Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders

Title: Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders

Director: Danny Garcia

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Thunders DVD 10-21

www.mvdvisual.com / www.jungle-records.com


A few weeks ago I had posted on Facebook that I didn’t really “get” all of the Johnny Thunders worship. I’ve been a casual fan for years but never a rabid one. This documentary helps shed some light on the life and death of Thunders (born John Genzale) who died at the age of 38 in a New Orleans hotel room on 4/23/91, presumably of a drug overdose (there is some speculation in this documentary that he may have been robbed then killed).  The doc begins with Thunders’ early life in Queens, NY, growing up without a father which many suspect left a huge void in his life. Early on he wanted to be a professional baseball player until he reached high school and was bitten by the rock and roll bug.

From there he was in a few small bands until he met Syl Sylvain and the late Billy Murcia and formed what would eventually become the New York Dolls.  Once the Dolls imploded Thunders formed The Heartbreakers with his pal Jerry Nolan (Dolls drummer) and a few other folks and that eventually led into a solo career.  Throughout the film plenty of folks who were there are interviewed, including his Dolls cohort Sylvain, writer/musician Lenny Kaye, Heartbreakers guitarist Walter Lure, photographer Bob Gruen, Suicide’s Alan Vega, The Clash’s Terry Chimes and many others, all trying to shed some light on the life and death of Thunders.  In addition to the interviews, there’s plenty of classic, archival live footage throughout the documentary.

It’s obvious from watching Looking For Johnny that the guy was a huge influence on many people and truly an underrated talent both his playing and songwriting. And who knows, maybe without the drugs, Thunders might still be around playing and influencing others.  Director Danny Garcia did a great job of capturing all that was Johnny Thunders (for example, I had no idea that Thunders had kids).

He lived fast and died young and Sylvain sums it up perfectly at the end when he stated that he once heard that Bob Dylan stated he’d wished he’d written “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”

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