Rockbrat Remembers: Johnny Thunders who died 20 years ago today

Posted: April 23, 2011 by Cowboy Col in Rockbrat Remembers:
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I can still remember when Thunders died.  At that time, I had only recently re- read Nina Antonia’s ‘In Cold Blood’ autobiography, so news of his death, although somewhat expected, still came as a shock. Anyway, it’s hard to believe taht 20 years have passed since that time. Since then. there’s been a bunch of re issues, the Lech Kowalski film, some tribute CD’s etc. Is enough done to preserve his memory ? I guess so. Should a kid of 25 in today’s age care about Thunders ? Maybe, but maybe not. He was for people of previous generations, and he was of that time, of his time. There was (and still is), conjesture about how he died.  Many rumours surround Thunders’ death at the St. Peter House in New Orleans, Louisiana in April 1991. He apparently died of drug-related causes, but it has been speculated that it was the result of foul play. According to the autobiography Poison Heart: Surviving the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone took a call in New York the next day from Stevie Klasson, Johnny’s rhythm guitar player. “They told me that Johnny had gotten mixed up with some bastards… who ripped him off for his methadone supply. They had given him LSD and then murdered him. He had gotten a pretty large supply of methadone in England, so he could travel and stay away from those creeps – the drug dealers, Thunders imitators, and losers like that.” What is known for certain is that Johnny’s room (no. 37) was ransacked and most of his possessions were missing (passport, makeup, clothes). Friends and acquaintances acknowledge he had not been using heroin for some time, relying on his methadone prescriptions. The police did not open a criminal investigation. An autopsy was conducted by the New Orleans coroner, but served only to compound the mysteries. According to Thunders’ biographer Nina Antonia as posted on the Jungle Records web site, the level of drugs found in his system was not fatal. And according to the book “Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon” by Pamela Des Barres who interviewed Thunders’ sister Marion, the autopsy confirmed evidence of advanced leukemia, which would explain the decline in Thunders’ appearance in the final year of his life. At the end of the day – how he died is not the issue. (Go check out wikepedia for more info on his life). I also wrote a synopsis of his life back in 1995 that appeared in Vicious Kitten fanzine. You can check that out here.  In anyones terms, and despite the full on life that he led, 38 is still far too young to die. So today, 20 years after he left this earth, remember, the late , great, and truly original – Johnny Thunders.

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