Before Pete Doherty there was Johnny Thunders
Born to Lose!
As a non drinking, non drugging vegan type you would think that Johnny Thunders would hold little interest for me but if his personal props seem a bit uninteresting his rock n roll was firebrand fierce and captivating.
I still remember clearly seeing the Dolls on the Whistle test back in 1973 and being mesmerised. I didn’t have a clue who they were. I think I even thought that the Rolling Stones had got good again- but then I was only 12. Thunders stole the show that night. His amazing crows nest hair, beautiful white Les Paul and too small leather jacket with the skull and crossbones on the back- he encapsulated guitar hero in one series of mincing moves and killer riffs.
No guitar player has looked cooler since then- just ask Johnny Marr who spent a good half hour explaining the genius of Thunders and his quest to but a leather jacket like his or Morrissey who loved the Dolls or Mick Jones or any of the people who really understand rock n roll.
The Dolls of course went into meltdown but they had sewn the seeds and Thunders struck out on an erratic solo career that had moments of genius like ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ or ‘Born To Lose’ mixed in with moments of druggy mess.
But when he was hot he was hot. Pete Doherty has, perhaps not too wisely, based his life on him and several other key figures acknowledge his genius in interviews I’ve done over the years…and they all understand that loving girl groups, rock n roll and being a romantic with your heart on your sleeve and looking tough, cool and vulnerable are where it’s at…