PERFORMING ARTS

To Hell and Back: My Life in Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers, in the Words of the Last Man Standing

Backbeat: Rowman & Littlefield. Mar. 2020. 280p. ISBN 9781493051694. $27.95. MUSIC
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Despite producing only one poorly recorded studio album, Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers were one of the most legendary American bands of the 1970s. Guitarist and vocalist Lure is the sole surviving member of the recorded band, and his memoir, cowritten by music journalist Thompson (Come and Get These Memories: The Story of Holland-Dozier-Hollan, cowritten with Brian Holland et al.), serves as an insider’s guide to the New York punk scene from 1974 to 1978. Over the years, the Heartbreakers have become more known for their copious drug use than their music; Lure’s detailed memories of the period might be called into question. In the 1980s, he turned music into a side career and built a successful life in finance, eventually getting clean by the end of the decade. Stories of Johnny, Richard Hell, the Sex Pistols, and other noteworthy musicians fill every page, making this a required read for devoted fans. But for the uninitiated, it’s more of a cautionary tale.
VERDICT A readable backstage pass to the early days of the punk rock movement, when the sex and drugs overwhelmed the rock and roll.

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