Walter Lure was the co-frontman in the Heartbreakers, the band that Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan formed after leaving the New York Dolls in 1975.

Lure (guitar, vocals) joined the Heartbreakers, which consisted as well as Thunders (guitar, vocals) and Nolan (drums) initially of ex-Television member Richard Hell (bass, vocals), in time for their second gig. When Hell left the Heartbreakers acrimoniously in early 1976, his place on bass was taken by Billy Rath.

The Heartbreakers were invited by Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren, who had briefly managed the New York Dolls before their split, to join along with the Clash his protégés on their ‘Anarchy Tour’ of the UK in December 1976. When the Sex Pistols infamously were challenged by their host Bill Grundy into swearing on ‘Today’, a London-based early evening television programme, they attracted outrage from the tabloid press, and most of the dates on the tour were cancelled. The resulting publicity for the Heartbreakers was such that they temporarily relocated to Britain, and signed a deal with the London-based label Track Records, who released their only studio album, ‘L.A.M.F.’, in late 1977.

An acronym for the phrase “like a mother fucker”, ‘L.A.M.F’ was packed full of gritty, grubby anthems such as ‘Born to Lose’, ‘Get Off the Phone’, ‘One Track Mind’ and the single ‘Chinese Rocks’. The latter song, although largely written by Dee Dee Ramone, was in every other respect an autobiographical account of the Heartbreakers’ own junkie lifestyle and long-term heroin addictions.

Instead of highlighting the Heartbreakers’ strengths, and their agility at creating whirlwind two-to-three minute classics which combined a furious rock and roll sound with a defiant punk attitude, ‘L.A.M.F’ was , however, a disaster, suffering from a sluggish production and muddied mixes. It was panned by the critics, and sold poorly. Various live albums and other later mixes, released in most instances years later, did something to restore the tarnished reputation of the album and reveal the real quality of its songs, but at the time the damage was done. Nolan, who had attempted his own remix of the album, quit in disgust. Track Records went into receivership shortly afterwards in early 1978, and, while the Heartbreakers briefly tried out a new drummer Ty Stix, they broke up when Thunders elected to start a solo career.

Walter Lure and Thunders, and initially Rath and Nolan, would reunite the Heartbreakers for occasional reformation gigs, until Thunder’s death at the age of 38 in 1991 in a drugs-related incident (He is also believed to have been suffering from advanced leukemia), and then less than a year later Nolan’s at 45 in 1992 after he had a stroke while being treated in hospital for meningitis and bacterial pneumonia.

In the intervening years after the initial demise of the Heartbreakers, Lure had formed a new band called the Waldos with himself as front man. The Waldos took off from where the Heartbreakers left off, having a similar abrupt abrasiveness and penchant for ricocheting riffs. The group, in its best-known line-up of Lure (guitar, vocals), Tony Coiro (bass, vocals), Joey Pinter (guitar) and Jeff West (drums), released an album ‘Rent Party’ in 1994, but this permutation of the band broke up when Coiro died the following year.

Walter Lure now works as a stockbroker in his native New York, but continues to play and tour with the Waldos, which now features a revolving cartel of other musicians that varies depending upon where he is playing.

‘Rent Party’ has recently been re-released in a re-mastered edition by the British punk label, Jungle Records. Tautly produced by the Dictators’ guitarist Andy Shernoff, it is a natural successor to ‘L.A.M.F’, balancing covers such as the New York Dolls’ live favourite ‘Seven Day Weekend’, Jerry Nolan’s ‘Countdown Love’ and Ray Charles’ ‘Busted’ with several of Lure’s trademark, quick fire own compositions including the Irish folk-tinged ‘Golden Days’; never recorded early Heartbreakers’ number ‘Flight’ and the thunderous punk/rock and roll of ‘Love That Kills’ and ‘Never Get Away’.

The reissue of ‘Rent Party’ also includes the Waldos’ 1991 only single ‘Crazy Little Baby’/’Cry Baby’, which features their original drummer, the late Charlie Sox, and ‘Deep Frenzy’/’American Bandstand’, a 1979 single from a New York teenage new wave band the Blessed of which Lure was briefly a member.

In the first part of a two part interview, both parts of which we are running consecutively, Walter Lure speaks to Pennyblackmusic about the Waldos, while in the second part he talks about the ill-fated Heartbreakers.


PB: Some of the members of the Waldos such as Tony Coiro and Joey Pinter played in latter line-ups of the Heartbreakers when they got back together for reformation gigs. Was it out of one of those reunion gigs that the Heartbreakers occasionally used to do that the Waldos were born?

WL: No, the Heartbreakers had broken up and I was back in New York and Johnny was also doing his own thing, but we would get together from time to time for Heartbreakers‘ reunions. They were money makers basically. We would make some money and do the gigs.

In the meantime I started various bands on my own. The first band that I started after the Heartbreakers originally broke up was called the Hurricanes, but that didn’t last that long. I then formed the Heroes. My brother Ritchie was in them, and there was also a drummer Billy Rogers in the Heroes that played with the Heartbreakers a few times in their latter days. That band too died and sort of morphed into the Waldos. I disbanded the Heroes, and then six months later I shuffled the line-up a little bit and started the Waldos.

This must have been about ‘84, and it evolved from that from me just trying to get a band together apart from the Heartbreakers to me using Waldos’ members when Johnny and I used to get back together to play Heartbreakers’ gigs. Tony Coiro joined the Waldos in about ’88 or ’89, and in particular played a lot of the final gigs we did with the Heartbreakers before Johnny died.

We actually named ‘Rent Party’ after those Heartbreakers gigs. That was what I used to call those shows, because we used to get together to play a show to pay the rent for a month or a couple of months (Laughs). ‘Rent Party’ is an old name. Young kids used to throw a party in an apartment and charge people five or ten dollars to get in, so that it would help to pay the rent for the next month or so. Waldos gigs didn’t make all that much money in the early days, but Heartbreakers gigs did and so we called our album ‘Rent Party’ in tribute to that.

PB: Before ‘Rent Party’ it took a long time for the Waldos to do their single, ‘Crazy Little Baby’. It didn’t come out until 1991, several years after you first got together. Why did it take so long?

WL: (Laughs) I was still dealing with the problems that I had acquired with the Heartbreakers. I was still indulging in certain dead habits. That took until 1988 until I finally got out of that shit. I was also working just trying to survive, and so we didn’t have any money to put something together.

While the Waldos attracted decent audiences, we didn’t have a major following. We were just scrambling around. There was no one really signing bands anymore, so it was just hard to get anything together. Plus as long as I was screwed up and strung out, I didn’t have the energy to do a lot. It took a while for me to get straight. When I did, the energy came together and I also got the right people in the line-up. ‘Crazy Little Baby' was financed by Dave Eng, a friend of mine. By the time of 'Rent Party' we had a record label, Sympathy for the Record, and they helped to finance the album and I funded the rest of it myself.

PB: You have described ‘Rent Party’ as the Waldos’ “best work.” What did you mean by that because it was the only Waldos album?

WL: It was the only Waldos album, but it was better than the single. ‘Crazy Little Baby’ was good too, but it really didn’t carry the punch of the album. Tony Coiro got all these guest people to come and play. They were all friends of his who he had known over the years – all the back-up singers who appeared on it and Michael Monroe from Hanoi Rocks. I knew Michael Monroe, but I didn’t know him that well. Tony always knew everybody. He was like this puppet master, and he got all these people to come down. I brought in one or two people, like Danny Ray who contributed saxophone, but he brought in loads of people.

PB: He unfortunately died very shortly after the album came out, didn’t he?

WL: He died in 1995. He had been having problems with his stomach over the summer, and then in September he was diagnosed with liver cancer and was dead by Christmas. He had two kids, whom I am still in touch with to this day. He just passed off. He pretty much withered away.

PB: You have had to deal with a lot of your band mates dying over the years. This must have been, however, a particularly difficult blow because in some ways it was more unexpected.

WL: Charlie Sox, the original Waldos drummer who appeared on the single, had died two years earlier. It was from an accidental overdose. He was never really strung out, but he dabbled every now and then and behind our backs because, while most of us had been involved in drugs in the Waldos at some point, we had all stopped by then and didn’t know that he was using. He just OD’d one day, and then, of course, Tony died and Johnny and Jerry had both died in the years before that.

By the time Tony died I was ready to retire. There were so many people dying. I thought, “I am sick of having people who play with me die.” My brother Ritchie, who had been in the Heroes, also died two years after that in 1997. Things were getting crazy, and I just thought, “Fuck this!”

The line-up of the Waldos that had recorded ‘Rent Party’ broke up at about that time. There were all these people who, however, kept begging me to keep the Waldos going. The Japanese kids who play with me now in my New York version of the group were in a band called the Hip Nips. I became friends with them and they were dying to play with me. Then Todd Youth from Murphy’s Law convinced me to do a band called the Lures, and for a while I had two bands. One was called the Waldos and one was called the Lures, and we played basically the same songs with one or two differences in the sets. One of the Japanese guys Takto played in both of them, and that kept me going because I was really ready to stop. Then it just ended up being the Waldos because Todd got his own thing going. I have kept going, however, with the Waldos ever since.

PB: How do the Waldos work now? You have different branches of it. The line-up changes from whichever city and country you happen to be in.

WL: It is expensive to put a band on a road. You either end up losing money or making nothing from the shows. To fly a whole band to the UK, Japan, Brazil or anywhere else in the US is too costly, so usually I do what I did when I last played the UK in August which is do two or three shows with a back-up band. I rehearse with these people for a day beforehand and then we do the show. It has evolved into this Chuck Berry-type thing because I am just not on a level where I can afford to mount a whole tour and bring a whole band to play a couple of weekend shows. It is just not viable.

PB: Do you use the same people in the same cities and countries or does it vary from show to show?

WL: It has turned out to be that way. In London and the UK I have used the same people every time I have been there. It has changed a bit in L.A. The guitar player is Joey Pinter, who was the guitarist on ‘Rent Party’. He lives there now and has always been the guitarist every time I have played there, but the drummer and the bass player were different the last two times than they had been previously. In Japan, it has always been basically the same.

PB: To go back to ‘Rent Party, it was produced by Andy Shernoff from the Dictators. What do you think he brought to the album and the recording?

WL: He brought discipline. I hadn’t been in the studio for a while, and it involved doing a lot of the same stuff over and over again. Andy would keep us there until we got it right.

He was there throughout the mixing too. Tony Coiro and Andy did the lion’s share of the mixing because I always hated mixing even back in the Heartbreakers. You listen to the same stuff over and over again, and I soon found myself struggling to tell what was good or bad. It is the sound of just noise in a wall somewhere, so I tend to always disappear when the mixing starts. I will come back and listen to the final mixes or the rough mixes just to see what sounds good.

Andy would, however, make us keep on doing stuff until we got it right because a lot of the time we were so fed up that we would have just accepted it as it was. It was just too boring. It was what we needed, the discipline to keep working on stuff until we got it right. He was invaluable for that.

PB: ‘L.A.M.F.’ went through many different mixes and remixes. Do you think working on that may have just stamped out of you wanting to be involved in mixing ever again?

WL: That could have been it. I admittingly mixed my brains out during that period. I always felt, however, that it wasn’t the mix anyway with that record because it always sounded great on tape and in the studio and in the mastering room, where we mastered the vinyl, and it was only when we got to the final version that it lost all that edge to it and it sounded muffled.

Everyone had their own version of what the problem was. Jerry always thought that it was the mix, but we did that thing a hundred times to get it right and it still sounded shitty on vinyl. Years later when they invented CDs and it was put out on CD it sounded great. To me it was all in the vinyl process. Even though we pressed the stuff like ten million times it never came out right in the vinyl.

PB: The reissue of ‘Rent Party’ features ‘Deep Frenzy’/’American Bandstand’, the two tracks from a 1979 single from the Blessed, who were a teenage punk band which you briefly became a member of. You must have been in your late twenties when you joined them. How did you get involved with them?

WL: They were just little kids. I was probably like 27, 28. I was still in the Heartbreakers, and they were like the flavour of the month. I stopped by to see them play a few shows at Max’s and CBGB’s, and they had all these Andy Warhol type of people hanging out with them. They were these pretty boys, and the art freak vampires and paedophiles were running after them while all these society photographers and designers were trying to hang out with them. They were generating a buzz in New York.

The Heartbreakers did a couple of shows with them, and I was friends with the girl who managed them. They had a fight with their guitar player and he left, and they had a busy schedule for the following week. The manager called me and said, “Would you like to do a show with these guys because they need a guitar player double quick?” and I said, “Sure, it will be fun.” Musically they were pretty basic, but they had a lot of charisma. So, I rehearsed with them and we did the one gig, and then I did four or five more gigs with them. I played with them all that summer and then I had to go back to the UK and tour with the Heartbreakers, but before I left we managed to record the single. It was produced by Dave Eng, the same guy that did the Waldos’ first single.

PB: How long did the Blessed last after you left?

WL: Not long. I had a friend, who joined them on guitar for a bit. I guess they were around for another year or so. They lost their sense of momentum. They never took off and couldn’t get a record deal, and I think they were starting to fight with one another.


Photos by Melanie Smith
www.mudkissphotography.co.uk











Related Links:

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