The Heartbreakers “Chinese Rocks/Born to Lose” 1977. 12″ single, UK release. Today, July 15th, is Heartbreakers (and New York Dolls) singer, guitarist, songwriter Johnny Thunders’ birthday (b. John Genzale 1952, d. 1991). Last year we bought this original photo of Thunders by Milwaukee photographer Stanley Ryan Jones at his “The God-Almighty Stanley Ryan Jones $ell$ Out” retrospective.
Jones was one of the few photographers documenting the punk and new wave scene in Milwaukee in the 70′s and 80′s. Sadly most of his work was destroyed in a fire. When we got the photograph of Johnny Thunders signed, we asked Jones to tell us a bit about the picture. It was a show at The Starship (I think, or it was The Palms) and clearly Thunders was stoned out of his mind, about to smoke his cigarette wrong-way-around. Thunders was also not happy about getting his picture taken and was a real asshole about it. What I love about this photo is that his expression – dark circles under eyes and cheeks – clearly tells you everything about Thunders’ mindset (or lack thereof) and health but also you can feel and even smell the “artist lounge” at the club: the gross 70′s plaid couch that reeks of stale smoke through the glossy paper.
“Chinese Rocks” and “Born to Lose” are two of my favorite Heartbreakers songs. Both tracks appeared on their only LP L.A.M.F. “Born to Lose” is by Thunders but “Chinese Rocks” was written by Richard Hell and the Ramones’ Dee Dee Ramone (though there is some dispute about Hell’s contribution to the track; Dee Dee probably is responsible for most, if not all, of the song).