My first experience with Mr. Thunders was seeing the Heartbreakers at 'The Rat' in August 1976. That's Boston, kids. Knew who he was from the Dolls, who I loved, and although it was a balmy Saturday night in Boston, there couldn't have been 60 people in the room. It was one of Billy Rath's first gigs with that band, and I'll never forget that Jerry Nolan had a broken foot, and that it was propped up atop the bass drum. He played nevertheless. They did classic shit like Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell", and the Contours "Do You Love Me?", and all I could think was, 'wow, this is like 1966, except I was too damn young then, alright, our own scene!'
I got my own group, 'Thrills', together and we found ourselves opening for Gang War at the Club in Cambridge, Mass in September of '79. We did soundcheck, I'm chillin' at home, and the club calls asking me if he can use my amps. We had a show at the Boston Music Hall five days later, and damned if I'm letting him touch my gear, let alone play through it. Did our set, and I spied this beautiful girl Lisa walking into their dressing room with a tray full of drinks. I'd invited her to that show specifically, and I asked her what was up. She told me she'd bought them all drinks, and giggled like it was some kinda honor. I tore the tray out of her hands, and the glasses flew like shrapnel. "No friend of mine gets treated like a groupie", says me. We were together for the next two years! That wasn't all. Thunders pipsqueak manager, this midget named Brim Stone comes up to me at the end of the gig. "You were trying to sell drugs to Johnny. I'm gonna kill you". Yippie! I could whup this toad in a gnat's heartbeat. I didn't. Bouncer ejected me. Just as well. Spent night making love to new girlfriend instead of freezing my ass off at Charles St. Jail! Saw them next night in Worcester. Stone and I were kept apart.
I fought with Johnny onstage at Jonathan Swift's in Cambridge. Motherfucker was fucking up "Personality Crisis", so I went onstage to sing it for him. Pow! Got socked in the jaw. Pride hurt more than teeth, I daresay. So, I moved to LA in '89, and I start writing for LA Weekly. I did a pick on a Thunders gig in downtown LA, maybe three blocks from Bonnie Brae and 6th (notorious junk copping spot, fitting ?). I said that his fans were like vultures, waiting on him to die onstage. He read this wrong, and went ballistic, like I was willing him to die. Dumb prick. Anyway, at a show in Orange County, he kept asking the crowd, 'where's Johnny Angel?' The only writer he found was poor Mike Boehm, and he climbed atop Mike's table and serenaded him with some anti-press tune. He died a little while after that.
The Dolls discs, LAMF, So Alone, and Hurt Me are masterpieces. His druggy
persona was ridiculous, as was his anger at the Motley Crue's of the world for
the crime of persevering and succeeding. Junkies are moral weaklings and
spiritual cowards, he was a talent in spite of his addiction, not because of it,
and I'd gladly throw down with anyone who disputes that simple fact, any time,
any place. I've lost more friends to OD's and HIV courtesy of heroin than I can
count. Do as he said, not as he did, please!