All in one November night, I chatted with Debbie Harry, Johnny Marr, Walter Lure, and Clem Burke. It started on Nov. 15th with an evening at the Gramercy Theater to witness my old friend Ian Svenonius, (singer of Chain and the Gang) interview Johnny Marr of the Smiths. The talented strummer, whose music comforted countless morose teenagers, gave us a glimpse into those first moments creating magic with Morrissey. He had varied influences, even writing licks to a song that was based on disco legends Chic and David Bowie’s, “Rebel Rebel.” Nile Rogers from Chic was in the building to congratulate Johnny on his new book, Set The Boy Free, which was given out free with entry. My friend Denise and I chatted with Johnny after the show. Even though there was a line of people waiting to get their albums signed, he was attentive and seemed genuinely curious about our lives. I told him we were on our way to the Heartbreakers gig at Bowery Electric. Johnny asked me to do him a favor and tell Walter Lure that he’s a huge fan.
It was a tight squeeze for the Heartbreakers and L.A.M.F. show featuring original Heartbreakers’ member Walter Lure, Tommy Stinson of the Replacements, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Clem Burke of Blondie and guest stars. Jesse Malin sang “I Wanna Be Loved,” “It’s Not Enough,” “Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” and “I Love You,” joined by Lynne Von. Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys jumped up on stage for “Pirate Love” and “Goin’ Steady.”
Tommy was completely wasted which made for amusing venom-slinging, a flashback to the original Johnny Thunders line-up. Clem was especially annoyed with Tommy, pointing his drumstick at him repeatedly in warning between songs, although the banter was all in fun and they were still pals by the end of the show. Clem, who was named one of the one hundred best drummers of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, was really the glue that kept the show together.
Wayne Kramer and the MC5 are currently up for nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame which was announced from the stage, to a roar of cheers. This is much deserved in my book for the raucous rock ‘n’ roll veterans, it’s about time! The crowd was made up of veterans of the original downtown scene and wide-eyed youth ecstatic to witness their punk rock legends. Legs McNeil, Joanna Pickering, and my pal Denise Marie were crammed in the back with Bob and Elizabeth Gruen watching from a TV set in the bar area. Ironically, just a few feet away the band raged on with zero visual access due to overcrowding. Bob Gruen had just come from hanging out with the Rolling Stones at Exhibitionism, the Stones exhibit going on now at Industria Studios. We were all jealous and Legs was giving him shit for gloating.
Even with Tommy flubbing the lyrics and cursing more than he was singing, I could tell the crowd was enjoying all the old songs. A sea of heads bobbed up and down. A total of four shows were put on (November 15th and 16th) as a benefit for 80s New York City columnist Stephen Saba who is bravely fighting cancer. Limited edition signed posters of the Heartbreakers supergroup sold out immediately.
I kept my promise to Johnny by revealing his idol worship to Walter in the van while headed to the second show at Webster Hall. Walter looked very pleased, it was a sweet moment.
Once we arrived, Jimmy Webb corralled us into the backstage area where I met the timeless beauty that is Deborah Harry for the first time. She was dressed in some sort of comfy pajama and leg harness combination that made Clem chuckle. She jumped on the stage to sing the Johnny Thunders hit, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory,” which she did justice for by crooning sweetly. Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators gave a fierce and energetic performance of the MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams,” with the crowd unable to keep up.
The second Heartbreakers show didn’t start until after midnight and at this bewitching hour Tommy was beyond repair. Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group opened the show with his 80s band Connection. Sea Monster and Mudd Club regular Marilyn played as well. The Webster Hall show was put on by Trigger of the Continental bar and Jesse Malin.
It is rumored that Walter Lure will be touring the Heartbreakers album around the globe with varied musicians sharing the stage.