Listen to the New York Dolls.
David Johansen’s gruff growl tries to dominate– but it can’t quite get past the talons of Johnny Thunders’ and Syl Sylvain’s guitars. Move on to The Heartbreakers, and Thunders plows straight forward, flat-out, full-throttle… L.A.M.F. is a criminally underrated piece of punk purity… But not what I came to talk about.
I’ve been obsessed with the Johnny Thunders 1983 solo album Hurt Me. It’s a sparse, echoey, shadow of a soundtrack that somehow manages to be as raw as the Dolls in ’72 and rough as The Heartbreakers after a London bender. There’s also a sweetness to it that nearly seems like irony.
The opening track, “Sad Vacation”, is lilting, lovely, and followed by an Eddie Cochran-esque, abbreviated version of “Eve of Destruction” that sets the tone for the majority of Hurt Me’s disjointed, mostly rambling, on-the-nod narrative. It features snatches of Dylan verses (I mean, he sings twenty seconds of “It Ain’t Me, Babe”!), reverb-chirping versions of Thunders originals, and ghosts from the past.
Songs like the title track (written with Richard Hell during that first train wreck run with The Heartbreakers) and the Dolls’ “Lonely Planet Boy” (one of my all-time favorite songs despite being written by the once and future Buster Poindexter) fit together like shards of broken mirror beside the almost complete thought of the Stones’ “I’d Rather Be With The Boys”.
Want to stop me mid-sip o’ liquor?
Land the needle on “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”. Beautiful, immortal. I won’t fib– there’s no satisfaction in the finish. Hurt Me sounds like Johnny trying to play himself out of cold turkey day. It’s ragged and tragic like the man on the jacket– and I wouldn’t have it any other way… Well, except for having Johnny still alive and making records.