Once upon a time, there was punk rock. The guitarist was fiddling with his guitar and amp, trying to get the right sound.
“You motherfuckers gotta go home or fuckin’ hang out or whatever, whatever you fuckin’ wanna do, I don’t give a shit,” said the bassist. “I don’t give a fuckin’ piss ball about nothin’,” he exclaimed.
As the guitarist continued to fiddle, the bassist, in his best drunken asshole voice, explained to the audience, “Ya’ll fuckin’ figure it out, we’re gonna play some rock ’n’ roll, whatever ya want, and that’s what we’re gonna do, and hopefully remember the fuckin’ tunes!”
The drummer pointed at his fellow band members and laughed.
The bassist railed at a particularly prominent person in the crowd, “Shut the fuck up! Are you fuckin’ kiddin me, motherfucker!”
“Alright, hello everybody, so good to see ya,” said the guitarist when he was finally satisfied with the tone of his guitar. He extended a hand to the bassist and introduced him. “This is Tommy.”
Tommy, in turn, pointed to the guitarist and yelled, “Walter Lure!”
The guitarist went on to introduce the rest of the band. “That’s Wayne,” he said, indicating the other guitarist in the semi-shadows on the side. “And we got Clem,” he continued, referring to the drummer. “And we got special guests coming up all night long,” he finished, with an unusually heavy, faux-British inflection on “long” – “loong.”
“Why the fuck we need special guests, I don’t give a fuck, doesn’t matter,” replied Tommy, growing more impatient and intoxicated with every word. “Let’s play a fuckin’ song, you guys ready?”
There was more fiddling on the part of guitarist Walter, when suddenly… screeching feedback!
Tommy was now ready to kill someone. “What the FUCK is happening?,” he slurred.
Clem, the drummer, looked around, laughed, and did some hyperactive, when-can-we-start-the-song, drum-roll stuff. Then, pointing a drumstick at Walter, he announced, “Here we go!”
At long last, the song “Born to Lose” was up and running.
And they all rocked happily ever after.
The Heartbreakers (l-r: Johnny Thunders, Walter Lure, Jerry Nolan, Billy Rath)
(photo courtesy www.uncut.co.uk)
In case you haven’t figured it out, the guitarist in the story is Walter Lure, the sole surviving member of the Heartbreakers, a band formed in 1975 in NYC from the ashes of the New York Dolls (and not to be confused with Tom Petty’s band of the same name). The foul-mouthed bassist is Tommy Stinson, late of 1980s Minneapolis misfits the Replacements. Wayne, the other guitarist, is none other than Wayne Kramer, founding member of Detroit proto-punk pioneers the MC5. And Clem, the drummer…uh, ever heard of Blondie? Yep, Clem Burke. And the “special guests” include East Village underground mainstay Jesse Malin, ex-Dead Boys member Cheetah Chrome, and the one-and-only Handsome Dick Manitoba.
The occasion is a sold-out, two-night showcase of the Heartbreakers’ only album, L.A.M.F. Performed in its entirety, in order, plus a few bonus songs at the end, by the punk supergroup described above. First unleashed in 1977 and appearing in various forms since then, L.A.M.F. is a 12-song (14 on the CD) stomping, sewer-rat party mix of snarling punk, bad-boy rock ‘n’ roll, and early-sixties teen-pop.
November 15, 2016, the first of the four shows. Inside the tiny downstairs space at the Bowery Electric (a few doors up from where the iconic CBGB used to be), there’s barely room to move. Packed to capacity. Fire hazard. Tall, sweaty, dirty fans. Sticky spilled beer underfoot. Arriving just before showtime, there’s no way to even see the real band…so I’m relegated to watching them on a video monitor above the bar. But even so, it’s amazing to see these songs bashed out with the raw energy and abandon (fueled mainly by Stinson’s tirades) that spawned them in the first place. I’ve seen Walter Lure’s current incarnation of his post-Heartbreakers outfit the Waldos, and though they are loud, fast, and fun, this lineup is nothing but Punk! With a capital fuckin’ P!
After all tracks from the album proper, it was time for some extra added attractions. Malin, donning acoustic guitar, strummed and crooned the Thunders solo classic “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” followed by the peak of the evening, the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams”* featuring the song’s co-composer himself on lead guitar and Handsome Dick on vocals (after a stunning outburst by Stinson involving a bottle of Maker’s Mark whisky). The festivities wrapped up with “Too Much Junkie Business”* (Walter: “The story of our band”), then it was off to Webster Hall for another performance!
Sheer youthful rock ‘n’ roll energy, from a group of 50- and 60-year-olds! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – OLD GUYS ROCK!
* Video courtesy Paul T / mostpeopleareblank.com