Saturday, February 18, 2017

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers L.A.M.F. Radio Special & Show # 645


Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers formed in 1975 following the demise of the New York Dolls. Guitarist/vocalist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan started The Heartbreakers. Originally a three-piece band with Richard Hell on bass, the band became a four-piece when they added guitarist Walter Lure to the mix. Although they recorded a ten-track demo with this line-up, Richard Hell did not stay with The Heartbreakers long. Richard Hell’s erratic bass rhythms were replaced by a more soulful bass sound, provided by Billy Rath, who would replace Hell when he left the group. Hell would form The Voidoids. In 1976, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers were asked to join the infamous Anarchy Tour in the UK, alongside bands such as The Clash, The Damned and The Sex Pistols. Shortly after this tour, the band that was stranded in London with little money, decided to stick around London on their manager’s insistence. They were offered a recording contract with Track Records after playing several well attended shows in the UK.

The band set about recording their full-length debut in March of 1977, but once the recording was completed, the band spent six months mixing the record. Recorded in two different studios (although several demos were recorded beforehand), L.A.M.F. was put together with songs recorded at Essex Studios with Speedy Keen and The Who’s Ramport Studios. There were many factors said to be at play during this time period while mixing the album. The band mixed the album several times, in different ways and in different studios during this period. With each band member reportedly doing their own mix of the album, a form of cabin fever set in. As the mixing process continued, the band continued to play live. A single was released of Chinese Rocks in 1977. It received criticisms in the press in regards to the subject matter. Having writing origins with Dee Dee Ramone, the song told the story of drug addiction and real life experiences. As Johnny Thunders once said of the song “They can fuckin' hate heroin and still like “Chinese Rocks”…”. And despite the criticisms, the single sold 20, 000 copies, causing it to rise to the top of the alternative rock charts.

After months of mixing, the band had to release L.A.M.F. before the Christmas rush of 1977 or it would not be released at all. L.A.M.F. was released October 1977. However, by the time the album was released, the band had broken up. The album itself was plagued by a muddy sound causing it to not receive the recognition it should have at the time. While some thought that maybe it could be the mixing of the album that caused this, it was later revealed that the mastering process of the album muddied up the sound. As a result drummer Jerry Nolan quit the band and for many years, the greatness of one of the most raw rock albums from this era lay hidden underneath waves of muddy sound.

Musically, the songs were seeped in the influences of 50’s rock n’ roll such as Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, R&B, as well as artists such as The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. The guitar work on this album was a balance of the intense switchblade rock n’ roll sounds of guitarist/vocalists Johnny Thunders and Walter Lure, alongside the raved up soulful bass sounds of Billy Rath and the in the pocket drum sounds of Jerry Nolan. Lyrically, the songs of L.A.M.F. showcase “anthemic slices of urban despair and reckless romance”, as it was described by Johnny Thunders biographer, Nina Antonia in the 2012 linear notes to the Definitive Edition of L.A.M.F. It was no secret that Johnny and members of the band lived a lifestyle that involved drug use. It definitely has a big part in the band's history. And while this subject is brought up when discussing this band, album and its songs, it isn’t all this album is. The songs when separated from the band's history stand up on their own and keep people returning to L.A.M.F.

Songs such as “Born To Lose” with its sleazy guitar intro and lyrics such as “Living in a jungle/It ain’t so hard/But living in the city/it’ll eat out your heart”, starts off the album with reflections of urban despair and a title that can be reflective of the band’s lifestyle. This is another title that can derive several meanings, even though it started out as “Born Too Loose”, which is a little joke that is actually sung in the chorus of this song. “All By Myself” is a song written by Lure and drummer Jerry Nolan and sung by Lure, “It’s Not Enough” a slow 50s influenced ballad, played with a 12-string guitar. It is the only slow song on this album and stands out from the other fast rock n’ roll songs found here. “Pirate Love” delves into more urban dynamics and has its origins as a song performed in The New York Dolls, the part Bowie/part Eddie Cochran, “Get Off The Phone” brings forth a Proustian moment (as stated by Walter Lure in the 2003 linear notes to L.A.M.F. The Lost 77 Mixes) as it relates to a phone obsessed character, “One Track Mind” operates on two levels, one as a song with drug related imagery and allusions, and two as a character obsessed with one subject. In this case what seems to be a love interest. “Goin’ Steady’ reflects Thunders love of sixties girl groups as “Let Go” with it’s electric, countrified guitar licks ends the original L.A.M.F album.

Despite breaking up shortly after this album’s release, The Heartbreakers would occasionally perform live for the next twelve years. In 1984 Jungle Records released a remixed version of L.A.M.F., that was mixed by both Johnny Thunders and Tony James (of Generation X). The mixes were created from the master tapes from the album’s original recording sessions that were acquired by The Heartbreakers manager Leee Black Childers when Track Records went out of business. L.A.M.F. Revisited seemed to feature an 80s production sound and as a result, is often ignored by fans of the band. In 1994, after going through a multitude of mixes created on master reels, Jungle Records released L.A.M.F.: The Lost 77 Mixes. This version of the album restored not only the sound of the album’s intent, but also one that matched up to the band’s live status. It is now seen as the definitive version of the album. In 2012, Jungle Records released L.A.M.F.: The Definitive Edition, a box set compiling demos, the original mix of L.A.M.F. (with the muddiness removed) and alternate mixes.

In his review for L.A.M.F. Jon Savage stated that “the sound [of the album], doesn’t do the band justice”. It took seventeen years to remove the mud that clouded these songs that were recorded in 1977. And while Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan both passed away by 1992, the sound and intent of the album live on. The mud has been cleared and its sound, which is often described as punk, is an album that strives for rock n roll purity. L.A.M.F. brings forth a vicious, sleazy cleverness that punches you in the stomach when you’re not looking.

L.A.M.F. Playlist:

1. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Born To Lose (Original Muddy Version) (L.A.M.F. - 1977)
2. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Goin' Steady (instrumental Version) (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 2003)
3. New York Dolls - Chatterbox (Too Much Too Soon - 1974)
4. New York Dolls - Trash (New York Dolls - 1973)
5. The Heartbreakers - I Wanna Be Loved (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
6. The Heartbreakers - Love Comes In Spurts (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (Richard Hell - Time - 2002)
7. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Love Comes In Spurts (Blank Generation - 1977)
8. The Heartbreakers - Flight (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
9. The Heartbreakers - You Gotta Lose (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (The Yonkers Demos - 1976)
10. The Heartbreakers - Hurt Me (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (Richard Hell - Time - 2002)
11. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - It's Not Enough (1976 Jay Nap St. Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
12. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Take A Chance (1976 Jay Nap St. Demo) (L.A.M.F. Definitive Edition - 2012)
13. The Heartbreakers - Blank Generation (1976 SBS Studios Demo) (The Yonkers Demos - 1976)
14. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Born To Lose (L.A.M.F. (UK Cassette Mix) - 1977)
15. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Baby Talk (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
16. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - All By Myself (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
17. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - I Wanna Be Loved (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
18. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - It's Not Enough (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
19. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Chinese Rocks (L.A.M.F. (UK Cassette Mix) - 1977)
20. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Get Off The Phone (L.A.M.F. Revisited - 1984)
21. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Pirate Love (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
22. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - One Track Mind (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
23. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - I Love You (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
24. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Goin' Steady (L.A.M.F. Revisited - 1984)
25. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Let Go (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)
26. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Can't Keep my Eyes On You (L.A.M.F. Revisited - 1984)
27. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Do You Love Me (L.A.M.F. (The Lost 77 Mixes) - 1994)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 18.

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