Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Currently listening: Johnny Thunders, Too Much Junkie Business (1983)

Johnny Thunders: man of taste, restraint, charm and good sense. (The New) Too Much Junkie Business contains some of what made Johnny good, some of what made Johnny bad, but little of what made him great. Originally released in 1983, this hodge-podge collection of songs--some live, some studio tracks--is too hit-and-miss and will really only appeal to full-fledged Thunders fans and completists. Even though it was co-produced by Stones' producer Jimmy Miller, it sounds like it was barely produced at all.

Sorry, it may be 1978, but it's not Aerosmith

The CD starts as Johnny greets all listeners with a personal message, delivered in his hilariously slurred, druggy Noo Yawk twang: "Hey all you kids this ain't none ah that bootleg shit, this is da real thing," and then blows a sloppy snotty kiss at you. The opening track, "Who Do Voodoo," is just all right; the vocals are unclear so who can know what the song's really about. Voodoo, one assumes, but one must never assume with Johnny; you can pretty much guess "voodoo" is slang for "heroin."

Next up is "In Cold Blood," just marginally better, with a tough riff and a low-rent swagger that makes it enjoyable. "Just Another Girl" is all right--which Johnny calls, in a moment of sensitivity, "Just Anudda Bitch"--but like many of Johnny's songs, it's under-produced with too much bass. Still the guitar-work is inventive which is what you expect when it comes to Johnny.

Johnny knew that looking cool wasted was at least half of rock'n'roll awesomeness

"Sad Vacation" is a live track from the Peppermint Lounge (not the original), a slow, bluesy lament for Sid Vicious (get the title? Johnny, what a cunning linguist) with some really absurd lyrics: "You're singing from your grave/It's so hard to do." What?! Did he say, "Singing from your grave"? What the heck does that mean?! I dunno, but it cracks me up every time I hear it. But Johnny's heart is in the right place, and it shows a real affection for that damned kid, so I'm going to let him slide.

Too much rock and/or roll

"Diary of a Lover" is a pretty acoustic tune, although in the midst of it he blurts out "Girls, they fuck up your head." Charming to the last. Things pick up with one of the L.A.M.F. classics, "Get Off the Phone." Then the title track, a live sloppy rave-up with a great riff, admittedly stolen from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. To wit:

Your life becomes as sickening as that mess you call your face/
That pig you call your girlfriend, she's been in there for days/
Climbing up the walls, shot some on my balls/
Wrap it up, call it art/
Now your record's in the charts

The sneer that launched a thousand punks

"King of the Gypsies" is '60s pop, sounds like it was recorded with a portable tape player, and features some kinda lame "gypsy"-like guitar wrangling. Johnny's self-pitying side comes out in "So Alone" and then we see once again what made Johnny good: a live version of "I Love You," a song I'm not crazy about but which is delivered here with passion and conviction. The CD wraps up with a couple of the New York Dolls' classics, "Jet Boy" and "Great Big Kiss." In the latter he duly insults both the audience and his female back-up singers.

So like I said, Johnny Thunders: man of refinement and good taste. I know you died almost 20 years ago, but God love ya, Johnny, wherever you are.


Anonymous said...

luv johnny as much as Slipknot! stay (sic)Maggots

Anonymous said...

Im 13 and somehow got myself into johnny thunders.HE is so interesting to me.I do love a wide range of music anyway.I like anything from Jason Mraz to SLIPKNOT!!!slipknot is beast!I love your site!Im glade that there are still people who care about johnny!I don't belive in god,but I hope johnny is somewhere nice......Stay(sic)Maggots

rp_p1987 said...

the singin from your grave part = because sid could have been anything he wanted to BUT singin from your grave is so very hard to do.