"I can't put my arms
around you, Johnny"
John Anthony Genzale, Jr (15.07.1952 – 23.04.1991), of Italian descent, son of Emil and Josephine Genzale, was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. Shortly after birth, his father leaved the family and they practically did not have any more contact again with him.
From small he played baseball, even did a test with Philadelphia Phillies, but could not take part in the Little League due to the requirement of the presence of the father. His another passion was the music, grew up listening to groups like the Shangri-Las which sound arrived from the room of his sister Mariann, 5 and a half years older. Later formed bands like Johnny and the Jaywalkers and The Reign. He adopted the nick of Johnny Volume.
After finishing high school at Newtown High School continued playing the bass with Sylvain Mizrahi (guitar, born in the Cairo and escaped to USA with his family in 1956 during the crisis of the Channel of Suez as being Egyptian Jews) and Billy Murcia (battery, Colombian inmigrant). Johnny, Billy and Sylvain studied together in high school in Queens and played in the basement of Billy’s mother.
Johnny worked temporarily in a catering company and in a candy shop. Sylvain and Murcia had a store in Manhattan called Truth & Soul where worked as tailors, in front of a local repair of toys and dolls for wealthy people called The New York Dolls Hospital.
Sylvain emigrated to London in 1971 with the idea of mounting a branch of the familiar business of clothes.
Arthur Harold ‘Killer’ Kane, from an Irish family, was born in Bronx in New York. His mother died shortly after birth and had a difficult childhood with his father. At high school he was a good student and formed a band in which he played guitar with his friend George Fedorcik. In 1969 began a course in hotel management but in less than a year preferred to focus on drinking, sniffing glue and taking acid. He then worked for the telephone company but was dismissed for loot the telephone booths when doing his route repair. An afternoon in Bleecker Street, near Central Park, saw Johnny walking with his girlfriend, and suggested to him that they could form a band together. After a couple of tests with Billy, they changed the instruments so Johnny became the guitarist and Kane the bass. So was born the band Actress, incorporating also to George Fedorcik as second guitarist, who changed his name to Rick Rivets.
Johnny, who was a human encyclopedia of rock, also changed his nickname to Johnny Thunders. The nick was inspired by a comic hero of the wild west of DC Comics.
Still remained a problem, since the voice of Johnny used to come down after a pair of songs. So they incorporated to David Johansen to the voice and harmonic, an Icelandic who managed the lamp and sound in a theater company named Ridiculous Theatre Company.
The last change would be the departure of Rick Rivets and the return from London of the original guitarist of the band, who had adopted the nickname of Sylvain Sylvain. In late 1971 the name of group changed to The New York Dolls. They gave their first concert on Christmas Day 1971 in Endicott Hotel, a shelter for helpless. They played R&B and soul versions.
With MC5, The Stooges, The Rolling Stones or T-Rex sound heritage, they influenced the punk movement with their dirty and urban sound and the glam movement with a decadent and ambiguous urban aesthetic, full of mascara, makeup, wigs, lipstick, tights and platforms.
In early 1972 they had made a name in the New York rock scene, playing regularly in Manhattan, especially at the Mercer Arts Center in Lower Broadway and at Max's Kansas City. Lyrics talked about teenager topics like girls, sex, drugs, loneliness… and their booming sound preceded the whole British punk that came up some years later. Their concerts were drugs parties and did not usually end happily but fighting sometimes their own fans.
Rod Stewart manager, Billy Gaff, was interest in the band, but all went to ruin the day he invited them to play in support of Long John Baldry in Long Island. In spite of Gaff had sent them even a limousine to take them to the concert, the Dolls were drinking and taking drugs and arrived too late finally.
As the record labels did not want to hire the band because of his dress style and his vulgarity, Marty Thau, the manager with which they had reached an agreement, carried them to England in October of 1972, where they had his first great opportunity. After Lou Reed at Echo Arena in Liverpool did not allow that they played with him, they opened a concert at Wembley Stadium in London for The Faces, with Rod Stewart as singer, in front of 13.000 people, when they had never played for more than 350. This concert generated several offers to the band in 24 hours (Track Records, Atlantic Records, Rolling Stones Records…). The only question was who would pay more.
The night that the agreement was to be reached, Billy Murcia called Marty Thau at hotel and borrowed 5 pounds from him. Billy told him that he had tried to call a friend but had the wrong number and had spoken with unknown people but Dolls fans that invited him at the end to a party and needed some money. During the meeting with Track Records, in which Marthy and the booking agent Steve Leber asked the amount of 350.000$, something incredible at the time, Marthy received a very brief call:”Marthy, come quickly, Billy Murcia is dead”. When he arrived, Billy was lying on the floor. Everyone declared that they didn't know anything. The autopsy showed that he had mixed sedatives and alcohol and collapsed. Somebody gave him an ice bath, threw coffee in his throat and choked on his own vomit. He could have survived if allowed to simply sleep it off.
Billy's death boosted the popularity of the band, but also caused that the record labels rejected them. A month later, the Dolls were encouraged to play again and looked for another drummer for the band. After several auditions, they chose Jerry Nolan, who received three batteries and a couch as part of the agreement. It is said that Peter Crisscoula (Peter Criss, Kiss original battery) and Marc Bell (Marky Ramone, Ramones battery) took part in the auditions to replace Billy. The first presentation of this new lineup was on December 19, 1972 in the Mercer Arts Center.
Among their audience at that time were rock stars, writers, artists… Elton John, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Fran Lebowitz, Todd Rundgren, Bette Midler, John Cale, Lou Reed… and fans that later formed bands like The Ramones, Television, Blondie, The Plasmatics, Patty Smith…the most relevant of New York's punk.
They signed with Mercury and they recorded their first album in 1973, The New York Dolls, just in two weeks and $17,000 budget, produced by Todd Rundgren. The album received good reviews but had little impact in terms of sales. Before Rundgren, the names of Phil Spector, David Bowie and Roy Wood had been shuffled to produce the album. For the cover, the band was not understood by the photographers of Mercury and they themselves looked for the suitable professionals to do it. That photo caused that Arthur Kane’s father stopped talking to his son forever. The album stood at number 116 of the U.S. charts. It reflects teenage issues and social questions. In the course of time it has been considered a classic album.
The aesthetic and energy of the Dolls influenced bands such as Wicked Lester, that changed country-rock to glam and its name to Kiss after sharing concerts in the Mercer Arts Center.
Also Dolls managers took a young Steven Tyler, from a Boston’s band, to the concerts of the Dolls to learn from the style of Johansen. That band would be called soon Aerosmith. The detail of the scarf in the microphone, an invention of David, still persists in its concerts. Time later, Cyrinda Foxe, left her husband David Johansen for Steven Tyler.
The night before a tour across the country began in Los Angeles, Arthur Kane’s girlfriend tried to cut his thumb with a kitchen knife. Connie, who later would be the girlfriend of Dee Dee Ramone, had stabbed him too. The roadie of the Dolls, Peter Jordan, took over from him while recovering. They were hired by the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles to play during four consecutive nights, two shows per night. Tickets sold out in two hours. The rumor was on the street: The New York Dolls come to LA for the first time. They appeared on the national TV program “Midnight Hour TV” and gave America the opportunity to see what they had been hearing for some time. In Memphis, located in the heart of the Bible Belt, local newspapers wrote articles advising parents not to let their children go to the concert of the Dolls. They were portrayed as perverted, obscene and degenerate. Even so three hundred fans went to see the show but it ended shortly after starting. Johansen was arrested for obscenity after a fan skipped the stage security and kissed him on the cheek. Also opened for the british Mott the Hoople. Throughout the entire tour they earned a strong reputation of drugs, groupies, destroyed hotel rooms and altercations of any kind.
They also met Malcolm McLaren, a designer who owned the clothing store Let it Rock, when he visited New York to show his designs. Later he would have a deep impact on the future of the band.
Three months later they were nominated as “best new band of the year” and “worst new band of the year” by Creem magazine. Marty Thau hired a full page ads in Billboard magazine that said “The Dolls: The band they love to hate".
In Europe their concerts were equally disastrous because of the drugs. At Orly airport in Paris, just landed, Johnny vomited in front of a reception of photographers. During the concert he hit with his guitar the head of a boy who did not stop spitting him.
Morrisey himself, who later formed The Smiths, founded and presided a New York Dolls fan club.
Bob Harris, host of the popular TV program The Old Grey Whistle Test, labeled them in his program as “mock rock” (satirical rock).
Back in US, in 1974 they recorded their second album Too Much, Too Soon, produced by George "Shadow" Morton, who had worked, among other bands, for the Shangri-Las. The title appeared for a biography and film depicting the tragic life of actress Diana Barrymore. The new album contained less original songs than first one, the sound was more polished and included female vocals and sound effects. It had less power than the first album but their versions of classic R & B remembered the original energy of the band. Critics largely applauded, but the public was even less impressed than with the first album. This second album got number 167 on the U.S. charts, shipping 58,000 copies.
In the summer of 1974 the band still did not provide any benefit, but at least no longer losing money. Each band member received a weekly paycheck of $200, but hardly stayed afloat. But what really hurt them was their inability to prove they were a great rock and roll band. And the fact of not being able to break that barrier was going to take its toll on them.
At that time Johnny Starr went out with the famous groupie Sable Starr. They spent two years together.
After recording, the band began another tour in the U.S. with Aerosmith and Kiss, Dolls as headliner. One night there were 5000 fans and the following 200. It was totally unpredictable. This, together with other problems such as cancellations of concerts and additions to alcohol and drugs, began to cause internal differences.
The Dolls had to return to the circuit of clubs, which represented a step backward really difficult to digest. The press went away, their personal excesses and big differences, along with two years in the eye of the storm, had taken its toll. Contrary to popular belief, Mercury wanted another album, but only if the Dolls were rehabilitated, writing new material and feeling that this was not just a party. It was a business.
At that moment McLaren came on the scene, who collaborated with them at their most difficult moments, although, contrary to popular belief, never became manager of the band, that officially continued to be Marthy. All together decided to wear red leather dress designed by Vivienne Westwood and to place soviet flags in their concerts. David Johansen and Malcolm, that didn´t speak to each other and never agreed with each other, agreed for the first time that it was a good idea. Fans did not appreciate this new image, it was very rare (the war of Vietnam still continued) and this moved them away from the record labels. In a concert in the conservative Florida the public reaction was as expected. The low hours of the band, along with alcohol problems of Johansen, problems with heroin of Johnny and Jerry Nolan, and, mainly, internal differences, specially between Johansen and Thunders (including the fact that Johnny had an affair with David’s wife, Cyrinda Foxe) ended with the band at the moment that Johansen, drunk, insisted that the only important member of the band was himself and the rest was expendable. When he repeated it for the umpteenth time that he could replace Jerry and Thunders, these simply went to the airport. The Dolls had over.
Johansen and Sylvain tried to prolong its life with other members, including Blackie Lawless (WASP future leader), until early 80s. Sylvain was invited by McLaren to become the guitarist of a new band he was starting in England. Sylvain gave him his guitar and piano for him to sell them and send the money back to him to travel there. Mclaren never did it, but sent a letter asking him not to go with Johansen to Japan, as planned, since he had got the band. He sent him photos of the boys taken in a photo booth to take a look at them. But the letter was sent to his mother and she never gave it to Sylvain. He found it in a drawer when she died. That letter is now in the Cleveland Museum of Rock. Soon after, McLaren finally achieved his aim when shocking England with The Sex Pistols, a band where he applied again the ideas that did not succeed in the Dolls. Both Johansen and Sylvain would begin later their solo careers.
Meanwhile, Johnny, being neither a virtuous guitar nor a good singer, and Nolan formed Heartbreakers with Television cofounder and bass Richard Hell. Shortly after, Walter Lure joined them as second guitarist.
In New York Rocker magazine an article was published about the Heartbreakers, signed by Theresa Stern, not mentioning that this was the pseudonym of Richard Hell, affirming that ”Johnny Thunders is quintessential rock and roll. Rock and roll is life and death. No exit”.
Johnny took over, with Richard and Walter, the singer paper, in a destructive phase marked by his addiction to alcohol and, mainly, drugs, his constant depression and no taste for fame.
In 1976 they recorded some demos in a recording studio. They have been found and reedited in 2005, almost 30 years later, with the name Down to kill.
Soon there were problems with Richard. Johnny and Walter thought that he wanted to assume the leadership of the band, writing and singing most of the songs. This, together with the big different styles between the songs by Johnny and Richard, took this one to leave the band. He was replaced by Billy Raith, a virtuous bass who also had worked as a gigolo.
At the end of 1976 they traveled to London with a one way ticket and no work permit for a tour in England with Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned that was called Anarchy Tour, organized by Malcom McLaren and as successful as troubled. Only 3 of 19 programmed concerts were carried out. Members of Parliament and Rank Group hotel and casino chain did their utmost to convince pub managers of the premises not to accept the concerts, after the press crushed them with headlines like “the dirt our children bear”, “When will it end?”, “Wash their mouth with soap”, “ But do they not have parents?”, “Never Mind The Morals Or Standards” (referring first Sex Pistols album), “The Filth And The Fury”…
They recorded one only studio album, L.A.M.F. (Like a Motherfucker) with the british record label CSB Ltd (Track Record), and as expected, it was much more successful in the UK that in the USA. They also recorded some informal live albums before they ended and reduced to sporadic concerts. They owed £29,283.76 to the record label as they had spent that money over and above the contractually due £50,000.
At that time, Kane formed his own band, Killer Kane and the Corpse Grinders, with Rivets. Sylvain accompanied Johansen and Thunders in their respective solo tours and later formed bands like The Ugly Americans (with Nolan), The Criminals, The Teardrops, and Teenage News. Johansen had the most successful solo career in solitaire of all of them, became Buxter Pointdexter, worked with the folk band The Harry Smiths, worked as an actor in some films, as a disc jockey and as a painter.
Johnny moved to London and began his solo career. In 1978 he recorded So Alone, an album that has always been acclaimed by the critics and featuring artists such as Paul Cook y Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Peter Perrett y Mike Kellie (Only Ones), Paul Gray y Steve Nicol (Eddie & The Hot Rods), Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy), Steve Marriott, Chrissie Hynde…. The critics always considered it his better album: dirty, raw and naked.
After the release of the album, Johnny played with Sid Vicious in the band Living Dead for a time.
In late 1979 Johnny returned to America and tried to lead a family life with Julie Jordan. He married and had three children: John, Vito and Dino. He moved to Detroit and began playing with a band called Gang War. The other members were John Morgan, Ron Cooke, Philippe Marcade and Wayne Kramer, the former guitarist of MC5. They recorded many demos and performed live concerts on numerous occasions before separating. Demos and live concerts are still in circulation, and a semi-official live album titled Gang War, credited to Thunders and Kramer, is still available.
Then, between detoxification and relapse that placed him in a worse situation than before, he gave up all musical activity until 1982, when he had to sell his guitars to be able to pay his drugs and live in a seedy apartment in New York. Even there were rumors that he had died while in Paris. Before, in 1981, his wife Julie had left him because of his inability to detoxify, taking the children away from him when Dino was only three months old. Apparently he never saw them again.
And when nobody didn´t give a penny for him, Johnny recorded Too Much Junkie Business, half live and half studio. On a trip to Sweden he got into trouble with drugs and police. Shortly after he was arrested at Heathrow airport for possession of a small amount of heroin and spent some days in Pentonville prison.
In the middle of 1983 Johnny started a drug detoxification treatment in London with a Harley Street psychiatrist, who prescribed methadone. This treatment continued throughout his life, with visits to London every two or three months.
In late that year he released Hurt sent, rerecording previous songs in a devastating, intimate and melancholic acoustic album.
In addition, he met Susanne Blomqvist and stayed with her at the end of the year and early next year in Sweden.
In the early months of 1984 Johnny had problems with vodka, Johnny was banned from playing in Sweden because of his bad fame and recorded some videos and films about his life, for which temporarily resided in France. In August he managed to be the first artist to play five consecutive nights at the Marquee in London. He joined Hanoi Rocks temporarily to tour England.
In early 85 he failed again in another attempt of detoxification in Paris and this caused his breakup with Susanne. He returned to London and in mid-year he recorded the album Que será, será. Later he had diverse problems with recordings, mixings, guitars whims, line-up changes in the band… In late that year he went back to Stockholm and tried to make up with Susanne. He even hurt his hands with a car door and cancelled a tour in America, probably to stay longer with Susanne. Finally the album Que Sera Sera was released. In early 86 he toured America. In the Irving Plaza in February, he was video his two concerts. Everything was ready but Johnny did not appear. The night before he had returned to the hotel after dawn and was unable to get up to do a sound check. Friends and fans protected him in his room of the sound crew and avoided filming him like that. The next day was the same. In the following tour months he had problems with several members of his band because of the pay and conditions in hotels, until he finally returned in April to Stockholm, performing in different parts of the world, with some accident or another and the usual drug problems.
The following year just more of the same, he toured the east coast of USA and had more drug problems. Later he traveled to London and Paris. While recording a cover album with Patti Palladin suffered from mental problems as imagining men outside his room waiting to steal him, fleeing from his hotel to stay in a seedy boarding house next to a brothel and asking to be rescued, and even asking for help because Darth Vader was behind the window… The recording of the album was extending longer and longer, with line-up changes in the band, Johnny losing totally his voice… After the summer Nina Antonia released the biography Johnny Thunders - In Cold Blood, while mixing of the new album did not ended. In London some expectation had been raised because of the publication of his biography, album previews and interviews, after Quireboys opened and Johnny’s turn came, he was at the hotel taking drugs. When they found him he excused saying he suffered from laryngitis. After he was given an injection of vitamin B he agreed to play 90 minutes later, but the concert was disastrous, with Johnny looking like apathetic, depressed and tedious… and disappointing the audience, including musicians and guests by Nina Antonia for the celebration of her book. Finishing the year Patti finished mixing the new album, which went on sale on May following year. That year was spent in tours and concerts around the world. For the first time, he got some stability in the band that accompanied him. The rest of the year continued in a similar way, with concerts and tours. In summer the film Mona ET Moi, recorded by Patrick Grandperret about Johnny’s life, was ready and the album Bootlegging The Bootleggers was prepared to accompany it.
In early 1990 Luca, an Italian intrigued by the biography published by Nina Antonia, thought it would be interesting to record his music with a classical music band. Johnny attended the recordings. The following month he traveled to Paris to accompany Stiv Bators on which would be the last album of this one, titled Last Race, along with Dee Dee Ramone and other artists. There he had a serious confrontation with Dee Dee Ramone, who accused Johnny of stealing money from him and then he broke Johnny’s guitar, sprinkled his clothes with lye and threatened him with a knife. Dee Dee returned immediately to New York and Johnny ran out of money so began an acoustic tour in Ireland, after being mistakenly arrested by immigration in transit in England. But Johnny’s health state at that time was not good, last half year he had added tranquilizers to his drug cocktail and the damage was too much obvious. Even so he continued playing in several European cities and little by little he managed to slightly improve his health.
In summer he returned to the USA and for the first time in his life, he was able to rent his own apartment in New York. Also he took care of its state of health and was able to stay away from the drugs, including methadone that he had been taking 16 years. Then he became a quiet, calmed and thoughtful man who had left back the panic feelings and the paranoia produced by the drugs. He even moved from apartment when the whole junkie environment he used to frequent discovered his residence.
However, in the early months of 91 he got hooked again in Paris. "I'm just the same old jerk, I guess", said to his manager. Then he toured Japan. He travelled to London to see his doctor for methadone, after which he recorded 'Born To Lose' in Germany with Die Toten Hosen, besides giving some concerts there. Returning to USA, he stayed at the hotel St. Peter House in New Orleans, Louisiana, room 37. It was on 22 April 1991. Early in the morning, Johnny died in his room.
Dee Dee Ramone got a call the day after from Stevie Klasson, the guitarist who accompanied Johnny at that time. He said that Johnny had been with drug dealers, and in a given moment, they stole his methadone brought from England and they administered LSD to him prior to murder him. What does not fit in this version is the fact, as Dee Dee said, that Johnny had methadone enough to not need any drug from any dealer.
During the night noises and discussions were heard in the room. Johnny got a call from the hotel front desk to ask for explanations and regretted the situation, adding he would go down to the front desk to apologize personally. He never did it, and when they went up, Johnny was found dead in his room. Rigor Mortis had left his body in a strange position, under a table. Willy De Ville, who lived near the hotel, said that morning received calls from the Rolling Stone magazine, New York Village Voice newspaper, his family, Stevie Klasson... and thought it would be a good idea to tell everybody that Johnny died lying on the floor with his guitar in his hands... he described the corpse as horrible, in a fetal position, bent into a U shape.
The coroner of New Orleans ordered the autopsy, but it only fueled the doubts. The autopsy determined that there were traces of methadone in his system, but not a lethal dose.
Johnny’s sister, Mariann, suspected it was a crime, given that all his clothes, money, passport, makeup for concerts…were missing in the room.... and however, police didn’t even cordoned off the area. According to her, the New Orleans Police Department has only half of the police report and, apparently, the other half is missing. She also ensures that the forensic doctor told her he was suffering from leukemia so advanced that he would had lived only about six weeks more. This would explain the deterioration of the appearance of Johnny in his last months of life. His family has tried several times to reopen the case of his death without success. The coroner who handled the case was arrested subsequently by false documents in another case.
Anyway, nobody was surprised. The destiny had delayed an awaited death years ago. Somehow his own death meant a well-earned rest to his life. He is buried in Mt St Mary's Cemetery, Queens, New York.
Johnny Thunders, today a cult musician, always had really fanatic and loyal fans. He represented like nobody else the glamour of decay. He was exemplary in his evasive contact with fame, never was in pursuit of glory but simply enjoy his music, in which he could not be constant because the heroin did not allow it. He neither reached the top of any music charts, but he left inspiration signs and time anticipation and his name has always been referenced as an influence on other bands and as a forerunner of the punk movement.
- In silence he aroused the admiration of front line musicians. Tens of musicians copied his songs. Steve Jones, of the Sex Pistols, admitted that he was embarrassed of how much he copied the style of Johnny Thunders.
- Johnny's eldest son, Vito, was jailed by drug trafficking. He served a sentence in the prisons of Auburn and Attica.
- Jerry Nolan performed a tribute concert to Johnny shortly after this died. A few months later he was admitted with meningitis and pneumonia to the St. Vincent's Hospital of New York. He suffered a stroke and went into a coma, never recovered. A vital support system kept him on life the last months of his life. He died at age 40.
- The Sex Pistols dedicated with humor and irony the song New York to Johnny Thunders. This one replied to them equally with the song London Boys, included in his album So Alone, featuring some of the components of the Sex Pistols.
- Dee Dee Ramone wrote the song Chinese Rocks, colloquial name for heroin in those days. Johnny Ramone rejected it as Ramones song cause it was about drug, previously the Ramones had recorded Now I wanna sniff some glue and he did not want to go on that direction. Dee Dee showed it to Richard Hell, who reworked it slightly and the Heartbreakers began to play it live, and was included on the L.A.M.F. album. Later the Ramones changed their minds and recorded it on End of the Century album, changing the name to Chinese Rock (without the final s). However song credits have been subject of conflict for a long time: The original album L.A.M.F. pointed Thunders, Nolan, Dee Dee and Hell out as the authors. Later editions of the album showed Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone and Dee Dee Ramone, but not Hell, as the authors. The original edition of End of the Century album showed Dee Dee and Hell as the authors, but later reissues gave credits to the three ramones only. Hanoi Rocks band, influenced by Johnny Thunders and the Ramones, took the name of this song.
- There is a rumor that Johnny was introduced Sid Vicious to heroin, with a syringe in his face and shouting: "Are you a boy or a man?”.
- Stiv Bators latest album, Last Race, contained the song Poison Heart, composed by Dee Dee and years later recorded by the Ramones on Mondo Bizarro album.
- When they met in Paris, Stiv Bators, Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders had in mind to form a band called The Whores of Babylon. Nothing came of it because of the discussions between Dee Dee and Johnny.
- David Bowie referred to the Dolls on songs Time and Watch that Man.
- Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks covered "You can't put your arms around a memory" on his first solo album Nights Are So Long.
- Apart from the three children with Julie, he had a daughter, Jamie, with Susanne. This also caused that Susanne increasingly moved away from him to protect her.
- The Ramones recorded I Love you for the tribute album to Johnny Thunders, the benefit was spent raising his children.
- Jimmy Page, when appeared in New York with Led Zeppelin, sent a limousine to pick up Johnny; always considered him a special guitarist.
- Alison Gordy was a singer who toured with Johnny Thunders from 1988 to 1991 through Europe, Japan and the United States. In 1990 Alison formed her own band Blonde and Blue, and recorded her CD Mad as Hell, with a cover of You can't put your arms around a memory.
- In 2008, Gibson.com ranked Thunders #2 on its "Punk Rock's 10 Mightiest Guitar Gods" list (http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/punk-rocks-10-mightiest).
- In the TV series The Sopranos set in the Mafia the songs You can't put your arms around a memory and a live version of Pipeline have been used to run the credits.
- In the film Bringing Out The Dead, directed by Martin Scorsese, the song You can’t put your arms around a memory was also included for the soundtrack.
- In the film Velvet Goldmine, directed by Todd Haynes, the New York Dolls song Personality Crisis was included for the soundtrack.
- The film Freddy Got Fingered, directed by Tom Green, also contained the Dolls song Personality Crisis in the soundtrack.
- The Clash mentioned Johnny in the song City Of The Dead: Don' t know where to cop? That's what New York Johnny said, you should get to know your town just like I know mine. Terry Chimes, who was The Clash drummer, worked with Johnny in two separate stages, in the 77 and in the 84.
- Johnny and the rest of the band thought about changing the name of the Heartbreakers by the Junkies after Tom Petty released an album with the same name.
- The Murder City Devils in the album Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts payed tribute to Johnny with the song Johnny Thunders.
- Duff McKagan, Guns N' Roses bass, dedicated the song So Fine to Johnny in the album Use Your Illusion II. In 1993, Guns N' Roses covered the song You can't put your arms around a memory in the punk cover album The Spaghetti Incident.
- In their reunion concerts, The New York Dolls play You can't put your arms around a memory with Sylvain Sylvain as vocalist. Sometimes he changes the lyrics and sings I can't put my arms around you, Johnny.
- Die Toten Hosen paid tribute to Johnny Thunders in the song Das Wort zum Sonntag writing Solange Johnny Thunders lebt, so lang bleib ich ein punk (As long as Johnny Thunders draws breath, I'll remain a punk). When Johnny died they changed the lyrics by Hey Johnny, kannst Du uns grad seh'n? Wir vergessen dich nicht. Wir werden überall von dir erzählen, damit dein Name ewig weiterlebt (Hey Johnny, can you see us right now?) We won't forget you. We will tell everything about you for your name lives on eternally).
- When the Sex Pistols had their band formed and were looking for a second guitarist that never came, they placed an ad in Melody Maker for a "Whizz Kid Guitarist. Not older than 20. Not worse looking than Johnny Thunders".
- The Replacements wrote a song on their first album about Johnny Thunders called Johnny's Gonna Die. Paul Westerberg wrote it at age 18 when he got back home from a concert in which Johnny, drugged and half asleep, mumbled his songs, insulted the audience and finally fainted on stage. After getting up and getting to play again, the fans cheered for him and Johnny smiled while he stumbled again on the stage.
- Paul Westerberg released an album in 2008 entitled "49:00" which contains a track about Johnny entitled "Devil Raised a Good Boy".
- Chinese punk rock band Joyside's "Neptune Child" is in tribute of Stiv Bators and Johnny Thunders.
- When doing their cover of The Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers. JB Beverley and The Wayward Drifters substitute the line, "and another girl to take my pain away" with "with my Johnny Thunders records taking all this pain away".
- In the Ray Davies Preservation opera rock, which was the basis of three albums of The Kinks and a musical, there was a character named Johnny Thunder.
- Johnny had a tattoo on his right arm, a heart and a dagger decorated with the text Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die.
- 14 And 15 February 86, at Irving Plaza, the video recordings of his concerts were cancelled two nights running because of not doing sound check. The concerts sounded really good, Sylvain Sylvain accompanied Johnny and also joined them some instrumental musicians of band of James Brown. It the 15th, at the end of the concert, Johnny shouted: I'm back, Bruce Springsteen, look out!.
- Willy DeVille dedicated to Johnny the song Chemical Warfare, on the Backstreets of Desire album, released in 1992.
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds mentioned Johnny in the song There She Goes, My Beautiful World from his album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.
- The English band Dogs D'Amour dedicated to Johnny the song Johnny Silvers on their album More Unchartered Heights of Disgrace.
- Alex Chilton also gave Johnny a wink in the song Bangkok: I'm not living on Chinese Rocks, I'm in Bangkok.
- Australian band Wallspace wrote in Everything I Wanted: Don't you wish you had a name like Johnny Thunder.
- Iggy Pop wrote the song Look Away on his album Naughty Little Doggie in which he talked about his relationship with Johnny and Sable Starr.
- Slaughter & the Dogs released as the b-side of the single Dame to Blame the song Johnny T, dedicated to Johnny Thunders.
- Vic Godard & the Subway Sect wrote the song Johnny Thunders published in their album The End of the Surrey People.
- The spanish label Munster Records published in 2001 a tribute album to Johnny titled This One's For Johnny that included songs of The Ramones, Backyard Babies, Ronnie Spector, Nikki Sudden, Sonny Vincent & The Safety Pins, Atom Rhumba, La Secta and Sabrejets.
- American label Skykrebs Records Limited released Born To Lose: A Tribute To Johnny Thunders in 2009, a 3CD Boxed Set of various artists featuring 51 songs and a 36 page full color booklet. Guest stars include Richie Cannata (saxophone player from Billy Joel), Steve Holley (drummer from Wings), Buddy Bowzer (saxophone player from The New York Dolls), Andy Shernoff (bass player from The Dictators), Jeff Magnum (bass player from The Dead Boys) and Alison Gordy (vocals from Blonde & Blue).
- John Waite references Johnny in his song "Downtown" from his Temple Bar CD. The lyric says "Johnny Thunders on the Radio, ah You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory".
- Johnny covered Give Him a Great Big Kiss of the Shangri-Las and called it Great Big Kiss. The spanish band Burning, in turn, covered Johnny thunders cover, and called it Es especial (She’s special), although the song credits granted themselves the authorship of the song.
- Johnny had a passion for cinema, he spent much of his free time watching films. He even participated as an actor in some films as Mona et moi (1989), of Patrick Grandperret, and What About Me (1993), of Vito Napolitano. He also appeared in the documentaries The Blank Generation (1976), The Punk Rock Movie (1978), Lo Mejor de la Edad de Oro (The best of the golden age) - episode 10 - originally broadcasted on June 12 1984, Born to lose: The Last Rock and Roll Movie (1999), The Filth and the Fury (2000), Hey! Is Dee Dee Home? (2002), End of the Century (2003) and All Dolled Up: A New York Dolls Story (2005).
New York Dolls:
New York Dolls (1973)
Too Much, Too Soon (1974)
L. A. M. F. (1977)
Heartbreaker Live At Max's (1979)
Thunders y Kramer:
So Alone (1978)
D. T. K. Live at the Speakeasy (1982)
In Cold Blood (1982)
Too Much Junkie Business(1983)
Hurt Me (1984)
Que Sera, Sera (1985)
Bootlegging the Bootleggers - (1990) The New Too Much Junkie Business - (1999, reissue on CD of original 1982 only available on cassette)
Be sure to hear these songs (including bootlegs)
Personality Crisis - New York Dolls, New York Dolls
Born to lose - Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, L.A.M.F.
Chinese rocks - Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, L.A.M.F.
You can’t put your arms around a memory - So alone
In cold blood - In cold blood
Too much junkie business - Too much junkie business
Eve of destruction - Hurt Me
She’s so untouchable - Hurt Me
Endless party - Qué será será
I was born to cry – Copy cats
Some hearts - Sticks & Stones (The lost album)
Pipeline – In the flesh
Be sure to hear these albums (including bootlegs)
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - L.A.M.F.
Johnny Thunders in concert – Who’s been talking? (perhaps the best sound he ever had)
Born to lose – A Johnny Thunders tribute
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