Johnny Thunders' 20-year career -
a chronological timeline of his life.
From the New York Dolls, to The Heartbreakers in NY and London. Then 'So Alone', 'Gang War', 'Que Sera Sera', 'Copy Cats', etc; reunions and gypsy times in Paris, Stockholm, London & L.A. Compiled from various sources including Nina Antonia's biography 'Johnny Thunders- In Cold Blood' and my own recollections working with Johnny 82-91.
Please add dates, correct mistakes and leave comments.
4th - 20th: A tour of USA east coast, now with Arthur Kane on bass it makes a trio of New York Dolls, plus guitarist Barry Jones. The shows are good - the gig at the Roxy in L.A. is later released as a DVD and CD. But by the end of the tour, Johnny and Jerry have fallen out again, badly. Jerry wants to record a new album, and there's money rows too.
15th: Johnny arrives in London for a busy week, making new plans.
17th: At Matrix Studios, he remixes 'Short Lives' for a single release.
19th: At Remaximum Studios, the song 'Que Sera Sera' is recorded for a single as an afterthought to the album of the same name. He's joined by Glen Matlock, Patti Palladin, former Members guitarist J-C Carroll (now on accordion!), and former Sham 69 drummer Dave Mackintosh.
21st: Mixing 'Que Sera Sera' at Remaximum. The sessions are completed without any problems, and Johnny and Patti bring up the idea of a covers album.
March & April:
Johnny is in Paris filming again for the revamped Patrick Grandperret film feature.
8th: Johnny is in London to prepare for 'Copy Cats'. He's staying in Star Street, W2, which causes some amusement.
11th - 15th: Rehearsals with Glen Matlock, J-C Carroll and Dave Tregenna in Holloway. But it doesn't sound right to Patti and Johnny; Patti complains that all the numbers they try end up sounding likeThe Small Faces. They want more of a session musician approach to cover all the widely differing styles. We're told that they can't possibly continue as planned.
21st: At Falconer Studios, a new short-list of musicians gains shape, some called up by the studio. Recording starts, late, without rehearsals. A couple of shit-hot drummers are called up who put down backing tracks with Gil Scott Heron's bassist Robbie A Gordon and The Only Ones guitarist John Perry; these are all excellent players. But learning songs from scratch in the studio still takes time.
Meanwhile, Johnny left alone at nights has started to imagine things... such as the men outside his room, waiting to steal his money. It keeps getting stolen - coincidentally in amounts divisible by the price of a gram of cocaine. Early one morning a paranoid, a whispering Johnny is on the phone asking me to pick him up. He's escaped from his room with his guitar, and checked in to the nearest cheap hotel he could find.
Unfortunately, it was on Sussex Gardens and mainly hired out for very short lets to the local prostitutes... he's twigged it too late after trying to sleep on the well-soiled bedsheets - he needs rescuing and reassuring.
Just a few nights later I have to rescue him again - he's whispering that it's Darth Vader outside his window; he's so genuinely fearful it takes me some time to realise that there isn't actually anyone else there.
27th: A new flat without the ghosts - we find him one in Oakley Street, Chelsea.
8th: Johnny returns to Stockholm on BA 650.
17th & 18th: Patti is organising overdubs... and more overdubs... and more overdubs. The album is now overdue, over budget, and nowhere near finished.
8th: A crisis meeting with Patti, her lawyer Tony Simon, my partner Graham Combi and myself at the Churchill Hotel. We need to know exactly how and when the album will be finished, so we can re-budget and plan a release. Patti can't tell us when the album will be finished. We have to agree it's sounding good, but we're in uncharted territory here - the album was meant to be finished a couple of months ago. We try and reach some sort of inconclusive compromise.
16th- 17th: Patti needs a horn section, just to finish the album off, so Graham calls some friends who put us in touch with noted London jazz players Jim Dvorak and Nick Evans. Patti brings in John 'Irish' Earle to complete a trio.
20th- 24th & 27th: More various musicians overdubbing.
28th: Johnny returns to London to add his vocals. He promptly completely loses his voice.
2nd: Johnny goes back to Stockholm, having completed some just adequate vocals.
9th-11th, 15th-17th, 20th-23rd: More and more musicians are brought in for that special effect, that final overdub, including Alex Balenescu (the classical violinist), David Cunningham (Flying Lizards), Bob Andrews (Brinsley Schwartz and The Rumour), Maribel La Manchega (a professional Spanish flamenco castanet player) and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. By the end, a total of 28 musicians (including Patti's dreadlocked dog 'T-Bird') are to be credited on the album's sleeve.
The album is sounding really good, Patti's vision is taking shape, so it's difficult - or perhaps impossible - to cut the recording sessions down. But we're now forced to go and borrow some more money to finish it. The studio bills have completely cleaned us out.
1st -5th, 8th -11th, 14th -18th: Three more weeks of overdubs and working on the tapes.
21st -23rd: At last, some final mixes of 'Copy Cats'!
25th: The first stock of Nina's book 'Johnny Thunders - In Cold Blood' has arrived, and review copies are sent out.
1st & 2nd: Johnny visits his home from home, the Paris Gibus Club, for two shows.
4th -6th: Five 'Copy Cats' mixes are now completed. This album has now become a very big investment.
8th: Johnny arrives at Gatwick, we find him a flat at 12 Stanhope Place, Marble Arch.
9th: Interviews at the Cumberland Hotel with David Quantick from NME, Caroline Sullivan from Melody Maker, and Peter Paisley (Adrian Maddox) for Record Mirror.
10th: We hold a launch-party for the publication of Nina's book at The Limelight Club. Johnny signs some copies and does a satisfactory twenty-minute acoustic set.
29th: A UK tour starts at the Bristol Bierkeller, then on to Manchester and Leeds...
2nd: Now the prestige, comeback gig: and the London Town & Country Club is reasonably full, it's the first time Johnny has played the capital for ages. Although 'Copy Cats' isn't quite finished we're building up press interest by publishing the biography, advance tapes, and interviews. Upcoming band The Quireboys are support, and go down well. They finish, and after 20 minutes gap, promoter Jim Robertson tersely asks if I can go and get Johnny and the band - I find out to my dismay they're still at the hotel in Paddington, a full twenty minutes drive away!
I rush over there, they're casually hanging around, Johnny 'isn't quite ready', he's actually still in his room taking drugs with John Perry, says he has laryngitis and is feeling lousy.
Eventually at the venue, Jim has called a doctor who supplies a syringe with a dose of Vitamin B. Jim administers the shot and pushes him onstage, outrageously 90 minutes late; meanwhile people are already queuing up to get their money back. Melody Maker's Carol Clerk, a huge fan, reviews the gig:-
"It was the night that Johnny finally blew it, the night that the joke, if ever there was one, died a pitiful death and began to stink. Even the diehards, the Thunders clones who will usually accept anything from their hero so long as he's legendary (ie out of his head), found this apathetic performance quite unacceptable, saw the legend revealed as a lazy little man who was prepared to take the money and not even run, just stumble sadly, through a mere handful of songs with all the enthusiasm of a stuffed goat. I've seen Thunders clean, on-form and brilliant, I've seen him stoned and absolutely bloody awful, but I've never seen him like this, so listless, so tedious, so depressing. There was nothing glamorous about any of it and there was nothing, not a stir, to suggest that a single person in the audience was finding this anything other than an immense disappointment and embarrassment, an outrageous waste of money."
Angry music-biz members of the audience on their way out accost Jungle staff saying 'this is your fault, you got me here'; it's also a huge disappointment for Nina Antonia who's brought numerous friends to celebrate her book publication; she won't even dare venture out to a Johnny gig for a couple of years.
Afterwards, Johnny protests about Dave Tregenna and others honesty:- "Hey Alan - they think I'm high! I thought they were my friends!".
Just the sort of show we didn't need. What have we invested into?!
3rd - 5th: The tour continues to Newcastle, Glasgow and Liverpool, without known incidents.
13th - 15th, & 19th: Patti at last completes the final mixes of Copy Cats!