TV Party - T

LOOKING FOR JOHNNY: The Legend Of Johnny Thunders {MVD} I’ve never made a secret of the fact that, in this Punk Rock world of ours where heroes are not supposed to exist, THUNDERS is a bit of a hero of mine. His guitar style is often copied, never equalled and his dress sense - be it a stack-healed, bouffant glam rock or a short haired rock ‘n’ roller - has always been impeccable. That’s not to mention a massive list of magnificent songs. While some marvelled at his legendary drug taking, to me it was just part of his persona - a fault.
Given all that, I knew even before I took the DVD out of the box that I was gonna enjoy this - even if it was a hack job. The reality is that this is a stellar film loaded with rare photos, interviews and some killer live footage.
What the film is, at its heart, is an in-depth telling of the THUNDERS story from the formation of NEW YORK DOLLS onwards. It actually plays akin to the telling of two stories - one about a great guitarist and songwriter, and another about a gargantuan fucked up junkie. In his quest to find out just who was JOHNNY THUNDERS, director, Danny Garcia has collected just about every essential name from THUNDERS’ past to re-tell his story including Sylvain Sylvain, Walter Lure, biographer Nina Antonia, managers Leee Black Childers and Marty Thau, Bob Gruen, Lenny Kaye and many more. Lure in particular looks and sounds great - hard to believe he was amidst the chaos of the HEARTBREAKERS, especially in light of Billy Rath who comes over as a total drug casualty along with SUICIDE’s Alan Vega and TELEVISION’s Richard Lloyd.
THUNDERS himself appears in several historic interviews, be it a hyper active DOLL, suave and arrogant Punk legend or sedate, insecure, on the nod narcotic nightmare. In all credit to Garcia, he has not downplayed THUNDERS’ use of drugs, nor glamourised them. Somehow, he has found the perfect balance between them being a massive part of THUNDERS life, both in a positive sense and the obvious negative downfall. It’s a great skill of Garcia’s documentary film-making skills. His death in New Orleans in 1991 is also dealt with with stunning aplomb, featuring many sides of the argument about how he passed without offering any over-pious judgment.
Musically, the film features 40 songs in a myriad of forms from simple soundtrack, through to promo-style video and, most importantly and mouth-wateringly essential, live. I was hoping there would be some footage of GANG WAR, the band he formed with MC5er Wayne Kramer - unfortunately not. What you do get though should be enough to keep any THUNDERS obsessive happy, let alone the casual fan.
There’s a number of extra features too including interviews with Garcia and producer, Jeff Joseph. You then get some deleted scenes which are a bit scandalous and a bit hit and miss. There’s the now-obligatory movie trailer, a small feature on guitar modellers, Relics. It’s rounded out with a full live version or ‘All By Myself’, the promo video for ‘Alone In A Crowd’ and finally Stevie Klasson (who played with THUNDERS in THE ODDBALLS) does ‘Lookin’ For Johnny’ which is fun but not up to the THUNDERS greatness. You also get a neat little insert with the DVD that includes an interview with Garcia by Nina Antonia and a list of those who appear in the film.
No doubt in my eyes, THUNDERS remains a legend today and this film is essential viewing. However, it is not an elitest ‘fans only’ deal, nor is it sensationalistic, nor does it pretend to be the ultimate authority on the man. What it is is an engaging, factual and dynamic documentary about one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most enigmatic and truly inspirational mavericks. It’s also essential - totally!! (04.03.15)

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