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The Heartbreakers: L.A.M.F. - Album Of The Week Club review

Released, remixed, re-released, remixed, re-released: will the real Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F. please stand up?

The Heartbreakers: L.A.M.F.
(Image: © Track Records)
The Heartbreakers: L.A.M.F.

(Image credit: Track Records)

Born to Lose
Baby Talk
All by Myself
I Wanna Be Loved
It's Not Enough
Chinese Rocks
Get Off the Phone
Pirate Love
One Track Mind
I Love You
Goin' Steady
Let Go

When ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers landed in the London of 1976 they transformed the punk scene. This was what attitude looked and sounded like. Not all who saw them could play like them – some just settled for a smack habit. 

Beset by production woes, their Like A Mother Fucker debut finally emerged late, flawed and muddy. The original sounded like it was recorded in a portaloo floating down The East River.

“That mix can be completely laid at the door of [drummer] Jerry Nolan,” said manager Leee Black Childers, “He went into this kind of control freak thing where he had to mix it. But everyone was stoned. Walking into the studio was like walking into a crack house. I should have gotten a gun and shot a couple of them dead."

The 1982 …Revisited version that Johnny Thunders remixed himself simply changed the portaloo into a bathtub. Fortunately, in 2003 Jungle Records stripped the whole thing back to its current state.

A collection of songs about heroin and little else has seen L.A.M.F. often wrongly tagged as a Thunders solo album. One Track MindAll By Myself and Born To Lose may well be the ex-New York Doll in autobiographic mode, but credit for joint songwriting goes to the under-appreciated Walter Lure.

L.A.M.F. is the sound of the city, a swaggering soundtrack to good drugs and bad decisions. Infinitely inspirational, it’s an enduring triumph of abject juvenile delinquency.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in October 1977

  • The Runaways - Waitin' for the Night
  • UFO - Lights Out
  • Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue
  • The Charlie Daniels Band - Midnight Wind 
  • Kansas - Point of Know Return
  • Kiss - Alive II
  • David Bowie - "Heroes"
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Street Survivors
  • Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell
  • Genesis - Seconds Out
  • Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
  • Neil Young - Decade
  • Queen - News of the World
  • Sweet - The Golden Greats  
  • Barclay James Harvest - Gone to Earth
  • Sparks - Introducing Sparks
  • Levon Helm - Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars
  • Santana - Moonflower
  • Sammy Hagar - Musical Chairs
  • Nils Lofgren Live - Night After Night
  • Utopia - Oops! Wrong Planet
  • Dead Boys - Young Loud and Snotty

What they said...

"The ragged production on L.A.M.F. has long been maligned, and by now has suffered through two failed attempts at re-mastering. In some ways, the album’s muddy sound is only a fitting representation of the ethos of the men and the culture behind it. For all the polished frenzies that Thunders brought to playing guitar, his train-wreck lifestyle is mirrored perfectly in the music’s sloppy, muted rage." (Sputnik Music)

"The music business is crowded with artists living on past glories. The sad truth about Nolan and Thunders is that they could have done so much better had they conquered their demons. There’s nothing to celebrate about their untimely deaths, as drugs continue to kill our most beloved artists. L.A.M.F., their greatest achievement, is the one cause for celebration." (No Ripchord)

"Although the Heartbreakers were not as lyrically intuitive as ex-member Richard Hell or Television, the music here is the key. Jerry Nolan's steady beats, and Thunders' searing guitar show that the Heartbreakers were no lightweights. This album, along with his great solo album, So Alone, stand as his [Thunders] definitive statements." (AllMusic)

What you said...

Hai Kixmiller: When most people think of Punk Rock they usually throw out band names such as The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones... etc., you know, angry bands with loud instruments and mediocre musicians. In 1977, New York City and especially the night club CBGB, was an epicenter of Punk music. Bands like Blondi, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Television, The New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers, and many others presented a cornucopia of different sounds as well as talent to the Punk pallet.

The Heartbreakers album, L.A.M.F. is a good example of another trait of American Punk music; its nod back to Do-wop, rock'n'roll, and Motown melodies but aggressively turned up, sped up, and spit out with a bit of piss, vinegar, and gravel.

Only a genuine, living on the edge, nothing to lose, do whatever the hell they want, Junkie Rock band could be cocky enough to name their album Like A Mother F*cker (L.A.M.F.) and then pull it off. There's so much drama just in the story of the making of this album; the band lineup changes, song writing credits, the production of the songs, a who's who of New York City Punk rockers directly and indirectly involved. There could be a movie made just about the making of this album.

All that aside, this is a really stellar album. Aside from the fact that many of the songs are about doing drugs, and that half the band are heroin junkies, the musicianship is pretty decent on the album. The album runs the gambit from busted lip punk rock to proto-glam to even some country tinged Rolling Stones sounding in It's Not Enough. Chinese Rocks sounds like a Ramones song because... well it was written by Dee Dee Ramone. Personally, I think Get Off The Phone sounds very Ramone-ish also.

It's a shame this band never really took off like they should've. Bad habits, bad luck, and bad mixing hampered any shot at success. Unfortunately, the shots and tracks in their arms were more important than the tracks on L.A.M.F. and their shot at stardom. That's pretty sad... but Punk as a Mother F*ucker!

Mike Knoop: My big complaint with last year's Johnny Thunders pick So Alone was that Thunders seemed to have a hard time stitching together enough material for an album just over 30 minutes long. That seems less an issue, in big part, to the songwriting team Jerry Nolan and Walter Lure who turn in boppers like One Track Mind, All By Myself, Get Off the Phone, and Can't Keep My Eyes On You. Add a couple of covers, and Thunders only has to take care of half an album, turning in his own muscular songs like Baby Talk, I Wanna Be Loved, Pirate Love and Goin' Steady.

In my opinion, truth in advertising would credit this L.A.M.F. to Jerry Nolan & the Heartbreakers. While arguably as much of a dope addict as Johnny Thunders, it does not seem to affect his playing here at all. His drumming cuts through the potentially monochromatic buzz of guitars to give the songs focus, colour, and direction.

The music world is full of drug addicts who also turned in transcendent music, from seemingly invincible demi-gods like Iggy Pop and Keith Richards to sadly all too frail mortals like - and this a very abbreviated list - the Pretenders' James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon of the Pretenders, Hillel Slovak of the Chili Peppers to Andrew Wood of recent club pick, Mother Love Bone. The sad thing about Johnny Thunders is that it seems like he was only willing to try as hard as the drugs would let him.

Richard Cardenas: I have a 16 year old kid who plays guitar and bass and is leaning towards the punk spectrum. I bought him this record, and I mean record, about six months ago. I never realised how great an album it was. Great choice and RIP Walter.

Martyn Bass: Great album. Unfortunately I discovered this late in my life. And its a sold 10 and top 5 punk album going

Iain Macaulay: One of rock’s most unfortunate bands, and one of rock’s most unfortunate albums. Even if it does contain three bona fide classic rock'n'roll songs in Born To Lose, Chinese Rocks and All By Myself.

So revered were Thunders and Nolan at that time – through being in the New York Dolls – the band was added to the Anarchy tour in 77, along with the Pistols, The Clash and The Damned, without having recorded a note. Purely through word of mouth. But when they did record... that’s when it all fell apart.

The recording process of L.A.M.F. was plagued by problems, not least individual band members taking the tapes away to mix their own versions of it. It has been reconstructed and re-released several times over the years to fix the muddy sound from the original recording, which has somewhat worked. The life is, and always has been, there, as has the playing, so it’s a shame that a mix of a record brought the charging career of a very promising band to a grinding halt.

I have the revisited version on vinyl from 84, which isn’t too bad a mix to be fair, on vinyl. However, when you listen to the album D.T.K Live At The Speakeasy, it all makes sense. D.T.K is the songs from L.A.M.F. recorded before L.A.M.F. was put to tape, and it shows the songs the way the band probably wanted them to come across in record. Crisp, tight and attacking. Old school, stripped down, rock'n'roll songs played with a New York ‘punk’ drawling attitude. By a band comprising of a rhythm section so tight you couldn’t insert a smack needle through its leathery hide. Topped by great and memorable guitar riffs and ear worm melodies. Solos were at a minimum.

The Heartbreakers were a live band, there is no denying that, and a good one too, as evidenced by D.T.K.. Although they were a bit shambolic at times too, mainly due to Thunders and how far under the influence he was at the time. But it’s Nolan, Rath and Lure that held it all together for their friend Johnny and it is them that shine through this album, bringing Johnny’s songs to life in a way his later career would unfortunately rarely reach.

Jonathan Novajosky: Oh no, it’s Johnny again. I just find it really hard to enjoy this because of the very spotty vocals. But I’ve never been a punk fan. I find it overly simplified – full of bland lyrics and unmemorable guitar riffs. It was a little better than the last Johnny Thunders album, but not by much. 4/10

Billy Master: Punk was supposed to wipe the slate clean, get rid of all that came before it. But It was all a game, they only did it 'cause of fame.

Obviously the New York Dolls were a precursor of the Heartbreakers, and punk rock, playing virtually the same stuff. Whether they were innovators or not is debatable, as both bands relied on standard rock'n'roll licks, and a lot of Jaggeresque posturing. Which ultimately didn't stop them making a 10/10 classic album.

John Davidson: Sub-Stones rock n roll, played with a sneer.

Some half decent guitar licks on a few songs but the tunes and lyrics are too repetitive. It's not often that a song less than three minutes long outstays its ideas but that's how this album feels. Not as shambolic as Thunders solo album but still not interesting enough to tempt me add this to my collection.

If I feel like listening to punk I'd pick The Skids, the Sex Pistols or the Stranglers before most others and this album hasn't changed that. Best track, All By Myself. 4/10

Bill Griffin: I couldn't listen to the other Johnny Thunders album more than once but this is way better. Still not my cup of tea so I won't be adding it to my collection but at least it's listenable.

Uli Hassinger: When you approach the album in terms of musical technique, sophisticated songwriting and vocals you are lost. It's punk, dudes. Probably one of the blueprints of punk music. They belong to the most important punk bands in history beside The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Exploited to name a few. Therefore Johnny Thunders had a big influence on other musicians, especially Guns N' Roses and the german band Toten Hosen. Because of the worship of Thunders from the latter I came in contact with him. The whole record has an "I don't give a fuck" attitude. It's rough, snotty and rebellious. I love it for that. In times when disco music was huge and prog music had gone nuts this was the right answer. Excellent record. I would give a score of 8 or 9, not sure yet.

Mauro Lucke: This is punk rock at its best! Loud guitars, off-key vocals, I don't give a f**k attitude. It's all in here. A true classic!

Carl Black: This is equally Green Day as it is Guns N' Roses, just 10 years previous. Sneering , simple and straight down the middle. The songs consists of a chorus and ....well that's about it. It just has a lack of danger. Will Johnny thunders go on live TV and drop the F bomb? Will Johnny Thunders start a riot in a stadium?. Will John boy do one after two songs for no apparent reason? That what's lacking. This is pleasing punk rock. And punk rock should never be pleasing. It was ok though.

Kevin Miller: It’s not bad, and I like punk, but it’s just kind of boring. Nothing really catches my ear or gets stuck in my head. It sounds like so many other punk albums, but without the hook.

Final Score: 7.30⁄10 (86 votes cast, with a total score of 628)

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