Johnny Thunders / Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers

D.T.K. Live at the Speakeasy

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Recorded live at the Speakeasy in London on March 15, 1977, the imaginatively titled D.T.K. Live at the Speakeasy (D.T.K. stands for "down to kill") captures Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers at their raging, sneering best. This is one of the performances that made the Heartbreakers such darlings in the U.K., and it's not hard to see why. Reprising most of the songs off their debut, L.A.M.F., Thunders and crew (guitarist Walter Lure, bassist Billy Rath, and drummer Jerry Nolan) tear into these songs with a snot-nosed abandon that made even the Sex Pistols stand up and take notice. Although the performances here are relatively straightforward readings of the album tracks, they bristle with a rabies-like intensity that the studio versions just can't match. Tunes like "Can't Keep My Eyes on You," "Born to Lose," "Get Off the Phone," and "All by Myself" are played so viciously that it's almost a miracle that they come off sounding as melodic and rhythmic as they do. Much of the credit here has go to Rath and Nolan, who ground the grooves so defiantly that nothing can pry them loose. What really puts Live at the Speakeasy over the top, though, is Thunders' between-song banter. Inciting the somewhat lackadaisical crowd with a barrage of drunken insults and tasteless asides, he adds a certain street thug joie de vivre to the proceedings. Live at the Speakeasy is a jewel in a catalog jammed with poorly recorded, abysmal live performances, and is a wild reminder of just how formidable the Heartbreakers could be on a good night.

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