L.A.M.F. tour with members of the Sex Pistols, Social Distortion, Blondie and The Heartbreakers!
“We don’t even know if we are going to be called the Heartbreakers because there is a new band… I don’t know if they are new… they’re relatively new, they’re about six months old. They’re called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and I might change their name to the Headbreakers and go visit ‘em.”
– Johnny Thunders to David Johansen in 1976
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Heartbreakers’ only studio album, L.A.M.F., a tour was put together by Jesse Malin, former singer for D Generation. The tour features Walter Lure of the original Heartbreakers, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, and Clem Burke of Blondie.
The supergroup began their explosive sets in NYC on Nov. 29-30, with three sold-out shows at Bowery Electric and the Music Hall of Williamsburg, continuing to Southern California and San Francisco for the last three shows. The early show at Bowery Electric seemed to attract the older, more stoic group, whereas the late show brought out the energetic, and intoxicated, youth. A few crazies came to both gigs, which made for some prime entertainment.
For example, a funky looking Bette Davis-type kept yelling out, “Play some Sex Pistols!!” Then she crawled onto the stage and stood in front of the microphone. Even members of the band thought she was Mike Ness’s friend since he moved over to let her mark her territory on the small stage. A bouncer ran over and led her off while the audience giggled at her lunacy.
Glen Matlock sang, “Steppin Stone,” which the Pistols had covered on their Anarchy In The U.K. album by opening with, “This is a song by the fucking Monkees!” His heavy British accent was at times hard to understand by us Yanks. Glen is one of the nicest guys I know, which is ironic since he is best known for having been a member of the most subversive British band of all time. I ran into him in front of the Mercury Lounge, the day after the Bowery Electric shows. He was holding the door open for young musicians who were loading in their gear. These twenty-year-olds didn’t even realize a legend was their doorman.
Drummer Clem Burke was winding everyone in the band up by telling them to get it together, and even making them start one song over. Walter Lure rolled his eyes and made sarcastic remarks at Clem’s perfectionism which was reminiscent of Thunders and Lure clashing onstage. From time to time during the show, Clem would stand up and demand more applause, a gambit he repeated just before the encore. As one of the best drummers of all time, he gets away with it. He sang “Can’t Keep My Eyes On You,” with some leading improv thrown in, tossing his drumsticks up in the air and catching them better than any marching band leader. His flair also extends to stick twirls and Ringo-y head bobs.
Mike Ness talked about sharing the same drug habits as Thunders and Lure back in the day. Introducing the song “So Alone,” at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, he lamented that loneliness is the reason most people take drugs. At one point, a guy in the crowd said, “Shut the fuck up at a punk show!” To which Ness shot back, “Wait, you are gonna tell me what is punk? What are you, thirty-five years old? You weren’t even there!” A roar of laughter helped the taunter turn a shade of pink.
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the Social Distortion front-man before these gigs. I thought his voice would fit nicely on the songs, but I was a bit apprehensive. I grew up in Orange County, California, where every guy had a large, white truck with a Social D sticker on the back. It felt as if you had to like rockabilly, Sublime and Social D if you lived in a beach city in the ‘90s. I rebelled against what felt like a forced cultural scene by listening to British punk and weirdo goth music.
However, getting to know Mike Ness backstage and watching him play made me realize he’s actually as real as it gets—a true rocker with soul. He conjured up the spirit of Thunders without even trying to. He stayed true to himself and his guitar style. His tattoos and scars served as reminders of a sordid junkie past. Now living a happy, clean lifestyle with a beautiful wife and two children, he’s a genuine reformed outlaw musician, like a punk rock Johnny Cash. He gave above and beyond my imagination. My friend Cynthia Ross, of the ‘B’ Girls, who was close pals with Johnny Thunders, even said that Mike Ness’s performance gave her chills. She went on to say that he channeled Johnny’s energy while keeping his own personality.
This was a huge difference from last year’s L.A.M.F. show, where a heavily intoxicated Tommy Stinson sneered and cursed the whole time in what came off as a desperate attempt to channel a man whose coolness he will never achieve.
In Phil Marcade’s book, Punk Avenue, Walter Lure is described as, “Very well read and educated, his favorite topic was history. Walter’s also an excellent guitarist, a little bit in the style of Mick Taylor.” Indeed, he proved to be a very smart guy with a fun, wisecracker personality. He was like the kid with the mischievous gleam in his eye, lucky enough to survive a drug scene that many of his compadres succumbed to. Walter and I talked about crime and peep shows in ‘70s New York before the Brooklyn gig. He’s the type of person you never want to stop talking to. Characters like him are hard to come by.
Bob Dylan had said that he wished he would have written, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory.” And yet, like any good junkie, Johnny Thunders lifted the title from somewhere else. The line actually came from an episode of the old TV show The Honeymooners.
After the NY shows, they headed out to the West Coast, and Clem told me on the phone that San Francisco was their best show of the tour. That makes sense because the band only had two days to rehearse before their NYC gigs. During those latter gigs, I was trying to film video footage but the camera kept shaking as I couldn’t help but nod along to the music. Mike Ness said he had a really good time and wants to do it again next year, so keep your eyes peeled. These pros have an electric chemistry that people are calling legendary.
Born To Lose
All By Myself
I Wanna Be Loved
It’s Not Enough
Get Off The Phone
One Track Mind
I Love You
Can’t Keep My Eyes On You
Do You Love Me
Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory
Too Much Junkie Business
Thanks to Daggers for Eyes for the photos:
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