50thirdand3rd

Walter Lure (Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, The Waldos) – In Conversation – Part 2

Walter Lure joins us to talk about his life in and out of music and to celebrate the recent CD & DVD releases of LAMF – Live At The Bowery Electric. Here’s Part 2 of an incredibly candid interview that takes us from the LAMF album to the Bowery Electric shows and beyond. 

Here’s Part 1 if you missed it, first time around PART 1.

And here’s where we left off …

LAMF, The Heartbreakers only album release, has now had it’s 40th birthday. How do you view it after all these years ?

I still think it’s a great album and I’m still playing the songs from it 40 years later. I just did that LAMF tour back in December with Clem Burke, Glen Matlock and Mike Ness and we sold out 6 shows on both coasts in a matter of days. The songs are still great and, yes, the original release had sound issues but sounded really good after it was  remastered in the 80s and released on CD and Cassette.  Jerry and Johnny seemed to have a curse following them because the Dolls albums never sounded half as good as the band sounded live. Of course I always say that if the album had sounded a lot better and we got a lot bigger as a result, we all would have been dead a lot sooner because we would have had more cash to take more drugs, myself included.

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The band were only in the UK for a couple of years and kind of drifted apart after the release of LAMF. What can you remember of the end of the band and what were your thoughts on what to do next at that time ?

Well Jerry had already left 6 months earlier and the record came out and didn’t sell that well. We toured for a bit but then we needed a permanent drummer. Billy and I went back to NYC to audition some locals and ended up bringing back this guy Spider from a local band called Pure Hell. We came back to London with him and just as we got back, found out that Johnny had decided to go solo. BP Fallon had been hanging out with him and whispering in his ear that he could do much better financially and artistically as a solo artist. This was around Spring 1978. Billy and I hung out for a while at this photographers flat in Kensington that he let us crash in for free. His name was Alain Notz and was just a college student at the time taking pictures as a hobby. His shot of us ended up being the cover for Live At Max’s. Billy and I also did a single for Island Records – 7 Day Weekend and Too Much Junkie Biz that never came out on Island but later surfaced on Skydog. Anyway our cash was running out and we couldn’t afford to stay in the UK any longer. Leee always thought that I should have started a band there but we didn’t have the time or the money. We both went back to NYC to see if we could start something there. I ended up starting several bands with different people including my younger brother but nothing really happened until the Waldo’s formed in 1987 or thereabouts. They had multiple personnel changes until the current lineup settled in 1996.

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How were the occasional reunion shows and the Johnny Thunders Tribute show ?

They were really rent parties used to raise cash for all of us to keep going. We made great money as the Heartbreakers but it was only done every year or so. The shows usually went well but it all depended on how fucked up Johnny was. A few times we had to pull the plug on his amp because he’d be playing the same song over and over stumbling around.

Would it be fair to say that when you recorded and played with The Waldos, it was an altogether more sober experience than The Heartbreakers ? How did it compare ?

Yes indeed. By the time we did the first Waldo’s album we were all done with drugs although we did still drink, just not to excess. The recordings were quick and professional – we did all the basic tracks over a weekend and did the overdubs and guest spots over the next few weekends. The Heartbreakers sessions were an altogether different, drug hazed atmosphere. One never knew who was going to show up or when. It took much longer.

The Waldos “Rent Party” is another perfect slice of dirty rock ‘n’ roll and  fully deserves it’s place alongside LAMF. Are you proud of that album ?

Yes I am still proud of what we did on Rent Party. While the bass player did most of the leg work getting guest artists and hanging out for the mixing we were all involved and I think it still sounds great.

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Aside from The Heartbreakers and The Waldos, you’ve worked on various musical projects over the years. Who have you most enjoyed working with ?

I played on 3 Ramones albums and that was interesting as a study in derangement. They were all in various stages of OCD and control freakdom. DeeDee was a loon drug addict but also the most creative of the group. He had the most song ideas of anyone. Mark was a drunk at the time so he would hide a bottle somewhere in the studio and DeeDee would hide his dope and needles. If one of them found the other’s stash they would rat them out to the others as a means of diverting attention away from themselves. Still it was an experience playing with them. Another gig I did was join this group of teenagers called The Blessed who were popular at Max’s. In 1977 I was home from the UK for a few months that summer and they called up needing a guitar player for a gig because theirs had just quit. I joined them for a rehearsal or 2 and did the gig which was hilarious because they really couldn’t play that well but looked good and all the local music magazines were following them because they were all teenage pretty boys. I did a few gigs with them and also recorded a single with them at a friend’s studio. Then I had to go back to the UK for the final HB tours. I’ve done other small projects over the years but nothing as weird or as fun as those two.

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How did the stockbroking thing come about, there can’t be many rock ‘n’ rollers who made that transition ?

Well I really didn’t sell stocks to people – you needed a license for that, but I did work in the trade settlement and operations area of a few brokerage firms. It was around 1981 or 1982 and I had to move back home to my father’s house in Long Island because I ran out of money to live on. My father was a retired retail banker who knew a friend who also was a retired banker but had started working for a computer firm that went into banks and updated their shareholder records during corporate actions when companies were taken over or merged with other companies. They used a lot of temps when they had to do large jobs so he hired me and my brother as temps. The gig was just adding up tons of stock certificates and entering the info into their systems. So now I start learning about finance and money. I never really knew anything about the world of money other than the fact that I never had enough and always wanted more of it. I slowly started learning about stocks, bonds, warrants, options, rights, derivatives etc. I did this for a few years and then finally jumped to a real brokerage firm in 1986. Then I really started learning how stuff worked in finance. Trading operations, sales desks, IPOs, margin, legal, stock transfer etc. However there was still one obstacle – I was still a junkie getting high whenever possible. I would sneak out to buy during lunch or before work and run back to the office to get high. I even went out to lunch one day and got busted in a sting operation and didn’t get back to work for another 2 days. Luckily they swallowed whatever ridiculous story I gave them. Finally in spring 1988 I finally got off dope forever. It took a few weeks of pills and lesser drugs but by late June I was drug free. I did it once more that August and never again after that. Then my work started getting better and my big boss took a liking to me and became a mentor of sorts. We also used to stop at a bar in the main railway station on the way home every night and have a few drinks which also helped the relationship. So now my career takes off and by 1993 or so I’m in charge of a whole settlement operation and 125 people and making $300,000 – $400,000 a year. I’m still doing gigs with the Waldo’s and some Heartbreaker reunions up until Johnny died in 1991 but I’m playing this Jekyll and Hyde character wearing suits and ties by day and punk clothes at night. To this day my closet looks like a schizophrenic’s nightmare- one side is suits and ties and the other side is stage clothes in various states of dishevelment. So I continued on Wall St until I retired 3 years ago. I worked at several firms after my original firm was taken over by a bank in 1999 and was at Lehman Brothers in 2008 when they imploded. I ended up at an asset management firm, Neuberger Berman when I finally retired.

How would you compare the rush of playing live on stage to dealing with the turmoils of the stock exchange ?

Two completely different worlds but there are plenty of asshole personalities to go round in both of them. Music playing is largely instinctual and the feel is what really counts although you do have to know how to play in any case. Wall St. work is definitely more logical and you must be extremely careful not to make mistakes that can lose the firm millions of dollars in an instant. In music, mistakes are part of the show whereas in trading they can get you fired in a second. Obviously playing music is a lot more fun but playing on Wall St. was a lot more lucrative for me anyway.

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Looking back on your life, do you see your biggest achievements as a stockbroker or musician ?

Well there are 2 trains of thought here. Music definitely was the best for me because it made me semi-famous and gave me great pleasure and I’m still able to do it today but there was a high price to pay with about 9-10 years of my life wasted on drugs. Wall St. was the greatest practical achievement because it made me lots of money, bought my house and left me lots of cash to invest with in my retired years. So depending on how you look at it, there are great things to say about Dr Jekyll and also Mr Hyde.

How does having grandchildren feel as a punk rock ‘n’ roller ?

It’s sort of funny because it happened almost without me knowing it. I only went out with the girl for a few months and didn’t really know if the kid was mine till he was about 4, although I had my suspicions. Most people were amazed because I ended up living with a guy instead of a girl for my later years but was always sort of bisexual. I lost touch with the child during my drug years but then he showed up at one of my shows in the early 90s and we reconnected and have stayed close ever since. The kids, twin girls, turn 5 in May.

Fast forward to 2016 and you put a band together to perform LAMF start to finish at The Bowery Electric. How did the various players get involved (Clem Burke, Wayne Kramer, Tommy Stinson)  ? 

Basically it was Jesse Malin’s idea to put it together. He was in D-Generation and sort of runs the Bowery Electric in NYC. I knew Clem and Wayne from back in the 70s and 80s but Jesse had their contact info and he also knew Tommy. So he asked them and they were happy to do it.

Did it surprise you how quickly the shows sold out and the level of interest ?

All 4 shows sold out in a matter of hours which did surprise me (the same thing happened in November 2017 with the newer version). I was surprised at the interest level – the album was 40 years old already. So in any case the whole thing sort of blew my mind.

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Did you have the intention to record the shows from the off ?

We thought of that pretty soon after seeing the high interest level. Wayne Kramer’s wife is a music industry lawyer so she shopped it around to a few labels. Jungle from the UK came up with the best deal. However there were some issues with Kramer’s wife taking too long to release the stuff and then some of the advance cash disappearing into their production.

It really is a cool album – raw and ragged, exactly how the songs should be played. Clem’s backbeat holds everything together and the sound is as clear as a bell unlike the original studio version. The different singers and guests really make it a celebration as much as giving the songs the fresh airing they deserve. How were the shows for you and are you pleased with the resultant album ?

Yes the shows were great for me but there were a few issues with Tommy being drunk the first night and Wayne losing his place in some songs but these were minor. Clem was great and one of the best drummers I ever worked with. Yes, I think the album came out great.

Cheetah Chrome features. Were you friends with The Dead Boys’ back in the day ?

Yes, we knew them back in the day. The Heartbreakers with Richard Hell and me played a weekend in Cleveland in 1974 or 1975 and one of the bands that we met was called Frankenstein. Later they came to NYC and changed their name to The Dead Boys. I knew both Cheetah and Stiv well, back in the 70s and into the 80s and 90s. We all used to buy drugs together in the east village back then.

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A few short questions to wrap up …

What’s your favourite track on LAMF ?

Probably One Track Mind and/or Born to Lose

What’s your favorite memory of playing with The Heartbreakers ?

Probably doing the big show at the Rainbow Theatre in London – around 2000 people there.

Who is your biggest life influence ?

Too many to describe.

What’s your proudest moment ?

Either getting into The Heartbreakers or else getting off drugs.

Do you have any regrets ?

Wasting all those years on drugs. Sheer stupidity.

What do you want the history books to say about about you ?

I don’t really care. I’ll be long gone if they ever decide to say anything at all.

I  thank Walter for his time and the music he has created. For me, Walter and his fellow Heartbreakers have left a timeless legacy in LAMF that will be played and talked about for decades. It’s influenced countless numbers of bands and will continue to do so. Here’s to the next dirty punk rock ‘n’ roll band that the album spawns.

If you haven’t already done so, check out LAMF – Live At The Bowery Electric on CD and DVD. It is a worthy addition to any record collection and a fantastic celebration of one the most influential records of a generation.

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LAMF – Live At The Bowery Electric

Amazon CD

Amazon DVD

Spotify

And before you leave us, keep an eye out for upcoming Walter News – there’s a new Waldo’s album coming out in the next couple of months !!

 

 

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Graham Geldard

Music first, Photography second, now the two go hand in hand. Travelled the length and breadth of musical genres – 70s glam rock to 77 punk to 80s / 90s mod, post punk, trashy rock ‘n’ roll & metal. Will listen to and shoot anything. Now hooked on the thriving Leeds gig scene – local bands and visiting bands, arenas to toilet venues.

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