The life and times of Johnny Thunders: the New York Dolls and Heartbreakers guitarist who crystallized the essence of street-cool rock ’n’ roll

Johnny Thunders
(Image credit: Erica Echenberg/Redferns)

The first time I saw Johnny Thunders – with the New York Dolls on U.K. TV in 1973 – I immediately connected with the reckless abandon that was apparent in every gesture, every guitar-hero pose he struck. 

And then there was the rawness of the band’s approach at a time when mainstream rock was still mired in the keyboard-laden pomposity of prog and the tired blues-rock tropes that had become the standard fallback for many so-called “serious” bands of the time. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Mark McStea

Mark is a freelance writer with particular expertise in the fields of ‘70s glam, punk, rockabilly and classic ‘50s rock and roll. He sings and plays guitar in his own musical project, Star Studded Sham, which has been described as sounding like the hits of T. Rex and Slade as played by Johnny Thunders. He had several indie hits with his band, Private Sector and has worked with a host of UK punk luminaries. Mark also presents themed radio shows for Generating Steam Heat. He has just completed his first novel, The Bulletproof Truth, and is currently working on the sequel.