Barry Cain gets struck down by
the crazy past and present of the
MIST, Moor mist, mire mist, molten mist, Scotch mist obscures
the three slashing figures to the point where they bear a brief
similarity to victims on an over - enthusiastic dissector's chopping
block. The treble fountain sound of water colliding with damp
grass becomes the only confirmation of their presence as the mist
In the background a sheep moos? In the coach Siouxsie giggles.
Inthe sepulchral distance a car stirs. In the sky a bird spews. In
the engine there's a phantom 55 mph knock. In Gayle's head
is an image of an empty Edinburgh record shop. In the earth
a worm smirks. In Alan's stomach a demon hugging burp is
conceived and born.
In the morning.
In the meantime the three figures, shakity shake shake, return
coughing windbreakers out of every oritice.
Surfbreakers on the shore, Heartbreakers on the moor.
An unlikely setting for an alfresco slash, J. Carroll Nash, hit and a
miss, cat and a fiddle, gypsy's kiss, Jimmy Riddle, lag, taking a
leak, watering the horse, wringing the flannel.
Even more unlikely when you consider the slashers are celebrated
Noo Yawk mavericks Billy Rath, Walter Lure and little Johnny
Thunders. But strange things happen when a band like The
Heartbreakers take to the highways and byways of Great, well, Britain.
It's difficult to wrtte about the disparate albeit intrinsic airy elements that
make up The Heartbreakers. Insular and closed shop are words that
immediately spring to mind. They don't go out of their way to be
inaccessible - it's just that the sprawling urban conurbations of London
and New York spawn opposites and it's difficult to fInd any common
ground to take off on.
Friction, whether it's the supercilious kind or firmly embedded in some
crazy past, is always apparent within the band.
This has led to the departure of drummer Jerry Nolan
although for this tour anyway he's been retained as a hired
Difficult to know if they're ever serious about their anger.
Maybe it's just because they're Yanks. Maybe it's just
because they're a rock band. Maybe it's just to relieve the
black cloud of boredom travelling from gig to gig.
A few months back they were all homesick. When they
were told to get out of the country by the Home Office they
returned to New York and got sick of it. The visa problems
solved, they couldn't wait to come back.
Well, music is what it's all about. You don't get no politico
palpitations from The Hearttbreakers.
So we're on this coach along with Siouxsie And The
Banshees and The Models somewhere in the Scottish
Highlands. The coach has a car engine and it's spluttering.
On schedule it ain't.
The trip is three - time tiresome 'and it's pause for dozing.
Half sleep produces the grandest illusions. First the
immediate milieu is intensified, the whizzzpast scenery no
longer holds any interest and dim mind scenes unravel a
At Middlesbrough Town Hall a spastic weaves in and out
of the crowd, laughing to himself and spilling beer from the
glass in his intermittently shaking hand. He stops to gurgle
at various individuals that attract him, creases up and runs
back into the audience.
What's that copy of Teenage Romance doing ripped up on
"Got a cigarette, Johnny? Say, those curtains are gold.
"Marco from The Models reads a book. He looks bored.
There's spit in the air, spit in the hair, spit in the lair of The
Then there's this sound of sirens growing louder, LOUDER.
Police car sirens first, then air raid
sirens, then the sound of marching feet,
then a heavy metal German voice.
His hard shifting tones incite the
windswept German youth.
And then the band are the 'Chatterbox'.
"Wake up and look at the cows. "
Sure enough the coach has been
detained yet again by a bunch of cosy
They've just been milked and are
obviously happy at the prospect of a dry
day in the fields.
Middlesbrough. Oh yeah.
Back. 'Pirates Love'. The kids are standing on chairs, tables, one
another to catch a glimpse of Thunders' snake mouth, of Lure's
Acid-gone eyes. In some Heartbreaker Hotel outside Middlesbrough
Johnny pouts that mouth in a look of incredulity. "Naw, I ain't all that
happy at the moment. Christ, I'm looking for a drummer. "
Back at the gig Johnny is telling the kids it ain't cool to spit before
heading for the hills on 'Let's Go'. A white splat on his jacket as he sings.
. . ."See," he pours another brandy from the miniature. "Rat Scabies
didn't really fit in when he came to audition. Sure, he's a good drummer,
a good ROCK drummer, but he can't play rock 'n' roll. He broke into
'Toad' halfway through one of our numbers."
The hotel porter is getting an ever - increasing needle. It's late, he wants
to go to bed. What with this load of jerks and the whore in the foyer
having an easy time with a drunken salesman. "Why didn't I become a
Walter steps up to the mike for 'All By Myself' and carries on with the new
single 'One Track Mind'. The bouncers straighten their bow ties and dive
into the crowds, slapping and warning. Middlesbrough kids got no fun.
Walter and Billy join Johnny at the table. They define the difference
between psychedelic bands and rock bands. "Acid man, acid." There's
the tale of the straight sound mixer with Grateful Dead who never
tampered with drugs despite the perpetual eigth heaven of the rest of the
crew. So the band coated all the knobs and switches on the mixing desk
with a layer of fine acid. Every time he touched something the acid
seeped into his skin, up his nose, in his ears. He never got out alive ...
"You asked for it." Johnny ruffles his barnet and it's encore time. "You
broke my heart 'cos I couldn't dance, but now I'm back to let you know I
can really shake it downnnn. . . DO YOU LOVE ME?"
"I reckon The Depressions are one of the best British rock 'n' roll bands
I've seen," drools Johnny over yet another brandy. If ever a guy should
have taken Robert de Niro's part in 'New York New York' it's him. A
method rocker, peachy Italiano kid with a suitable line in facial nuances.
Especially that bit at the beginning with de Niro in the wild Haitian shirt
creaming Liza Minelli's module with his dreamy modus operandi.
The gig's finished. The crowd demand more. They don't get none.
He talks about boring (musically, that is)
New York, makes wide - eyed inquiries
about the scene while he's been away,
has a few misgivings about the new
album 'L. A. M. F.' and holds back the
"Hey you guys, wake up. We're in
Edinburgh Schmedinburgh. After seven
hours in a coach on a simple 150-mile
trip San Francisco wouldn't hold any
interest. Walter stands up impatiently.
He's looking freaakier than ever, like a
character out of a Satanic silent movie,
all pyramid eyebrows, ruffled hair and
leather on an ever diminishing dance of
death. But he's cute with it.
Billy, on the other hand, simply looks
like a hit man with all the confidence of a cat.
Tonight they're playing Clouds where no alcohol is served, where plastic
planes adorn the ceilings with faces of Prince Charles instead of
propellers and where punches are hard.
In the dressing room before the gig a guy's telling Jerry (you remember
him?) that his friend's main aim in life is to assist The Heartbreakers in
any idiosyncraatic indulgences they may want to pursue. In short,
whatever they want he'll supply.
Jerry - "Oh, really?"
And then we're into another Heartbreakers show. And show is the
operative word. The band plays rock and roll like guns fire bullets, like
steamrollers flatten tarmac, like thunder rolls, like trees fall, like, hell, like
you've never heard before.
It's unfortunate in a way that their name has been linked with the London
bands that have sprung up in the past year because their brand of music
is as timeless as it is iridescent.
They've managed to forge a unique combination of indifferrence and
burnt - ass fortitude which, when rubbed together, sure makes big sparks.
It's the same show as Middlesbrough, only mighty meatier. They always
manage to play like there's no tomorrow. It's probably to compensate for
their off - stage opaqueness. An opiate for the gathered hordes.
The show merely confirms that you should get hold of their debut album -
I'll repeat myself 'L. A. M. F.' - at the earliest opportunity, even though
there's one member of the band who don't like it.
Jerry Nolan has been keeping a distinctly low profile throughout the past
two days. He refuses to pose for pictures and wanders around in a light
blue coat with an air of dextrous frigidity.
We're in the hotel after the gig.
Jerry licks his lips. "I quit the band mainly because of the album. I
should have expected how it would turn out. I only wish we'd
produced it ourselves. It was the same with The Dolls. Outsiders
just don't know how to handle us on record.
"But there's another reason.
There's one guy in this band I don't like. I've discovered he's a
coward and I can't work with cowards. He's done things behind my
back, he gave in to allow the album to be released, he's only
interested in reading- about himself in the papers. I can't live with
"There's also another guy in The Heartbreakers' set-up who acts
more like a middle man in a drug deal rather than concentrating on
what he should be doing. The whole thing is a joke and I want out.
"One thing might tempt me back into this band. It's a long shot and I
don't know whether it's gonna work. We'll just have to see. "
He smokes a cigarette and I go to bed.
Like I said before, there ain't a past around that's as crazy as a
crazy Heartbreakers' past.,
(This interview was first published in RECORD MIRROR October 25th 1977
- Reproduced from the Punk Rocker Archives)