Today another spotlight on 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. Second spotlight is on a a man best known for his tenure fronting the hugely influential New York Dolls, David Johansen was a true chameleon; throughout the course of a career which saw him transform from a lipstick-smeared proto-punk hero into an urbane blue-eyed soul man and finally into a tuxedo-clad lounge lizard, he remained a rock & roll original, an unpredictable iconoclast and a true cultural innovator. ....N'Joy
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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.
Stations of the Cross is a Johnny Thunders album recorded over two sets at The Mudd Club in New York on September 30, 1982. Film director Lech Kowalski had originally planned to record a live Johnny Thunders performance for his movie, Stations of the Cross. The spoken dialogue was recorded at the Carlton Arms Hotel, New York City, in Room 29, on August 25, 1982.
Johnny Thunders - Stations of the Cross (flac 391mb)
01 Pipeline 2:33
02 In Cold Blood 2:49
03 Just Another Girl 4:18
04 Too Much Junkie Business 2:58
05 Sad Vacation 4:07
06 Who Needs Girls? 4:47
07 Do You Love Me? 3:05
08 So Alone 6:16
09 Seven Day Weekend 3:37
10 Chinese Rocks 2:56
11 Reentry Interlude 1:54
12 Voodoo Club 1:53
13 Surfer Jam 2:05
14 Just Because I'm White 4:54
15 One Track Mind (Dub) 2:56
16 Little London Boys 2:25
17 Stepping Stone 1:55
18 I Don't Mind Mr. Kowalski 1:25
19 Creature From E.T. Rap 3:49
20 Rather Be With The Boys 2;17
21 Wipeout 2:12
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Johansen was born January 9, 1950,in the New York City borough of Staten Island, New York, to a librarian mother and an insurance sales representative father. Johansen's family was Catholic. His mother was Irish American and his father was Norwegian American. Johansen began his career in the late 1960s as a lead singer in the local Staten Island band the Vagabond Missionaries and later in the early 1970s as the singer/songwriter in the protopunk band the New York Dolls. The New York Dolls released two albums, the eponymous New York Dolls (1973), and Too Much Too Soon (1974). The bulk of the material was written by Johansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders. The Dolls were well received critically and established an enduring cult following, but failed to succeed commercially.
In 1975, Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan left the band. Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, along with Peter Jordan, Chris Robison, and Tony Machine, continued playing as the New York Dolls, until 1977, after which Johansen embarked on a solo career. His first two albums, David Johansen and In Style, featured several enduring originals. Sylvain Sylvain frequently performed with him, and his band covered many Dolls songs in concert; his live albums Live It Up and The David Johansen Group Live document Johansen's reputation as an exceptional concert performer. The studio releases Here Comes the Night (which includes a signature number, "Heart of Gold") and Sweet Revenge again showcased his strengths as a writer of new material and featured a guest appearance by jazz saxophone player Big Jay McNeely. A number of the songs on "Here Comes the Night" were co-written with South African musician Blondie Chaplin.
While 1982's concert set Live It Up won some airplay for its medley of the Animals hits "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," "It's My Life," and "Don't Bring Me Down," Johansen was forced to reassess his career when 1984's dance-flavored Sweet Revenge tanked. At the end of 1984 he resurfaced in the pompadoured guise of Buster Poindexter, a supposed ethnomusicologist armed with an expansive knowledge of R&B chestnuts. After debuting the Buster character at a series of mid-'80s downtown New York loft gigs with the Uptown Horns, Johansen continued honing the identity in the piano bars of Manhattan, establishing a lounge swinger persona which predated the lounge-kitsch revival of the mid-'90s by a decade.
As Poindexter he scored his first hit song, "Hot Hot Hot," which in an interview on National Public Radio's Fresh Air he called "the bane of my existence," due to its pervasive popularity. "Hot Hot Hot" was initially written and recorded by Montserratian Soca artist Arrow. In 1987, he issued an LP, Buster Poindexter, which featured the party classic "Hot Hot Hot," an effervescent cover of an obscure 1984 soca hit. In addition to reviving Johansen's career as a musical performer, Buster also renewed his long-dormant acting bug, and he was tapped to co-star in the 1988 features Married to the Mob and Scrooged. The character remained Johansen's focus in subsequent years as well, as evidenced by the albums Buster Goes Berserk in 1989 and Buster's Happy Hour in 1994. He maintained a relatively low profile in the years prior to the spring 2000 release of David Johansen & the Harry Smiths.
The group was named as a tribute to Harry Everett Smith, who compiled the Anthology of American Folk Music, several songs of which were covered by the band. Johansen's second album with the Harry Smiths is titled Shaker. In 2004 Johansen reunited with Sylvain Sylvain and Arthur Kane, of the New York Dolls. Owing to the success of the tour, in 2006 the New York Dolls released One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, their first album in nearly thirty years. In 2009 the band released "'Cause I Sez So" and in 2011 "Dancing Backward in High Heels".
Johansen hosts a weekly show, David Johansen's Mansion of Fun, on Sirius Satellite Radio while continuing to write and perform. Featuring music "from the jungles of Africa to the Bayou of Louisiana, and from Duke Ellington to Phil Spector to Billy Joe Shaver, the show is all over the musical map," truly free-form and eclectic.
During a career that has seen many changes, Johansen has worked consistently with certain musicians, including Sylvain Sylvain, drummer Tony Machine (formerly an agent who worked for Leber & Krebs, a member of the New York Dolls from 1975 until 1977, and a fixture in many David Johansen groups and throughout the Buster Poindexter period) and Brian Koonin, guitarist and banjo player with Buster Poindexter and The Harry Smiths, as well as keyboard player with the New York Dolls for the first reunion gig.
David Johansen's self-titled solo debut bears a closer resemblance to his work with the New York Dolls than any of his subsequent recordings, but the former Dolls singer cleverly crafted an album that played to his former band's strengths while establishing an identity of his own and delivering a set of tight but powerful hard rock. Where the Dolls were frequently sloppy and poorly focused (if often gloriously so), David Johansen rocks with a cleaner but equally emphatic guitar attack (courtesy Johnny Rao and Thomas Trask), while Johansen's vocals are noticeably more powerful and sharper than his earlier music. Johansen's songs are more straightforward and less campy than his Dolls tunes; while "Funky But Chic" would have done his old glam buddies proud ("Mama says I look fruity, but in jeans I feel rotten"), the celebration of the fair sex in "Girls" and "I'm a Lover" cuts his former sexual ambiguity to the quick, and the tough rock & roll good times of "Cool Metro" and the girl-trouble commiseration of "Pain In My Heart" show Johansen could move into more conventional lyrical territory without losing his swagger or street smarts along the way. And while the Dolls didn't leave Johansen much room for slow songs where he could wear his heart on his sleeve, "Donna" and "Frenchette" allow him to do just that, and remarkably well. David Johansen in some respects seems like a deliberate attempt to sidestep much of the baggage that weighed down the New York Dolls in their bid for rock stardom, but at the same time its celebration of women and good times isn't simple or without its own appreciation of good danger, and it rocks out with a New York street vibe that has a life of its own; it's still Johansen's best solo work to date.
David Johansen - David Johansen (flac 209mb)
01 Funky But Chic 4:00
02 Girls 3:38
03 Pain In My Heart 3:26
04 Not That Much 3:03
05 Donna 4:28
06 Cool Metro 3:56
07 I'm A Lover 3:34
08 Lonely Tenement 4:13
09 Frenchette 5:29
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On his first two solo albums, David Johansen sounded like he was trying to walk a fine line between recapturing the glorious chaos of the New York Dolls and creating a sound that better reflected his own individual personality (and might sell a few records in the process). The first half of that equation fell by the wayside while Johansen was recording his third solo set, 1981's Here Comes the Night, which plays more like a conventional hard rock album than David Johansen or In Style, especially when Blondie Chaplin cranks up his guitar on "My Obsession," "She Loves Strangers" or the title cut. However, it doesn't play that much like a conventional hard rock album; few acts reaching for the masses arena-style would have included a neo-samba number like "Marquesa De Sade" (complete with traditional Latin production), the calypso flavored "Rollin' Job," a beatnik homage like "Bohemian Love Pad," or name-checked Vincent Price on "Suspicion." Some of the more playful or willfully eccentric moments on Here Comes the Night seem to anticipate the Buster Poindexter persona Johansen would adopt later in the decade (without the aural wink and nudge), though for the most part the production and arrangements seem to run counter to his occasional bursts of creativity. Johansen's vocals are powerful and full-bodied on Here Comes the Night and there are a few fine tunes here, especially the nightlife homage of the title cut, the atmospheric "She Loves Strangers," and "Heart of Gold," a heartfelt ballad Johansen revived on the first Buster Poindexter LP. But for anyone who remembered Johansen's best work, Here Comes the Night was a real letdown despite its periodic flashes of excitement. [In 2007, American Beat Records reissued Here Comes the Night on compact disc with a bonus track, an alternate take of the title tune that was recorded during a 1982 concert in Boston.
David Johansen - Here Comes The Night (flac 235mb)
01 She Loves Strangers 3:03
02 Bohemian Love Pad 2:46
03 You Fool You 3:02
04 My Obsession 2:40
05 Marquesa De Sade 3:46
06 Here Comes The Night 2:52
07 Suspicion 2:29
08 Party Tonight 2:52
09 Havin' So Much Fun 3:38
10 Rollin' Job 4:00
11 Heart Of Gold 3:41
12 Here Comes The Night (Live) 3:24
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