Album, Single and EP Reviews



  Belfast Rocks by Johnny Thunders

Belfast Rocks cover art

Artist: Johnny Thunders
Title: Belfast Rocks
Catalogue Number: Get Back GET108
Review Format: LP
Release Year: 2003

An interesting release this one, being more of a historical document than a musical extravaganza. It is nice to see it released on vinyl and in quite decent sound quality considering the source material.

In 1984, Belfast was still in the middle of "the troubles" and Johnny Thunders was also in trouble. Always getting more critical acclaim than commercial success, he had been through seminal acts like the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers and was now doing a solo tour with only Terry Chimes and Keith Yon for company. Nonetheless, you cannot accuse Johnny Thunders of giving less than his all.

It was clearly one of those nights when audience and artist establish empathy. Belfast was in the throws of self destruction due to the horrendous effects politics had had on the populace and Johnny Thunders himself was no stranger to self destruction although that did tend to be self initiated.

You can't play this record quietly - it has to be played at maximum volume. His guitar, alternately confident and shambolic, embodies the spirit of youthful revolution. His vocals are similarly uneven but you just cannot fault his determination. "Talk About You" is simple but jaw droppingly effective. "Chinese Rocks" is so good it makes three appearances in the set. There are covers too - "Stepping Stone" and "Pipeline" are expected but the appearance of sixties' protest song "Eve of Destruction" is a bit of a surprise. However, it is strangely relevant to the circumstances of the time and, in fact, Johnny does ask the audience how they are affected by their environment. All in all, it is one of those shows that you wish you had attended.

That's the thing about hearing performances like this. You get reminded of how exciting it can be to experience a live performance. You get to wonder at where such music comes from and you get to wonder if there will ever be musicians like Johnny Thunders again. With each passing decade, music gets safer as it gets trendier. No longer is it about music that affects you or music that you can relate to, it has become about having the music that shows you to be a person with good musical taste. What defines musical taste is undoubtedly subjective but one thing is a certainty. There will only ever be one Johnny Thunders.
Review Date: September 29 2008