I first saw and heard Johnny Thunders, live, in September of 1979 at a club called The Club in the Central Square area of Cambridge, MA. Johnny was playing with Gang War; I think it was one of the very early shows Gang War did. The Clash had been playing a couple-nights in Massachusetts and Gang War opened for them in Worcester, making Johnny and Gang War quite late (of course, I was to see Johnny in New York City in later years, so I really didn't know the meaning of "quite late" in Massachusetts, where all bars close by 2:00 a.m. Anyway, it was a really spectacular show; I had just never seen anything like Thunders. He played two relatively short sets, but the show was extremely satisfying, just about the best thinng I'd ever seen in my life up until then. Billy Rath joined Gang War on bass for the last half of the second set. At that time, I was familiar with Johnny's "So Alone" and "LAMF" repertoire, but I didn't recognize a lot of the songs (which were probably what I now think of as the "Gang War" repertoire, M.I.A., Just Because I'm White, etc. I do remember his playing "London Boys" twice, both times outstanding. I also remember him cracking some asshole in front of the stage with the microphone (for turning his guitar down), and I remember giving him an "I Love NY" button which he put on his strap.
As of that time, my exposure to JT's recorded output consisted of: my owning the Dolls' "Live in Dallas 1974" bootleg, Johnny's "So Alone" album, and the Heartbreakers'' "Live at Max's Kansas City" album. His other stuff was just too hard to find at the time, although I did acquire the British two-disc reissue of the Dolls' albums by 1980 or thereabouts. I also knew this idiot about a half hour away who owned a copy of L.A.M.F. and let me hear it, but he refused to part with it and my attempts to steal it were unsuccessful.
I almost died from a brain disease this year. Spent four months in the hospital, listening to the "In The Flesh" CD over and over and wondering if I'd ever walk again.