Okay, I've got a few tracks by the White Stripes and the Strokes on my iPod. But it drives me crazy that the true creators of the sound these pretenders are mining get almost no props. Isn't it a little crazy that these two manufactured bands have made more dough than the New York Dolls, MC5, Richard Hell, Stooges, and Patti Smith combined? Anyway, if you dig the faux NYC punk vibe, I've got a recommendation for what is actually a little-known classic record.
Run out and pick up a copy of So Alone by Johnny Thunders. For the unitiated, Thunders was the lead guitarist at age 17 for the New York Dolls and, along with David Johansen and the gang, cut two classic records before flaming out in the mid-70s. Hooked on heroin (which eventually took his life in a New Orleans flophouse), Thunders became the Godfather of the New York punk scene - playing regular gigs at Max's Kansas City and CBGB, and opening the infamous Sex Pistols UK tour with his band, The Heartbreakers.
Thunders created a signature guitar lick that he used on almost every song (you can hear the borrowed version of cuts of such diverse bands as Guns n Roses and the Strokes) - a slim version of an old Chuck Berry play that consists of bending the inside string of a simple two-string chord - and running it through some major clipping on the amplifier.
Johnny could be a terrific live act - or he might be semi-comatose. I remember having a semi-lucid discussion of Reggie Jackson with him over beers at the old Brooklyn rock factory Zappa's before a scorching set in 1979. But his habit always overshadowed his talent - in short, he was a cheaper Keith Richards.
With one huge exception. So Alone is a true rock classic, with guest performances by Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook, Patti Palladin and Paul Gray from The Damned, and a young Chrissie Hynde. From the hilarious and sneering London Boys to the touching You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory (which appeared over the closing Sopranos credits last year), this record never lets you rest. It's self-pitying, funny, and it never stops moving. One listen, and you'll know why the Strokes are such a pallid imitation.