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L.A.M.F.

L.A.M.F. is the only studio album by the punk rock band Heartbreakers, which included such musicians as Walter Lure, Billy Rath, and Johnny Thunders' New York Dolls bandmate Jerry Nolan. The title acronym means "Like A Mother Fucker" and is said to derive from New York street gang language (i.e., a "keep off our turf" warning). The original vinyl release of the album was notorious for its lackluster sound, in spite of several different mixes made by the band.

Album history

The Heartbreakers had been attempting to make a name for themselves in America since their formation in 1975. The group had a strong early catalog of songs and a growing following from their live performances, but the past reputation of guitarist/leader Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan plus a few other issues, including some early band instability, made them unattractive to American record labels.

In the fall of 1976, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who had managed the New York Dolls in their waning days, invited Thunders and company to come to England and participate in the Pistols' Anarchy tour along with The Clash and The Damned. The band took the offer, and proceeded to arrive in England on the same day that the Pistols were goaded into cursing on live prime-time television by an inebriated TV host, which precipitated the cancellation of many of the tour dates.

Stranded in England with little or no money after the Anarchy tour sputtered to a halt, the band were contemplating a retreat to their home country when their manager, Leee Black Childers, urged them to stay in England, believing that they could easily better their reputation as a group there than in the States. The gamble worked; after several gigs in London, Track Records, who had lost the Dolls, promptly offered the Heartbreakers a recording contract.

Curiously, Track asked the band to sign to the company as "The Chris Stamp Band Ltd." a holding company owned by Track, with the provision that if that holding company went out of business, the rights to any recordings the band made would revert to the band's own business partnership. The band agreed and signed on to Track.

Recording session order

The band prepared for the album by entering Essex Studios in London for a three-day demo session in late February 1977, and then playing two live shows at London's Speakeasy Club that were recorded by Track for future use. Both the demo sessions and the live shows were intended to be warm-ups for the more serious recording sessions, which took place in March.

Six songs — "All By Myself", "Let Go", "Get Off The Phone", "I Wanna Be Loved", "Can't Keep My Eyes On You", and "I Love You" — were recorded at Essex with Track staff producer (and former Thunderclap Newman member) Speedy Keen. The band then switched to a different studio, Ramport (owned by The Who) to record the remaining eight songs that ended up on the album. During a break in the recording, the Who's Pete Townshend even invited the Heartbreakers to appear as extras in the movie version of Quadrophenia. All went smoothly.

Post-production anarchy

When it came time to mix the recording, the proceedings went in the opposite direction from the more orderly recording sessions earlier in the year. The band bounced from studio to studio, with each member practically making his own mixes for every song. Previous mixes would be listened to and rejected, after which various band members would run back into any available studio with the multitrack master tapes for another round. One studio engineer vented his irritation at the process by writing on one of the tape boxes, "Two downers before the overdubs." The band were later alleged to have been calling for taxicabs between London and Birmingham, billed to Track Records, in order for various members to be able to replenish their drug supply, The mixing sessions lasted through the summer of 1977, in between tour dates.

In the meantime, "Chinese Rocks" had been released as a single. Dee Dee Ramone and Thunders both went to their graves arguing who wrote it, the single sold 20,000 copies in spite of a mix that was considered a "hash-up" by some reviewers and fans. Said Thunders at the time of the song, "They can hate fuckin' heroin and still like 'Chinese Rocks'... either they like or they don't fuckinlahkit.'" Either way, given the state of many of the band members' addictions, there was no denying that the group knew of what they sang. (Conversely, the Heartbreakers would later stand accused of having introduced heroin to the London punk scene.)

Critical reaction

L.A.M.F. would be released by Track on October 3, 1977. Critics praised the music but condemned the mixes; critic Jon Savage wrote in Sounds magazine, "The sounds (mostly) are great, the playing assured, tight, adventurous... so what's the problem? The mixing. The fantasy that they are includes an element of self-destruction, and here's where it operates — they can't seem to get it quite right. Or maybe it's due to that excess of power. Whichever way, some of the songs... sound muddy — irritating 'cause you know how good they could be."

Jerry Nolan apparently agreed with Savage's, and other critics', concerns about the album's sound. He reportedly told the rest of the band that if the album was released "without a proper mix", then he saw no reason to remain a Heartbreaker. It would be the beginning of the end: Nolan quit during a UK tour, Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook subbed for him until Nolan was asked to return as a hired hand. The rest of the Heartbreakers considered both The Damned's Rat Scabies and former Clash drummer Terry Chimes, both of whom they knew from the Anarchy tour, as permanent replacements.

Track Records went into liquidation not long after releasing "It's Not Enough" as the album's second single. The band, with Chimes on drums, recorded a two-song demo of two new songs, "London Boys" and "Too Much Junkie Business", as an audition for EMI in December of 1977, but bassist Billy Rath and second guitarist/co-lead vocalist Walter Lure returned to the States soon afterward, effectively halting the Heartbreakers.

L.A.M.F was listed at #100 on Joe S. Harrington's Top 100 Albums (2001-2003)

Resurrection of a classic

After Track Records' implosion, manager Leee Black Childers liberated all of the Heartbreakers' tapes — the Essex demos, the Speakeasy live recordings, and every inch of tape from the L.A.M.F. sessions (including thirty-five reels full of various mixes) — from the Track Records offices, thanks in part to the contract provision the band signed early in 1977.

In 1982, the rights to the Heartbreakers' tapes were acquired from Childers, acting on behalf of the band partnership, by Jungle Records, an English independent label. Jungle engaged Thunders and former Generation X bassist Tony James (then with Sigue Sigue Sputnik) to do a new remix of L.A.M.F. from the multitrack tapes, but the results, done in just three nights and released by Jungle as L.A.M.F. Revisited, met with mixed reaction from purists.

In 1994, Jungle Records executive Alan Hauser ordered that all of the Heartbreakers' tapes be reviewed, with the best available mixes to be preserved on Digital Audio Tape. It was soon discovered by Hauser that many of the original mixes left behind by the Heartbreakers were best suited to the band's protopunk sound, while others had a sound similar to Sixties pop hits. It was then concluded that the fault with the sound on the original Track Records release of L.A.M.F. lay in the mastering and manufacturing of the vinyl version of the album, especially when compared to the rare cassette edition released by Track at the same time, which "sounds as if it had a shower, shave, coffee and a cigarette". (liner notes of 2002 reissue by Nina Antonia, p.10).

The 300-plus available mixes were narrowed down to a shortlist of fifty tracks, and various London-area friends and colleagues of Johnny Thunders, including sometime Thunders collaborator Patti Palladin and journalist Nina Antonia, were asked for their input. The mixes used were primarily what Hauser and company considered to be the "rockier, punchier" versions. This "final" edition of L.A.M.F. was amended with a bonus disc featuring studio outtakes, Essex Studio demo versions of three tracks, and other related tracks and alternate mixes, including the post-Track demos of "London Boys" and "Too Much Junkie Business", that the band recorded for EMI.

The first edition of what is sometimes referred to as L.A.M.F.: The Lost '77 Mixes was released by Jungle in 1994. Eight years later, a remastered edition, appended with an MPEG video of "Chinese Rocks", was released; this is the version currently in print. Henry Rollins picked L.A.M.F.: The Lost '77 Mixes as the recommended version of the album (over L.A.M.F. Revisited) in his 2005 book Fanatic!.

Each edition has differing qualities, with the original LP being the rawest, L.A.M.F. Revisited being clearer while retaining some of the vinyl rawness (with Johnny doing vocals on Can't keep my eyes on you), while The Lost 77' Mixes is the clearest of the mixes.

Track listing

Original Track Records release

  1. "Born Too Loose" (aka "Born to Lose")
  2. "Baby Talk"
  3. "All By Myself" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  4. "I Wanna Be Loved"
  5. "It's Not Enough"
  6. "Chinese Rocks" (Dee Dee Ramone/Richard Hell) (*see below)
  7. "Get Off The Phone" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  8. "Pirate Love"
  9. "One Track Mind" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  10. "I Love You"
  11. "Goin' Steady"
  12. "Let Go" (Johnny Thunders/Jerry Nolan)

L.A.M.F. Revisited

  1. "One Track Mind" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  2. "I Wanna Be Loved"
  3. "Pirate Love"
  4. "Let Go" (Johnny Thunders/Jerry Nolan)
  5. "Do You Love Me?" (Berry Gordy, Jr.)
  6. "Can't Keep My Eyes On You" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  7. "Get Off The Phone" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  8. "All By Myself" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  9. "Chinese Rocks" (Dee Dee Ramone/Richard Hell) (*see below)
  10. "Baby Talk"
  11. "Goin' Steady"
  12. "It's Not Enough"
  13. "I Love You"
  14. "Born Too Loose" (aka "Born to Lose")

L.A.M.F.: The Lost '77 Mixes

Disc one

Disc one is the "final, definitive" version of L.A.M.F. as compiled by Jungle Records in 1994.

  1. "Born Too Loose" (aka "Born to Lose")
  2. "Baby Talk"
  3. "All By Myself" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  4. "I Wanna Be Loved"
  5. "It's Not Enough"
  6. "Chinese Rocks" (Dee Dee Ramone/Richard Hell) (*see below)
  7. "Get Off The Phone" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  8. "Pirate Love"
  9. "One Track Mind" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  10. "I Love You"
  11. "Goin' Steady"
  12. "Let Go" (Johnny Thunders/Jerry Nolan)
  13. "Can't Keep My Eyes On You" (Walter Lure/Jerry Nolan)
  14. "Do You Love Me?" (Berry Gordy, Jr.)

Disc two

Disc two is a collection of demos, outtakes, and alternate mixes.

  1. Born To Lose
  2. Chinese Rocks
  3. Let Go
    • Tracks 1-3 are from the Essex Studios demo sessions, February 20-22, 1977.
  4. Goin' Steady (backing track)
  5. Baby Talk (backing track)
  6. Pirate Love (backing track)
  7. Born To Lose (backing track)
  8. Chinese Rocks (backing track)
  9. Do You Love Me?
    • Tracks 4-9 are outtakes from the Ramport Studio sessions, with studio chatter and false starts indexed as countdown time on the CD.
  10. Can't Keep My Eyes On You
    • Track 10 is a single B-side, recorded live at London's Speakeasy in early 1977.
  11. Get Off The Phone (alternate mix)
    • Mixed at Olympic Studio, May 16, 1977
  12. All By Myself (alternate mix)
    • Mixed at Ramport Studio, date unknown, 1977
  13. It's Not Enough (alternate mix)
    • Mixed at Ramport Studio, June 1, 1977
  14. One Track Mind (alternate mix)
    • Mixed at Ramport Studio, June 27, 1977
  15. Too Much Junkie Business (Walter Lure/Johnny Thunders)
  16. London Boys (Johnny Thunders/Walter Lure/Billy Rath)
    • Tracks 15-16 are demos done for EMI Records at Riverside Studio, London, December 13, 1977. These two tracks were produced by Mike Thorne.

All tracks on both discs written by Johnny Thunders except where noted.

(*)NOTE: The original Track Records version of L.A.M.F. credited Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, and Richard Hell with the writing of "Chinese Rocks". Jungle Records "corrected" this error for their 1994 and subsequent editions of the album, providing the credit attributing the song's authorship to Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone. However, it is widely acknowledged by many, including the Ramones themselves, that "Chinese Rocks" was primarily written by Dee Dee Ramone. The Ramones later recorded their own version of the song for End of the Century, crediting it simply to the entire band. The online databases for both ASCAP and BMI, however, state "Douglas Colvin" (Dee Dee Ramone) and "Richard Meyers" (Richard Hell) as the composers of the song.

See also

Musical Personnel

Sources

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