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Johnny Thunders

Johnny Thunders was the first punk rock guitar hero, earning a cult following for his noisy but epic style a few years before the insouciant new music gained its name. Following in the footsteps of his idol and role model Keith Richards, Johnny Thunders (born John Anthony Genzale, Jr.) lived the ultimate rock & roll life, spending most of his days churning out tough, sloppy three-chord rock & roll and gaining nearly as strong a reputation for his decades-long struggle with addiction as for his music. Thunders made his greatest impact as a member of the New York Dolls, the proto-punk glam rockers of the early '70s. During the late '70s, he was a familiar figure on the New York punk scene, both with his band the Heartbreakers and as a solo artist. Thunders performed and recorded steadily until his death in 1991, turning out a series of records that inadvertently documented the struggles of his life and his art.

Under the name Johnny Volume, Genzale began performing in high school with local combos Johnny & the Jaywalkers and the Reign (an unreleased Reign tune recorded in 1967 was released as a single after Thunders' death); after those bands ran their course, he joined Actress, which featured future Dolls Arthur Kane and Billy Murcia. Actress became the New York Dolls in 1971, with the addition of vocalist David Johansen, and Genzale renamed himself Johnny Thunders. After recording two acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful albums, the Dolls broke up. In 1975, Thunders and the group's drummer Jerry Nolan formed the Heartbreakers with former Television bassist Richard Hell and guitarist Walter Lure. Hell left the group shortly afterward to form the Voidoids and was replaced by Billy Rath. With Thunders leading the band, the Heartbreakers toured America and Britain, releasing one official album, L.A.M.F., in 1977. The group relocated to the U.K., where their popularity was significantly greater than it was in the U.S., particularly on the burgeoning punk scene. Thunders earned a reputation for powerful but inconsistent performances -- solid and rollicking one night, incoherent, sloppy, and drunken the next, sometimes veering between the two extremes in a single evening. After several months, the group returned to America, where they played a series of farewell gigs in New York.

Thunders went solo in 1978, recording So Alone with various rock and punk celebrities, including the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones and Paul Cook, Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie), Peter Perrett (Only Ones), Paul Gray (Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Damned), and Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott. After its release, Thunders and Peter Perrett played in the short-lived band Living Dead, while in 1980 Thunders teamed up with MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer in the band Gang Wars, another project that soon fizzled out. During the early '80s, Thunders re-formed the Heartbreakers for various tours and periodic "farewell" shows in New York City, with their stage work documented on a series of live albums, often of dubious legality.

For most of the '80s, the only Johnny Thunders product available consisted of haphazard compilations of live tracks and demos. In 1984, Thunders rebounded with a surprisingly strong acoustic album, Hurt Me, followed in 1985 by Que Sera, Sera, a collection of new songs that showed he could still perform convincingly. Three years later, the guitarist recorded an album of rock and R&B covers with vocalist Patti Palladin, Copy Cats. And in 1991, German punk band Die Toten Hosen paid homage to Thunders by inviting him to play guitar on a cover of the Heartbreakers' "Born to Lose" on their album Learning English: Lesson One.

After recording with Die Toten Hosen, Thunders settled in New Orleans, where he planned to cut an album with local jazz and R&B musicians. However, only a few days later, Thunders was found dead in his room at the St. Peter House on April 23, 1991. Thunders' passing was shrouded in rumor and uncertainty; while it was widely believed he overdosed on drugs, friends insisted the guitarist was weaning himself off heroin with methadone, while others believed he was the victim of sadistic burglars who ransacked his room after feeding him LSD, and still others reported Thunders was struggling with an untreated case of leukemia. Though Thunders' passing was strange and chaotic, it was curiously appropriate -- no other rock & roller ever lived as hard and traveled as individual a path as Johnny Thunders. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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R. I. P. Johnny, your music was one of the things that got me through the BS of high school. thank you so much.
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If only Keith and Johnny got to jam together at the height of both their drug abuse and best musical work
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Love you Johnny
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back in the day I used to pay my respect to Johnny Thunders grave he's buried in Queens New York I used to live right near the cemetery
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Bobonit can suck it! If u can't understand this is good music go back to listening to five finger death punch... F*g!
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He stinks. Thumbs down.
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milosdad
Loving going back and buying classic punk vinyl. Just bought You Can't put Your Arm Around a Memory and played it for my kid. my favorite era in punk. A reminder that rebellion does not always mean anarchy or destruction.
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So many conflicting reports about his death. What most likely happened: given that he had been diagnosed with T-cell Leukemia, he probably decided to take his own way out in New Orleans, via heroin (while he was already on methadone). Except the dealer gave him a cocktail of a different kind (i.e. PCP) and then robbed him of his methadone, passport, etc. (Oh yeah, he was robbed.) But since he was just a junkie in the eyes of Nola PD, there was never a proper murder investigatio n .
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Johnny Thunders, gave us all he had, great music from the heart. If you don't feel this, please don't leave a comment<><
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F**k the comment box
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morepower119 1 9
why won't Gibson make a johnny thunders signature les paul junior?
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hohenshellm
Johnny Thunders.... . . . . . . . . . . m a n they broke the mold,when he was delivered to us Rock n Roll won't ever be the same with out him.... Ciao
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jable
Great RNR Guitar tone
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JIM GRECO FOR PRES! Bake and Destroy
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Thunders was the best
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Ah Johnny Thunders, I always love his music. I still have my vinyl copy of So Alone. Great stuff man.
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Ahhhh the good stuff. This and the Ramones are some of the best American music made since the fifties and early sixties.
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A mess but I like him.
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In The early '70s crossing the 59'th st bridge,to Brooklyn one night, saw sign, JOHNNY Thunder! Here Tonight! Intered the Place,asked for Manager, He asked who I was, I told Him Johnny Thunder, He Stopped The Band Playing On Stage, and announced Ladies and Germs! "THE Real Johnny Thunder" The Band Was "The New York Dolls" asked Guitar player Why was He Using My Name He Said He ThoughtI Was Dead.I'm Alive! johnnythunde r . c o m
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Thunders was THE original punk rock guitarist
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Hands down the best Rock n Roll guitarist ever. He defined Rock n Roll. Gritty, beautifully sloppy, wrenching at times but always with a beat and melody that made you want to jump up and go insane!
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msheydayi
no he wasn't just another junkie. he was really really influential. do your research. the Dolls? the Heartbreaker s ? c'mon...
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Your kidding right? this guy just another doped up musician
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poor heron killing ev'ryone. them birds gets no justice!
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don1983
He WAS rock. R.I.P.
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Johnny Thunders was one of the godfathers of Punk Rock. Yes, his personal life was a mess and it interfered with his music,(he even put his beloved guitars in hock in order to buy smack), but when he rocked he rocked ! He had the best guitar-sound I ever heard ; it sounded like a beast! Punk Rock was alive and well with Johnny Thunders ! Rock on , Johnny !
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party til yer retarded dude!
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msheydayi
because you're living with me, we're one and the same.
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bromide01
Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah.

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