Tuesday, October 27, 2009

WALTER LURE On the Gross State of the Art, Part II

Text by Nancy “Suzy Q” Foster
© FFanzeen Magazine, 1981
Images from the Internet

The following article originally appeared in
FFanzeen Number 8, which was issued in 1981.

If Walter Lure was Sisyphus and he was rolling a rock up a mountain for eternity only to have it roll back down on him, that rock’s name would be Johnny Thunders. It is a sad dilemma when clubs either won’t book the Heroes because Walter lacks Johnny’s legendary junkie/Grim Reaper status or, ironically enough, they shun the Heroes because hey want to avoid les decadents who have such close association with Thunders. So, the clubs either resent Thunders’ absence or his presence, figuratively or literally. What gross pigs, to quote an intelligent source!

As of 1981, Billy Rath has followed in the footsteps of another goo-goo eyes bass player, Paul McCartney, by renouncing the sins of the flesh and becoming an amateur agronomist in Olde Cape Cod.

On May 23, at Max’s Kansas City, the Heroes had everything that made them my favorite hardcore rock’n’roll group and more. The new bass player, Danny Hirsh, fits in better visually and energy-wise than Rath. The songs are now tight and the pacing between songs and within songs is more dynamically sound.

Billy Rogers, who looked like a football player, in the autumn of 1980, has ferociously drummed his way down to a gaunt frame. Richie Lurie, who shares lead guitar and lead vocal duties with Walter, has come more into his own and added yet another favorite to the Heroes’ repertoire of dizzy little ditties, “Feelin’ No Pain.”

Yet, it was Walter’s fingers that blew us all away! Looking like an androgynous seducer – part pirate and part roaring ‘20s flapper – Walter hippy-hippy-shimmy-shimmy-shaked his way into our pockets – I mean hearts!

It is often said around town, “This man is a genius!” and it’s not only his mum who thinks so. It is rumored that Walter can play all of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos on his Les Paul. Eat your heart out, Apollo!

And just because he’s got a brain doesn’t mean our hero lets his body deteriorate. “I get my exercise from basketball, sex, running from muggers, and sticking needles in my arm!’ confides the sporting Sir Waldo. All I can add to this is, “Keep shooting – baskets, that is!”

FFanzeen: Do you give fashion consultations, considering the way you dress onstage?
Walter Lure: [Laughs] Fashion consultations? Here the latest fashion, my dear – bend over! [Laughs]
FF: What do you like to do when you’re not playing?
Walter: My tastes range to everything as far as records go. I listen to classical, jazz –
FF: What kind of classical stuff do you like?
Walter: I play piano and I like Chopin. I love Chopin. I took piano lessons for about a year or so. I can read music and play the easier pieces. I can’t play big things, but I love Chopin. I love Bach, Beethoven, Mahler –
FF: What about Hayden’s Surprise Symphony? It’s Number 94.
Walter: I have a few of his symphonies, like Number 103, The Drumroll, and some of the London symphonies of his. I have about four or five of his. He’s got a couple of cool smaller pieces that I play on the piano that are really great. Debussy is great - La Mer, etc. Erik Satie is cool, too. I like Gymnopédie by Satie. The one thing that Mahler did is my favorite piece. They used it for the theme in Death in Venice. It’s part of the Fifth Symphony. It’s a slow movement. It’s about ten minutes, but it is one of these cool pieces that you just float away on. Bach is really cool. I have Eugene Ormandy’s Basic Bach. It’s a double album set. It’s real cool. I like jazz, too.
FF: What jazz stuff do you like?
Walter: The early stuff – the stuff that still makes sense.
FF: Like Benny Goodman?
Walter: No, not big band. That’s interesting sometimes, but I like early Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and the horn players. The guitar players I’m not that hot on. It’s too “oo-oo-oo.” It’s like spiders.
FF: Do you think Johnny (Thunders) ever tries to purposely fuck you up by nudging you when you’re playing by leaning on your strumming hand?
Walter: Yeah. In certain songs, like “Junkie Business,” which I sing the line, “I don’t wanna fuck abound with you,” he’s always banging into me. He points to me and kicks me and I kick him back. John’s not deliberately trying to fuck me up, but he tries to arrange the sets where he sings most of the songs and gets most of the attention. Sometimes, he’ll play wrong chords on one of my songs to make the song sound fucked-up.
FF: I noticed that at the Ritz gig in October. It was depressing, because Johnny would look at you like, “Nya-nya-nya. I fucked it up.” I wondered if that was my imagination, because we ace reporters love to create rivalries and stuff like that.
Walter: Yeah. He doesn’t sit around and consciously thing of ways to fuck me up because he’s not that jealous of me or afraid of me. Yet, if he sees I’m getting a bit of attention, he gets jealous real quick. There is a rivalry, even though we get along real well. We don’t hate each other. I love the guy and he loves me. We really work well together. That’s just the way he is. He wants all the attention, so he tries to get it. People love it. Sometimes, they think we’re actually having fights on stage. They think, “Oh my God, these people are going to kill each other any minute!” It’s never like that, though I do have to hold my own, otherwise John will walk all over me. You have to keep him at arm’s length. Give him an inch and he’ll take a fucking mile.
FF: Sometimes it seems like the people that like you hate Johnny, and vice-versa.
Walter: Yeah, people who like me say, “You’re the one who holds it together,” and “Johnny’s fucked up. You’re the only one who can play.” Then the others like John because John’s a star. He’s a personality. He’s unique. There’s no one like him. People like him because they think [starstruck voice] “Oh, Johnny Thunders – he’s sooo cool!” He’s got these little groupies that go hang out with him. John milks them dry for every dime they’ve got. He uses them up and throws them away. I’m not like that. People are attracted to Johnny because of his star aura and charisma. Others are attracted to me because I’m easier to get along with. I’m human. I’m not trying to rob them blind at the drop of a hat. If they like the band though, usually the like both of us.
FF: Doesn’t being Johnny’s friend and being in the group with him sort of entail playing nursemaid to a certain extent?
Walter: Oh, no.
FF: Like that night at Max’s on October 3rd, he kept coming on stage with you and then, even between sets, he was upstairs yelling your name. It was like you couldn’t get him away from you that night.
Walter: Oh, yeah.
FF: And that friend of mine in England said Johnny used to always depend on you. Like once he shot up in the Greyhound john and it was leaking and you were always the one he’d call on.
Walter: There’s certain times when he gets fucked up and you’ll have to take care of him, but it’s just a matter of dealing with him. I know how to deal with him now. I won’t play nursemaid to him. If he gets fucked up and he’s not together, if he doesn’t have guitar picks or guitar strings, I won’t give him any. I’ll say, “Tough, Johnny. You have to get your own shit together.” If he’s too fucked up, I’m not going to carry him around. But if he’s OD-ing or dying, I’ll be around and I’ll help him. But I’m not going to play nursemaid. He knows not to ask me for money or things because he can do it himself. He’s so helpless. He plays like he’s helpless. John is a lot smarter than people think he is. People see that lost, little boy face –
FF: – And they play right into his hands. I can see why.
Walter: Yeah, he’s got this charm. It’s undeniable. I fell for it a couple of months and then I learned how to deal with him. I had to fight with him to get my songs on stage.
FF: That was great when you did “Flight” at Max’s, on November 24th.
Walter: Yeah, he still remembers that song. He likes it. He loves to do it every now and then. Sometimes, he’ll try to arrange the sets so it’s all his songs and none of mine. If it’s booked at Johnny Thunders’ So Alone Revue, then I don’t mind’ but if it’s a Heartbreakers gig, I won’t go on stage until he fixes the set up. He knows I won’t. He’s pretty straight with me and I’m straight with him.
FF: Were the Heartbreakers supposed to play the UK Club?
Walter: He called me up the night before, saying that he had a gig the next night and did I want to play. He said it was a lot of money and that sounded weird. He was talking about getting a thousand dollars for this little shithole club that holds ten people. I said, “Yeah, if you can get it together, I’ll do it. I’ll just show up with a guitar – if you can get the amps.” Then, it never happened. He went away and did a gig with Wayne Kramer in Connecticut. I don’t think he was getting that kind of money. I think it was bullshit. I don’t like doing those kids of gigs with John because it’s spur of the moment; fly by night.
FF: Which Heartbreakers’ song is your favorite one to do?
Walter: I can’t tell you because there’s so many of them that I like. In the Heartbreakers, “One Track Mind” was one of my favorite songs. I used to like to play “It’s Not Enough,” because I loved playing the guitar solo in that. But as far as the songs that I felt were the most energetic, I love “One Track Mind,” “Chinese Rocks” is one of my favorites, too. I like “Born to Lose.” “Going Steady” was fun. I used to love that. “Take a Chance.”
FF: Why didn’t you want to do “Pirate Love” the other night?
Walter: The drummer didn’t know it. He hasn’t done it that much.
FF: What straight jobs have you had and what would you do if you weren’t in rock’n’roll right now?
Walter: Sell my body. No, I went to college and got degrees in English and Chemistry. When I got out of college, I drove a cab for three months. Then I worked in a post office for six months. It was really gross because you couldn’t get a job in the ‘70s. I wanted to be a musician. I didn’t want to be a fucking banker. My father worked in a bank and he almost got me a job in Citibank. But at the last minute, it fell through. Thank God. That would have been gross. Then I got a job at the Food and Drug Administration. That was a pretty serious job; it was a straight job. I was a chemist. It was decent money and I worked there for five years until the Heartbreakers went to England. Then I had to resign. That wasn’t a bad job. I tested drugs and food.
FF: Ha! You made your own drugs!
Walter: There were all these drugs there, but I didn’t take much drugs until the Heartbreakers. I took some drugs in the ‘60s, back when I was in school, but I wasn’t into drugs. I was just into pure music.
FF: Were you, like, the class clown in school?
Walter: Yeah, I was a clown – a nutcase. I used to play basketball in high school, but I was always cracking jokes. My nicknames were “Leaping Louie” and “Pig.”
FF: Why “Pig”?
Walter: I called everyone “Pig” and then everybody started calling me “Pig.” They called Richie “Little Pig.” Today, I still call my friends “Pig.” But its’ become so popular these days that it’s sort of out of touch. I was always weird. I was never normal, I suppose. I got along with people. Whatever I wanted to do, I could always do. Whatever people I wanted to hang out with, I got to know. If I wanted to hang out with a certain crowd, I would become a famous basketball player and get into that crowd, or if I wanted to get into the music crowd, I’d start listening to the right music. I used to do shows in high school. I’d lip sync to Rolling Stones records. This is before I could even play guitar. I used to make like I was Mick Jagger. [Laughs] Then in college I wanted to be part of the hippie crowd.
FF: You had long hair?!
Walter: Yeah.
FF: Did you have a beard?
Walter: I never grew a beard.
FF: Good!
Walter: I had real long hair in the ‘60s. It was long, straight, and halfway down my back. It was real gross. But it was fashionable back then. What can I say? [Laughs] Then I got a haircut and started hanging out in the city. Then I realized that you can’t live on clothes and haircuts. I had to get in a group and become famous as a guitar player or something. I wanted to be part of the art world, or part of the music crowd. I wanted to become rich and famous. I wanted to be able to hang out at parties with Mick Jagger and Jackie Onassis and High Society, go to Paris on weekends, etc. I wanted to be rich and social and be able to talk to anybody on their own level – not looking up to people. I didn’t want to meet stars until I was a star myself. Even though I have, it’s on more of an equal level. I got into a band. I got my face onstage. Then the lucky break came and I wound up with the Heartbreakers. When the Heartbreakers fell apart, that was a drag because I had to start from the bottom again. Now, it’s more serious and I’ve got a bit of a following. I’m actually a lot more popular in England than I am here because that’s where I started coming out – doing more singing and acting crazier. I replaced Hell as the second front man in the band so I had to do a lot more. John and I are more equal in the band as far as a following in England. I have tons of fans in England. They are all waiting for me to come back. I’m trying to get the money to go back. Maybe a record deal wills end us over there.
FF: Which album do you prefer, L.A.M.F. or Live at Max’s?
Walter: It’s hard to say. I like L.A.M.F. for songs like, “It’s Not Enough,” “One Track Mind,” “Born to Lose,” and “Goin’ Steady,” though I don’t like the production. The sound is terrible on “Goin’ Steady.” It’s the worst song, sound-wise. The live album is a lot more fun. It’s more like us. There’s funny bits with John rappin’ between the songs. It has that mistake in the beginning of “All By Myself” that we left in. The drummer forgot the song. We started it, then stopped it and then started it again. John says, “We’re not the most professional band in the world.” [Laughs] That was hilarious. That came the closest to capturing us as we really are. Basically, we’re a live band.
FF: Do you think they’ll release a Volume Two? I know there’s always talk about it.
Walter: They keep talking about it. I haven’t heard all the tapes. I’ve heard a few of the rough mixes and they weren’t of that good quality.
FF: Which sounds would be on that one?
Walter: A lot of weird ones like “Flight.”
FF: “M.I.A.”?
Walter: “M.I.A.” probably. “Born to Lose” – all the ones that weren’t on the other one. We did a lot of extra songs. We did so many songs on those weekends (like) “Copy Cat,” “Great Big Kiss,” etc. We did songs that we hadn’t done in years, like “Baby Talk.” We did ones that weren’t on the other albums, like “Junkie Business,” “Seven Day Weekend,” and even “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” Volume Two, I don’t know if it’s ever going to be released. They talk about it. Max’s doesn’t want to release it unless there’s a band to promote it. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
FF: Not with the Heroes going as well as they are?
Walter: Yeah, with the Heroes going well, and the Heroes so much easier to work with. John has gotten to a state where he can’t get himself together. He’s been good as far as drugs: he’s not that strung out, but he can’t get it together to rehearse and find people to play with. His big attempt was Wayne Kramer. Wayne Kramer was one of his idols and it didn’t work at all. Gang War was terrible. I didn’t even think it was a band. It was more like just four guys up there playing away. The drummer and bass player were just local meatheads form God knows where in Michigan. I think they found them at the bottom of a lake or something. Wayne Kramer was supposed to be the main draw, along with Johnny. It was supposed to be a great combination. It didn’t work. Wayne has gotten older and mellowed out. He’s not as exciting as he used to be, even though he’s still a good guitar player. Johnny wanted to be a solo star and have total control over everything. No one wants to play with him for ten dollars a night when he’s making a thousand. He never gets it together to rehearse. That’s why he ends up calling us the day before the gig.
FF: You’re only as good as the people you work with, like David Johansen was great when he was working with great people, but without someone like Johnny, forget it.
Walter: Exactly. John was really the Dolls sound and David was the frontman.
FF: Johnny needs another strong personality like yourself to play off of.
Walter: Yeah. He knows it and, at the same time, he wants someone he can walk all over. So he’s stuck between wanting to play with me and not wanting to put up with me. He’s got a problem, but in any case –
FF: – The Heroes are go.
Walter: Yeah. The Heroes are what I’m working with now. I don’t think the Heartbreakers will ever really get back together. We’ll probably do gigs now and then, but I don’t think John’s going to change. I think he’s sort of had it. No, well not “had it.” He might do something. His solo album [So Alone] was a good album. The problem is that he hardly played on it. He taught these guys from the Only Ones, etc., all the songs and he’d be asleep in the corner somewhere, playing guitar. They’d just turn his guitar off while was nodding out. Then they’d wake him up, fill him full of coke and speed to do the vocals and the solos. It was his songs. He’s a good songwriter. It’s a waste; it’s a shame.
FF: When did Billy Rogers get connected with the Heroes and the Heartbreakers?
Walter: I’ve known Billy Rogers for a long time. He comes from my hometown, where my parents live out on Long Island. He’s played with my brother a lot in a few bands. We had gotten him into the Senders when Philippe, the original drummer, became the lead singer. Billy was the drummer for the first few months, then he split because they weren’t making any money. They were rehearsing about ten times a week, and they weren’t going anywhere. Billy had a job out on Long Island and he had a bitch of a girlfriend. So, he had a hassle getting back and forth. The Senders were down and out, which was cool for them, because they were used to it. Billy wasn’t used to living in the slums, scrounging around, working his ass off, and making five dollars a night. He was always around and he wanted to get back into playing drums. I auditioned him a few times for bands, but I knew it would be hard for him to get serious since he was living on Long Island and had a job. We had him come in for the Incognitos. It was supposed to be my new band, but I didn’t have another guitar player. I was supposed to play with Ivan Julian. We were calling it the Beatniks, but Max’s decided to call it the Incognitos. It ended up being these jam gigs with Cheetah Chrome, Billy (Rath), and me, with this guy Shebo on drums and a mess of guests. No, we used Shebo from the Stilettos in rehearsal. We used Billy Rogers at the gigs. That’s when my bass player got to know him and recognize him as a good drummer. Billy’s as good as Jerry (Nolan) in his own right. He’s not as wild onstage. He doesn’t stand out as much, but he’s got the same natural feel.
FF: He’s real enthusiastic. He always sings along and has a good time.
Walter: He’s basically young, innocent, straight, and pretty cool. I don’t know what’s going to happen after he hangs out with us for a while. He was the first guy that I thought of when I was forming a new band. We auditioned a mess of drummers and I wasn’t too sure about his personality. I thought, at first, that he might be too low-key to want to stick it out in a rock’n’roll band, but after he auditioned, he called up a few times and I knew he was really serious. We had that other drummer, Arty, who was one of Billy Rath’s friends. I should have known from the beginning that he was going to be an asshole, if he was a friend of Billy’s. He was a total jerk-off. He couldn’t play drums. He could sing harmonies alright. That’s one thing he was good for. He was useless on lead vocals. He started to become a junkie. He thought it was cool because he heard Johnny Thunders was a junkie. Every time he’d do something wrong or couldn’t remember what he was doing, he’d blame it on the bass or something; he’d always have an excuse. So we got so sick of him that we finally got rid of him. We got Billy and he worked great. He did the first gig without hardly knowing the songs.
FF: When and where was the first Heroes gig?
Walter: April at Max’s. Billy Rath was on tour with Iggy and he came back in February. Steve Dior went to England and decided he wasn’t coming back, so we were screwed. We just did it as a trio – Billy Rath, Arty, and me. Next gig after that was in Jersey, when I brought my brother up. I wasn’t sure about Richie in the beginning. He always played in bands full of girls and never really sang much at all. I really wanted a well-known star. Richie is developing. It’s the same as when I first joined the Heartbreakers. I didn’t sing much and I wasn’t extroverted – even though, in earlier bands, I was extroverted – because I had Richard Hell and Johnny Thunders jumping around in front of me. Richie is starting to write better songs, sing better, and become more of a focus on stage, rather than sticking his tongue out and hiding behind his guitar.
FF: I know you like Bowie, so was the name of the band particularly inspired by the Bowie song?
Walter: Nah! I like Bowie and that’s the reason I almost didn’t use the name, because I thought people would think that it came too much from Bowie. I was tired of names like the Works, the Junkies, etc. I thought of calling it the Hot Shots, but there was a band playing around called Hot Shot. I wanted a positive name that could mean a lot of things – one that wasn’t drug oriented. We could’ve called ourselves the Heroines and worn dresses, but that would have been silly. We wanted to get away from the drug image that we had with the Heartbreakers. I just thought Heroes was something that people could believe in. The Beatles were heroes, the Rolling Stones were heroes, and Abraham Lincoln, and some shit like that.
FF: It was Superheroes at first.
Walter: No, that was our genius bass player’s idea.
FF: That’s still going around.
Walter: Billy Rath is sort of like a mental – I don’t know how to describe it. He gets these ideas and he thinks he’s right. He’s been doing most of the booking because I hate booking on the phone because they treat you like shit. Billy’s good at that. We might have to change our name anyway because there are a few other bands with the same name – one has an album out on Polydor. One’s from Jersey. One’s from England. One’s from California. I was going to change it to Head Masters and we still might. It’s sort of a double meaning type thing. Or Head Hunters. We’re not going to change it until we have to. Steve Dior and I decided to call it the Heroes. We went through a million names. One that was cool was the Mental Nurses, but we figured that was too weird. It was simple and positive. I didn’t want anything like the Psychotic Computers or all these arty names. Billy came up with these names that was total idiocy. “How about the Conservators? Or the Retros?” I said, “What’s a ‘retro’?” Billy’s got no mind at all. He’s good as a bass player and for business.
FF: Do you have a manager?
Walter: We have nobody. That’s why we're doing the single. We have someone who is interested, but he’s got to have a single to play for people and get us a tour.
FF: When and where was the Heroes best audience reaction?
Walter: Probably the last gig at Max’s [November 1], when people started jumping up and down. That was the time when I felt we had actually communicated something. The other gigs were good, but it was so-so. I was starting to get depressed, saying, “Aw, fuck. We’ll never be as good as the Heartbreakers.” Yet, at the first few Heartbreakers gigs, the crowd went crazy, but the music was the worst piece of shit you ever heard. Everybody was out of tune – especially the first one. It was the biggest joke, so I had to realize that every band starting out sounds awful. Even the Beatles, in the beginning, sounded shitty; and the Stones. It’s just something that has to be worked on. Yeah, the last Max’s gig was probably the best reaction we’ve ever had. We’ll see on Friday if that one’s best [it was, and the December 12 Left Bank gig in Westchester was even wilder – nf].
FF: Do you think there’s a feeling of community in the New York City rock’n’roll scene? What bands do you have friends in, or which band would you support by word-of-mouth?
Walter: Back in 1975, there was a big feeling of community. Everybody was together and everyone was helping one another. Now it’s a jungle and everyone’s trying to survive. I have friends in Blondie; also there’s Johansen, the Ramones, Sylvain – but I won’t support a band that I don’t like. Some bands I might like so-so, but if they are friends I won’t say anything bad about them [since when? – nf]. I try to stay away from saying bad things about any band because I’ve gotten into so much trouble by saying things in papers. People in bands have tried to kill me. I’ve had contracts put on me. [Laughs] After a while, there’s just not that many bands that you like. You get so full of music. You’ve seen every fucking band a million times. You just like people who are your friends or some band that is exceptional, like Mink DeVille, who was always great with his voice. I still think he was better when he was doing Otis Redding covers than he is now, although I like his albums a lot.
FF: Have you every played any gigs where the audience got really violent? Have you ever been hurt on stage?
Walter: In England, they used to get violent – not violent against the band. The punk audience was just really crazy. They threw glasses and bottles. I got hit in the mouth with one of those plastic glasses that they use in England to drink beer from. Luckily, it was plastic and it bounced off, so I didn’t get hurt. They have this beer over there called Newcastle Brown Ale, and it comes in bottles made of glass that’s an inch thick. We used to have to duck those. One time I heard one smash into the fucking drums and you could hear it louder than the fucking music. They grow stuff as they yell, “Yeah! Great!” Then, of course, they spit all over you.
FF: Gobbing.
Walter: Yeah, bogging was the big thing. I used to walk off stage covered with this green tuberculosis hanging off my jacket, my guitar, and everything else. It was so gross, but after a while, you didn’t even notice it. It was just like shit hanging all over your face in blobs.
FF: Tokens of affection.
Walter: Yeah, right. I didn’t mind that. At least it didn’t hurt. But I didn’t like all those steins flying by. A few guys in other bands got really bonked out. Bleeding and stuff.
FF: I saw an old picture of you with Sid and Nancy, and you had a band-aid on your nose. What happened? Where you wounded in action?
Walter: No, that was just something I did for a couple of gigs. It was just a fun thing to do. At one gig, I put band-aids on my jacket. Another gig, I put them on a couple of spots on my face to look funny. Sid and Nancy were good friends of ours. Actually, it was us who introduced Nancy to Sid. Nancy used to live in New York City and was a Heartbreakers groupie. We all hated her. She was a real sleaze.
FF: Was it Jerry who she hung out with the most?
Walter: She was trying to hang out with any one of us, but it was always Jerry and John who would do it because she made tons of money as a dancer and a whore. She’d turn them on. She’d come over or drop around saying, “I got some money. Do you wanna get high?” I did it once or twice, but I couldn’t deal with that stuff. I don’t like using people, it’s not my style. John and Jerry would do it. They constantly ripped her off and took her money. She followed us over to England. She showed up at our house and said, “Hi guys.” They fucking closed the door in her face. Then she stuck some money under the door and they said, “Come on in!” She’d ask them if they could cop for her. They’d say it cost 100 pounds a gram and it only cost like 60. They’d go out and get it and come back with this little match head cover, or about a tenth of a gram. They’d say, “Here it is,” and she’d say, “Aw, what happened to it all? They’d say, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s how much it cost.” They’d rip her off grossly. She was a masochist. She loved it, I think. She was so sick. Then we got rid of her or she got sick of us. She met Sid and it was love at first sight.
FF: Do you like working in the studio?
Walter: When I playing, not when I’m mixing. It’s a big bore in the studio, actually. It’s okay when you’re playing, working on songs, and coming up with new ideas. I like the stage a lot better than the studio. The studio takes so fucking long.
FF: How long did L.A.M.F. take to record?
Walter: Too long! It took about six months when it should have taken six weeks. We did four songs in two sessions in the space of two nights: “Chinese Rocks,” “Born to Lose,” “Can’t Keep My Eyes on You,” and “Get Off the Phone,” or something like that. They were recorded great. Then Jerry and John started saying, “It’s not good enough.” Actually, it was Jerry who was causing all the problems. He said, “I think we should do it again somewhere.” So we went to studio after studio doing this shit over and over again. We finally got the stuff recorded, but they wasted so much time. John would show up like, “Duh-uh-uh” and the whole night would be ruined because he couldn’t play. But he demanded that we keep on playing because he wanted to play so badly. He’s say, “We can do it! We can to it-uh-argh!”, puking all over the guitar. We could’ve had the thing done in the space of two weeks. But they wasted so much time and the money, and in the end, we went back to the original mixes. They were ten times better. It was a total joke because everyone got so fucked up. They didn’t take it seriously. It was Johnny and Jerry mostly, because Billy and I would always be pretty together and show up. Johnny and Jerry think the world is made for them. They wouldn’t even show up have the time: “Uhhhh – there’s a TV show I wanna watch. I can’t make the session tonight.” We went trough an incredible amount of money. Luckily, it was the record company [Track Records] that was paying for it, not us. It was hundreds and thousands of pounds. It was just wasted. Money was spent on drugs. They’d show up three hours late and it cost two hundred dollars an hour for these great studios. They’d go mix it two hundred times over. Every time the final mix was finished, Jerry would say, “It’s no good! Do it over!” Jerry wanted to remix it himself, so he did and it was ten times worse than the shit that we had. Jerry was so fucked up. He decided that everything was the mixer’s fault, or my fault. He just went nuts. Yet the tapes actually sounded good. There was nothing wrong with the mixes. It got fucked up when they changed the tape to vinyl. We even had them do it a few times, but it always came back with this muffled sound, like it was underwater. I was saying, “What the fuck is wrong with these people?” Finally, it was October, and the album had to come out. We had to approve it then because all the factories would be booked up until after Christmas. We finally said, “This is it. We have to do it.” Jerry said, “No way! If you guys okay that thing, I’m leaving the group!” So, we had no choice. We either approved it or it wouldn’t be out until the next year. So, I said, “Fuck it, I want it out!” Billy said, “Yeah.” John wasn’t there, but he had approved it form New York City. He heard the test pressing. It sounded okay and he liked it.
FF: When you were recording, where did you live in London, and did all the Heartbreakers live together?
Walter: We got on Track Records in February after the Anarchy Tour [December]. We got the deal in January and went back to New York for a few weeks while our manager fixed up the deal. We came back in February. We hadn’t signed anything, but Track was supporting us. They put us up in a flat in Pimlico. It’s near Victoria Station, in the center of London. It was real expensive. It was two bedrooms with a full-out couch in the living room. It was $180 a week to start out. When summer came, they raised it to about $320 a week. That was incredible for this little shitty two bedroom flat. They had maids that came in every two days, which was cool, but the rent was incredible. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. We were all living with this girl for a few months. That broke up, so I came back. Billy and his girlfriend shared a flat with some friends. Then we came back to New York for the Village Gate gig, and the album was coming out. They found us a new place in Chelsea on Oakley Street, which is the same block that Bowie used to live on, right off Kings Road. It’s a real nice area. We lived there and Jerry was living with a girlfriend out in the suburbs somewhere. We lived in London for the most part of two years, from December 1976 to August of 1978.
FF: Do you think rock’n’roll is more encompassing as a lifestyle in London than in New York City, with the little cult groups like the rockabilly rebels, the mods, the punks, the skinheads, the rude boys, etc.?
Walter: Well, yeah, there are ten times more fads over there. In England, it’s all fads. Everybody has a certain thing they wear and a certain thing that they listen to. They have the greatest clothes over there. There’s constant fads, like power pop, and they change every six months. That’s why groups make it for six months and they are gone six months later. The media is so concentrated. England is like one big New York City. The media is great. They have weekly (music) papers. The publicity is so encompassing that the public is very well informed.
FF: The press is more influenced and more respected than in America.
Walter: The press is incredible. Everybody knows everybody. Here, we have monthly magazines who only talk about the big groups and don’t even think about the new shit. It’s only fanzines that write about the New Wave stuff. That’s why the rest of the country is so far behind New York and Los Angeles. By the time that punk started to catch on over here, it was already finished in England. Everybody was getting into heavy metal or rockabilly.
FF: Or ska and reggae.
Walter: Yeah. Of course, you don’t make any money in England. You can have a number one record and still not make a dime because there aren’t that many records sold there. Every time we played a gig, we would lose money because all the equipment was rented. Paying for hotels and travel was incredible. Clothes – anything you want – the prices are incredible. And it’s gone up since we left. I’ve heard that cabs and subways are grosser. The town closes down at eleven o’clock. TV’s off at midnight, usually. On weekends, it stays on until one or so. The bars all close down at eleven, except a few private clubs that stay open late. The subways close down at twelve and you can’t get home. London is really spread out and a lot of the clubs are out in the middle of nowhere. You get out there, then you have to call a private cab company to come pick you up. It costs you a fortune. It costs you ten dollars to go two blocks. The people are so poor over there and everything is so fucking expensive.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. It was a great read and Walter is on my favorite musicians.