Live At The Bowery Electric

(Jungle Records/Industrial)

In celebration of The HeartBreakers’ album of punchy and infernally catchy rock songs originally fronted by talented but eternally troubled musician Johnny Thunders. I watched his career through the cracks in my fingers, a man imbued with a pure rock’n’roll heart and soul, an affecting voice, compositional skill to envy and erratic but sparky guitar power. That nagging seed of addiction eventually claimed Johnny. BUT here we have Walter Lure from the original group joined by Blondie drummer Clem Burke, Replacements star Tommy Stinson AND – glory be!! – Brother Wayne Kramer from Detroit’s finest The MC5. Yes here they are at the venue that hosted the fiery New York Dolls live record, featuring Earl Slick. How do you reckon this is going to sound, friends?

So mid November 2016 the band stroll on stage, Stinson plugs in his bass and Lure and Kramer grab their guitars. In Wayne’s case, his distinctive stars&stripes signature Stratocaster. For this recording there are guests Cheetah Chrome on guitar, Jesse Malin on vocals and Liza Colby on vocals.

Opener Born To Lose splutters into life, all pounding drums, fluid and fat basslines, chugging guitars and that infernally catchy tune, with Tommy singing. Irresistible. At 1:38 Kramer double-stops his way through a break. Stinson then sings Baby Talk with an insouciance as the scattergun riff punches out of the melee. I am sure I have this song by Scott Morgan on a bootleg album. The number’s raggedy determination is out over well. Tommy is no Michael McDonald but doesn’t need to be for this. Jesse is up for a solid All By Myself, squealing axe fills ringing out. The bass is so perfect and you cannot help singing along.

I Wanna Be Loved also features Jesse, slinging out the words in the real Thunder spirit – that being the point – with Burke making the most of the cartoonish pace and stops, as his skills easily allow. Then we get Jesse on It’s Not Enough with its tremelo’d electric guitar and steady beat. The closest this crew got to The Who with its emphatic delivery and sneered lyric. Next a big moment with the memorable Chinese Rocks one of Johnny’s great hits. As catchy as any Stones tune, this. It may be an ode to heroin but it’s an exercise in insistent power and again such an addictive chorus.

Get Off The Phone is sung by Lure. It’s supercharged Eddie Cochran and sounds very Ramones in delivery in this incarnation. Pirate Love has a terrific Burke intro and on comes The Dead Boy’s Chrome, savouring in wobbly guitar and declamatory singing. At 2:00 a niggling guitar break tumbles out of the tune. Next up One Track Mind with Walter at the mike over the sledgehammer drums, a real rough and tumble take on the tune. Kramer throws a dynamic run and Lure goes Chuck Berry. Liza fronts I Love You with style and spirit. So very many of these rocking tunes are so catchy! Goin’ Steady brings Cheetah back to the helm with a real bite, his raspy pipes sounding exactly right. Let Go stars Kramer singing lead and just jumps out of the speakers, the song really swings. Of course, Wayne played with Johnny on the short-lived Gang War aggregation. Can’t Keep My Eyes On You has the meanest of beats and Clem singing. The band keep the sound sharp and spiky. It’s Kramer back up to sing Do You Love Me. He spits out the lyric and the band by this time are one big electric locomotive…..

Ably produced by Margaret Saadi Kramer,this set celebrates the late Johnny Thunders’ songs and spirit in fine style. Wish I could have been there!

Pete Sargeant


(Big thanks to Matt R)

L.A.M.F. ‘Live At The Bowery Electric’ is out now on Jungle Records/Industrial.