[Today: Poor mixing kills one of the best albums of the punk era…]
The Heartbreakers were mainly punks by association – guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan had come from the New York Dolls, and bassist Richard Hell would leave to form the Voidoids before L.A.M.F. was recorded in 1977. The group had plenty of punk attitude, but musically they had more in common with 50’s rockers like Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnette, and young Elvis than they did with the safety pin through the cheek crowd. In the 50’s, the term ‘punk’ was used to describe a street hoodlum, and that’s the kind of punkdom that Thunders and company were striving for.
Songs like ‘Pirate Love’ and ‘Born To Loose’ betray a strong connection to rock & roll’s earliest sounds. Sure, the music here is muddy, raunchy, and sloppy, but the engine driving these songs is still one of youthful rebellion, tough talk, fast cars and loud guitars. Make no mistake, the Heartbreakers were very badly behaved (they are widely credited with introducing heroin into the British punk scene, with disastrous results), but they rocked in a way that most punk bands would have either disguised or sped up, and it set them apart from their peers.
Fanzine Negative Reaction got at part of the band’s dilemma in a June 1977 article: “The Heartbreakers never really got off the ground in the States, probably because the Dolls are still around and the Heartbreakers were seen as nothing more than a cheap imitation of the original.” But more importantly than any image problems, mastering mistakes led to a horrible mix of L.A.M.F., crippling the group’s progress, and leading to their demise.
The album was remixed with somewhat favorable results in late 1977 under the title The Lost ’77 Mixes, but it wasn’t until Thunders took it upon himself to remaster the album in 1984 that it received the studio treatment it had deserved all along. Released under the title L.A.M.F. Revisited, it showed the Heartbreakers to be a band that was perfectly behind its time, yet miles ahead of its contemporaries.
Listen: Pirate Love