FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – JOHNNY THUNDERS

LONDON GUITAR ACADEMY has the great pleasure of introducing its FAVOURITE GUITARISTS series with guest blogger-true music enthusiast and longtime friend Paul Wood! In our first in instalment we pay tribute to the immaculate JOHNNY THUNDERS

Careering out of the Bronx in 1971 as part of the New York Dolls on sky high  platform shoes that would give most people a nosebleed and a bouffant hair style that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an 80s US female soap star, Johnny Thunders (and his guitar) gave the early 70’s a look and sound that would never be forgotten.

FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – JOHNNY THUNDERS

FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – JOHNNY THUNDERS

Playing in an aggressive style with a throwback to 50s rock’n’roll and r’n’b, the Thunders sound was a sharp contrast to the guitar sounds of early 70s rock.

Mixing his love for 50’s rock’n’roll and doo wop with the teen romances of the 60’s girl group sound, both the New York Dolls and his later solo albums and shows were unafraid to feature a healthy sprinkling of covers – all given the Thunders guitar sound makeover.

Notable covers either live or in the studio included Pipeline (Chantays), Stranded In The Jungle (The Jayhwaks), Pills (Bo Diddley), Don’t You Start Me Talkin’ (Sonny Boy Williamson), Bad Detective (The Coasters), There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (Archie Bell & the Drells), and Do You Love Me (The Contours).

To quote the title of their 2nd (and final official album) The Dolls were clearly a case of “too much , too soon” but the Dolls had a big influence on the trendsetters that emerged with UK punk.

Thunders moved over to the UK at the time of the UK punk explosion with his new band, the Heartbreakers, where they cut one classic (but muddy sounding) album for Track (“L.A.M.F”).  Sporting a new short sharp hairstyle and either a suit/tie or leather jacket/skinny tie combination look, the band would take to the stage to the sound of air raid sirens before proceeding to explode with one of the most powerful and exciting sets of the initial punk era.

With the Heartbreakers imploding in a befuddled mix of drugs and inter-band squabbles over the sound of the L.A.M.F mix, the subsequent years produced a number of sporadic releases (and re-releases) of varying quality under the Johnny Thunders name, with the best being “So Alone”.

A mysterious and lonely death in 1991 in New Orleans only served to underline his legend and reputation but to quote the title of the best track (and his best ballad) from the “So Alone” album – “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”. 

Guitars most associated with Johnny Thunders:

Gibson Les Paul Special/Gibson Les Paul T.V. (Honey yellow withP90 pick-up)

Recommended albums:

New York Dolls – New York Dolls

New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon

Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F

Johnny Thunders – So Alone

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FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – JOHNNY THUNDERS

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