or taken over, where people who owned stock in those companies had to send them in to the bank that was the transfer agent for the stock, so it could be exchanged for either new stock or cash. We basically just added up a bunch of stock certificates and calculated what each shareholder was due. In banking lingo it’s called ‘corporate actions’ or ‘reorganization’.
“As I got into it, I found myself getting interested in the whole concept of how money, banking and stock investments worked. I never knew anything about money other than that I never had enough and always wanted more. So I started looking into the whole financial system and how it worked. I finally jumped to a brokerage firm in 1986 and learned a lot more. Finally getting off drugs in 1988, by 1993 I was in charge of a whole trade settlement operation and 125 people. After various mergers and financial crises I ended my career at an asset management firm and retired in 2015. I was also at Lehman Brothers when they exploded in 2008, heralding the start of the financial crisis.”
Did the Wall Street crowd know about your rock’n’roll roots? “Yes, all of the people at my Wall Street jobs knew about my rock roots and many of them would come to those late Heartbreakers reunions, and also Waldos shows. I remember one girl who worked for me was at a show one night, and she remarked to a friend while I was onstage – ‘that’s my boss up there onstage, go figure’. It was quite a schizophrenic existence – one side of my closet had my work suits and ties and the other had all these ripped up punk clothes. Funny to think of it.”
Would you have ever considered becoming a full time Ramone – given your appearances on a few tracks? Maybe Wally Ramone? “That wasn’t in the cards. When I was playing on their albums I was still a junkie and they never wanted anything to do with drugs with the exception of Dee Dee, who they couldn’t control. Nevertheless he was kicked out in later years. Also, the personnel dynamic within the band was incredibly infantile and fanatically controlled by Johnny, the control freak. I got along with all of them on different levels, but they never would have admitted me as an equal member even if I was not a druggie. All the drummers and later bass players were on a salaried basis only and they never granted them any royalty rights, no matter how much they contributed to the songs. They loved my guitar playing but didn’t want another full member. Wally Ramone – it sounded like a great idea, but they didn’t want it and I was too out of it.”
Does it feel strange or poignant to be the last man standing from the Heartbreakers? “Not really strange or poignant, but more of a ‘thank God I survived’ feeling. I guess I’m a bit proud of myself that I lasted so long, but I was never sure if that was because of my inner strength and ability to get out of the drug culture, or just the fickle finger of fate. Johnny couldn’t survive without drugs; indeed they actually defined him, in his own mind anyway. Jerry had been out of street drugs for years but also had been on methadone since late 1976, and I think that finally ate away at his body. Billy had also gotten off drugs from what I’d been told but he had already ruined himself – he had lost a leg in a car crash, had Hep C and also AIDS for the last ten to fifteen years of his life. When I saw him in London, the year before he died, he already looked like a corpse – no teeth and almost delirious in his limited conversation. So I guess it was up to me to stay alive and tell the stories, for better or worse.”
What is coming up for you musically? “At the moment I’m in the middle of making a new Waldos album – the basic tracks are done and we’re doing the overdubs and guest spots in the next few weeks. There might be a West Coast tour for me in August – details to be settled soon – and also a possible trip to Germany in September. Usually when I go on tour, I just bring myself and get a local back-up band to play with me. It’s too expensive to bring my NYC band on tour with me unless the cities offer a lot more cash. Sort of my Chuck Berry routine.”
The highlights of your career so far? “Obviously, being over in the UK with the Heartbreakers in the middle of all the punk madness was the best thing that ever happened to me. I felt that I was at the centre/top of the world back then and will carry the memories forever. The NYC scene was great too, but the UK was more fun for me. Also, the fact that I’m still playing gigs, and able to draw people from their teens to their seventies to my shows, gives me some satisfaction that what we did/are doing does actually matter. It’s been 40 years since the Anarchy tour and I’m still in the business. It lasted longer than my Wall Street career but was not quite as lucrative, unfortunately.”
Any low points? “I guess the bad parts were when Johnny went solo and the band was officially over in 1978, in spite of the fact that we did periodic reunions up until John died in 1991. Being a drug addict after it all was over was not very pleasant, either. I didn’t get out of that mess until early 1988. Ten years wasted on that stuff. There was a point in the mid ‘90s that I really felt depressed and wanted to stop playing for good. My Waldos drummer, Charlie Sox, died in 1992 or 1993, and the bass player Tony Coiro died in late 1995, and finally my younger brother passed away in 1997. I sort of felt responsible for all of them, except Tony who died of liver cancer and left two kids in grammar school.”
Any scores you’d like to settle? “None really. I have no enemies from that era to my knowledge and no real major regrets. I had that time in the sun and was grateful for it. I still say to this day that if we had made it bigger back then, I would have been dead by now like the others. More fame and cash would have prolonged the drug-addled lifestyle and I’m sure I would have succumbed much earlier. The fact that I had to go out and get a regular job back in the ‘80s really got me out of the drug culture.”
Duff McKagan “The Heartbreakers’ ‘LAMF’ sort of changed everything for me. Johnny Thunders’ guitar style and chops on this record were really all of the guitar lessons I ever took. Jerry Nolan’s drumming set the tempo for the life in music I was just then embarking on – and let us be honest here; at my young age of 15, this album cover was all I really needed to convince me that these guys were the coolest motherfuckers standing. Their style still influences me and many others to this day (the GN’R cowboy boot usage and slum-land chic, in my case at least, comes from this cover). ‘Pirate Love’, ‘Born To Lose’, and ‘One Track Mind’ are all true rock‘n’roll classics.
“I finally got to see a semblance of the band play live in my hometown of Seattle sometime in late 1980 or early ‘81. I followed them down to Portland with a couple of friends the next day, and found myself hanging out with Thunders later after the show, and even got a chance to jam with him. I got the whole picture (even at my young age) – he got high right after the show and didn’t want to get back in the van just yet. He rather chose to hang at the show after everyone – except us – had left because he wanted to enjoy that high. I will never lose that memory. To me, however, it was playing with a legend in league with Chuck Berry – drugs or not.”
Billy Duffy “I loved the Heartbreakers from the get go. As soon as I had seen the Pistols in ‘76 I was right into the punk scene and naturally became aware of the influence of New York on the UK bands. I loved the New York Dolls music, if not so much the make-up, and when I saw Johnny and the band I embraced them as my own personal slice of New York rock ’n’ roll.
“I didn’t really consider the Heartbreakers a punk band, but really a rock band that took on some of punk’s ideas and themes. But I did love fast, screaming music. When we got to London it was all punks.
“To my everlasting regret, I sadly missed them playing at a local Manchester pub called the Oaks, but I did manage to see them at Manchester University in 1977 when they were supported by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Models. As a Thunders obsessive and budding guitarist, I lusted after his ‘TV’ yellow double cut away Les Paul Junior and was horrified when I saw Marco Pirroni of the Models (later of Adam & The Ants) playing it as the first band on.
“Later that night, in the lobby of the building, I saw Johnny Thunders on a pay phone and – very unlike me – I approached him. He smiled, held up a hand like ‘I’m on the phone here’, reached into the small pocket of his Levi’s 501 jeans (not widely available in the UK at that time and certainly not in Manchester), and graciously offered me a gold Herco Flex 50 guitar pick, which I grabbed and ran.
“My last stop on my Thunders/Heartbreakers odyssey was in New York in the late ‘80s. The Cult had gotten big over there and we all went out for a drink and found Johnny was playing a show at the Cat Club, so we caught his set (by then not in the best shape, sadly, so it was patchy at best), and then after the show we jumped up using his band’s equipment for a drunken ‘Cult’ jam. I never met Johnny or the band guys apart from that one time at Manchester University but that 30 seconds changed my life – ‘LAMF’.”
Michael Monroe “The Heartbreakers’ ‘LAMF’ album is very significant to me and to Hanoi Rocks. It is one of the greatest rock albums of all time, plus the name Hanoi Rocks stems from the name of the song ‘Chinese Rocks’. I’ve even recorded a version of ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ on my album ‘Demolition 23’. Johnny Thunders was one of the most important people in rock and was also a very dear friend of mine. I guested on his solo album ‘Que Sera Sera’, and collaborated with him on many occasions. I’ve also had the great honour of jamming with Walter Lure live and guesting on his Waldos album. The Heartbreakers’ ‘LAMF’ album is essential listening to anyone who’s into real authentic rock ’n’ roll with the right kind of attitude.”
Gilby Clarke “The Dolls and Johnny were influences on Guns N’Roses – that was a common thread in the band. Duff had ‘LAMF’ painted on his bass cabinet from the early GN’R days and he kept that cabinet through the ‘…Illusion’ tour. We recorded a Thunders song for ‘The Spaghetti Incident’ as well as ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’.”
Jim Jones “The Heartbreakers were a complete band – a perfect unit, and a chemistry that wouldn’t be the same without all the members. The early formation with Richard Hell was a great idea on paper, but could never achieve the toughness and sleaze of the final line-up on ‘LAMF’. It was a huge part of my formative musical education – a masterclass in how to sound raw and dirty and dangerous but with class and swing – all the things that were (and still are) sadly lacking in so many of its contemporaries. ‘LAMF’ is actual rock ’n’ roll – so much other stuff is just rock.”
Mick Rossi “Upon meeting Johnny Thunders, what struck me first was his immediate kindness. He took me under his wing a little. My band, Slaughter and the Dogs, were touring with the Heartbreakers, and I remember at that time I wasn’t able to afford a good amp, but Johnny had no problem sharing his amp with me, which I always thought was so gracious of him. There are many wonderful things to be said about Johnny Thunders – the obvious is that he had a unique sound and a very individualistic authentic sense of style, and he played with an amazing amount of conviction and passion. However, Johnny T was way more than that. He was a true, trail blazing, musical maverick.”
THE MIDDLENIGHT MEN have just unveiled a video for their second single.
‘Rat Star’ follows on from the London powerpoppers’ effervescent debut ‘BA Baby’ which came out in June and was premiered by Vive Le Rock!
The brainchild of Role Models and YoYos guitarist Nick Hughes, with help from Status Quo’s Leon Cave, producer Andy Brook and others, The Middle Night Men are gearing up for the release of their debut album ISSUE 1 due early next year.
“‘Rat Star’ is the song everyone needs right now,” says Hughes. “A fan couldn’t have put it better when they said ‘This is brilliant, just what we all need right now – no nonsense, unapologetic rock’n’roll FUN! Love it, more sparklers all round!’ And that’s everything it was intended to be. Unapologetic fun, a method of escapism of everything 2020.”