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To Hell And Back: my life in Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, in the words of the last man standing

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There have been many books written about Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, but only by people who weren't there. Walter Lure was--from the band's chaotic beginnings on New York's Lower East Side, through a now-legendary UK tour with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, and on to a yearlong stay in London--eyewitness and midwife to the birth of UK punk. Now, he tells his sto There have been many books written about Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, but only by people who weren't there. Walter Lure was--from the band's chaotic beginnings on New York's Lower East Side, through a now-legendary UK tour with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, and on to a yearlong stay in London--eyewitness and midwife to the birth of UK punk. Now, he tells his story in To Hell and Back, a thrilling ride through the clubs and dives of two continents, in the company of one of the most notorious junkies in rock 'n' roll history. Drawing from his own contemporary journals, Lure paints a vivid portrait of life in both cities, during perhaps the most crucial musical uprising of the past forty years...the music, the characters, the clothes, the fights, the drugs, the orgies, the lot. Lure lays bare his own battle with drugs, and reflects upon his life after the band's split--rising to become a Wall Street fixture yet still finding time to make music.


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There have been many books written about Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, but only by people who weren't there. Walter Lure was--from the band's chaotic beginnings on New York's Lower East Side, through a now-legendary UK tour with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, and on to a yearlong stay in London--eyewitness and midwife to the birth of UK punk. Now, he tells his sto There have been many books written about Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, but only by people who weren't there. Walter Lure was--from the band's chaotic beginnings on New York's Lower East Side, through a now-legendary UK tour with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, and on to a yearlong stay in London--eyewitness and midwife to the birth of UK punk. Now, he tells his story in To Hell and Back, a thrilling ride through the clubs and dives of two continents, in the company of one of the most notorious junkies in rock 'n' roll history. Drawing from his own contemporary journals, Lure paints a vivid portrait of life in both cities, during perhaps the most crucial musical uprising of the past forty years...the music, the characters, the clothes, the fights, the drugs, the orgies, the lot. Lure lays bare his own battle with drugs, and reflects upon his life after the band's split--rising to become a Wall Street fixture yet still finding time to make music.

30 review for To Hell And Back: my life in Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, in the words of the last man standing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nestor Rychtyckyj

    Sadly, I heard about the passing of Walter Lure just as I was starting to read his autobiography. He dedicates this book to the other Heartbreakers with these lines: “May they rest in peace because they spent their time in hell”. These were the Heartbreakers of Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan – ex-New York Dolls and hardcore junkies who died an early death. Walter Lure was part of this band from start to finish and somehow afterwards got clean and prospered working on Wall Street. This is his st Sadly, I heard about the passing of Walter Lure just as I was starting to read his autobiography. He dedicates this book to the other Heartbreakers with these lines: “May they rest in peace because they spent their time in hell”. These were the Heartbreakers of Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan – ex-New York Dolls and hardcore junkies who died an early death. Walter Lure was part of this band from start to finish and somehow afterwards got clean and prospered working on Wall Street. This is his story. Throughout the book you quickly see that his interests and ambitions were not typical of somebody who just wants to play in a band. His observations and opinions of the whole New York and early UK punk scene are very thoughtful and he understands why the Heartbreakers always remained the band that could not get the big record contract and would never succeed as many of their contemporaries did. The answer was quite simple: drugs. For many people in the UK punk scene the Heartbreakers were responsible for introducing heroin to the UK scene and leaving a wide swath of damage through the Sex Pistols, Clash and others. He addresses this as he does the many difficult problems this band could not overcome. Their one album could never capture their raucous live sound and the record company collapsed after releasing it. It was really the second coming of the Dolls with the same results. We all know how the story of the Heartbreakers would end, but my favorite part of the book is Walter’s observations of those early seminal punk scenes in New York as well as the UK. They were unique in that they spent much more time in the UK than in NYC and Walter was the perfect person to understand what was happening. Both he and the Heartbreakers were older and much more accomplished musicians than most of the UK punks, but he quickly grasped the fact that punk did not need a high level of virtuosity – the Pistols, Clash, Adverts and others knew exactly enough to make their message resonate. There are so many wild and crazy “sex & drugs & rock & roll” stories in here to fill a bookshelf, but I was actually astonished more that Walter Lure held a full-time job in the FDA while playing (and partying) as a Heartbreaker. Now - that's punk! It’s sad that his stay with us could not be longer, but we can be thankful that he had time to tell his own story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Janellyn51

    I have a real soft spot for Walter. I've only met him a few times, but my boyfriend was in The Daughters. The Daughters were on the bill and played with various combinations of Heartbreakers, when things had really gone South! I was kind of glad he didn't mention them, Simon's head is big enough! I think Walter was the glue. I think he's really interesting, and I enjoyed reading about things from his perspective. Walter doesn't fudge things, no pun intended. I only met Billy a couple of times, a I have a real soft spot for Walter. I've only met him a few times, but my boyfriend was in The Daughters. The Daughters were on the bill and played with various combinations of Heartbreakers, when things had really gone South! I was kind of glad he didn't mention them, Simon's head is big enough! I think Walter was the glue. I think he's really interesting, and I enjoyed reading about things from his perspective. Walter doesn't fudge things, no pun intended. I only met Billy a couple of times, and you won't get an argument from me that he wasn't very bright! You can't imagine how bad the band he put together shortly before he died was....He was bright enough to tell Simon I was Va Va Voom, but beyond that....Billy, from all the stories I've heard was wicked sleazy. Johnny told Simon once, that he (Johnny), would RIP you off, but he'd tell you he was doing it, Billy would just RIP you off. It made me sad reading about Walter's brother Richie, he was really sweet. He stayed at my apt. When he was playing with the Senders. We had a long conversation when he called one day after that, told me he wished I could see how wild he was looking....and then I heard he was gone. Such a shame. It's a simple book, doesn't cast aspersions, just tells it like it was. Walter deserves to be the last man standing.........and now he's gone too. I had so many things I wanted to ask him now that I've read the book, alas, too late now. I always remember, the first time i met him, I told him I'd known Philippe from the Senders ( read his book Punk Avenue, it's hilarious) since 74, and later heard him tell someone, she fucking knows Philippe longer than me......I'm not sure, but I think that was a compliment, or something!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    In 1989, I ended up in a seedy bar in Madison catching one of Johnny Thunder's last live performances. How did I end up there? I was friends with the band The Connells and they all wanted to catch the show. I wasn't that familiar with Johnny Thunders. I was a kid, not even 21 yet but my "older brothers" the Connells, were introducing me to some new/old music. I should have been more familiar with Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. I couldn't tell you if Walter Lure was in the band that night In 1989, I ended up in a seedy bar in Madison catching one of Johnny Thunder's last live performances. How did I end up there? I was friends with the band The Connells and they all wanted to catch the show. I wasn't that familiar with Johnny Thunders. I was a kid, not even 21 yet but my "older brothers" the Connells, were introducing me to some new/old music. I should have been more familiar with Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. I couldn't tell you if Walter Lure was in the band that night. 30 years on, and I don't remember much about that night, only that Johnny was a mess and totally fucked up. I have always been scared of punk. It always seemed so seedy, so violent, so...druggy. Walter Lure's recollection of the time lives up to my perceptions of the era. This book is edgy and a little sex and drugs and rock and roll. I don't know how Lure survived but I'm glad he lived to tell the tale.

  4. 4 out of 5

    A W Main

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Once I picked this up earlier today I didn't sit it down until I had finished it. Reading about Johnny Thunders wanting to swap clothes with fans took me back to him trying to barter his hat for my friends shirt at a poorly attended gig in Glasgow. Who knew then it was to be his last time in the city. The description of Leee Childers conjured up a memory of the only time I met him. In the 100 Club I asked him if he was in line to use the toilet and he laughed and says 'no, oh no, I'm just trying t Once I picked this up earlier today I didn't sit it down until I had finished it. Reading about Johnny Thunders wanting to swap clothes with fans took me back to him trying to barter his hat for my friends shirt at a poorly attended gig in Glasgow. Who knew then it was to be his last time in the city. The description of Leee Childers conjured up a memory of the only time I met him. In the 100 Club I asked him if he was in line to use the toilet and he laughed and says 'no, oh no, I'm just trying to get a glimpse of young cock.' Yet again Nancy Spungen is described in non flattering terms. I used to know someone who was going to write a biography and 'set the record straight' about her. An uphill struggle as no one who knew her seemed to have anything positive to say. The book never surfaced as far as I'm aware. Probably the best paragraph I've read about Johnny Rotten is in this too. No doubt I think this because I concur. "We knew it was an act, and it was hilarious at first. It was only later, when it became second nature and he forgot to switch off the snide, that it grew boring, and later still that it became a parody. At the time, you just watched him in awed fascination, a one-man verbal wrecking crew. And soon, the switch broke altogether. "

  5. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    I'm fascinated by biography of people who lived through the rock/punk era in the 70s and this was excellent. It was like living in that age and meeting people who always fascinated you. An excellent and enthralling read, recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine. I'm fascinated by biography of people who lived through the rock/punk era in the 70s and this was excellent. It was like living in that age and meeting people who always fascinated you. An excellent and enthralling read, recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Smith

    A long time fan of the Heartbreakers, I was happy to have the opportunity to read this. It's a terrific overview of the scene, Lure's story is very interesting and the book is well written. Any fan should get this one and settle in for a good read. My thanks to Netgalley, Watler Lure and Rowman & Littlefield, A long time fan of the Heartbreakers, I was happy to have the opportunity to read this. It's a terrific overview of the scene, Lure's story is very interesting and the book is well written. Any fan should get this one and settle in for a good read. My thanks to Netgalley, Watler Lure and Rowman & Littlefield,

  7. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    Great overview of the New York club scene of the 70's. I liked the honest and unvarnished stories Walter shared throughout his tenure playing with Johnny and Jerry. As always, the Heartbreakers didn't forsee the impact and influence they would have on new generations of young musicians. An interesting read for sure. Great overview of the New York club scene of the 70's. I liked the honest and unvarnished stories Walter shared throughout his tenure playing with Johnny and Jerry. As always, the Heartbreakers didn't forsee the impact and influence they would have on new generations of young musicians. An interesting read for sure.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sundarananda Das

    An excellent read. Loved hearing the Heartbreakers' story from the man himself. An excellent read. Loved hearing the Heartbreakers' story from the man himself.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barbikat60

    Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll To read this book is to realize that I moved to the city in 1984 and therefore missed the best part of the punk scene in NYC. I was in time for the drugs though. This book made me reminisce about all the great music that came out in the seventies and it makes me despair for those of us that did not escape the Angel of Death’s heroin demise. Read it and experience the punk scene as told by a survivor.

  10. 5 out of 5

    patty

    A must-read for any past, present or future fan of the Heartbreakers. Kudos to the authors. No fills, no necessary bullshit, just the story as it played out. One of the better books written about the NYC/London music scene in the mid-‘70s. An alternate title could have easily been *Too Much Junkie Business.*

  11. 5 out of 5

    William Highton

  12. 4 out of 5

    Milan

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rob Smentek

  14. 4 out of 5

    hugh dillon

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Powers

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Treanor

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bea

  18. 5 out of 5

    Victoria (RedsCat)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Doll

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Fuentes

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sam Rogers

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Spiller

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  25. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  26. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Van Buren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jasonkottwitz

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gillian Moorecroft

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ritchie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chase

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