Thunders was not exactly a serious character, a picture of punk fragility, the perils of addiction (no one wanted to be a bigger junkie than Johnny), and talent so immense that even his most ardent efforts could not destroy it. Johnny is the epitome of exactly the kind of man I used to adore. Of course I decided to marry a sensible, professional, suit wearing conventional man, and leave the pretty punk boyz behind. It didn’t work out too well for me. I would have been better off not trying to be something I am not.
Johnny was not exactly well known as a protest song singer, he was more well known for his cover of Dee Dee Ramone’s Chinese Rocks, and doing Too Much Junkie Business with The New York Dolls. The softer, more thoughtful side of his personality only really showed itself creatively in his 1983 solo acoustic album, Hurt Me. He took on Eve of Destruction a protest song written by P. F. Sloan and initially covered in 1965 by Barry McGuire and released on Dunhill Records. It was an instant hit for Barry, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of that year. Of course there was a huge appetite of protest songs, and anti war sentiment in 1965. It was not going to be until November of 1965 that the first major draft of US men to Vietnam started, but the writing was on the wall, and Dylan had ignited the protest song fire in the belly of hippies longing for some peace, love and understanding.
Fast forward to 1985 and though this conflict and that had marred the landscape, there was seemingly no urgent need for punk boy royalty like Thunders to stick his neck on the line. Thunders existed in a personal ‘eve of destruction’. Every time he put a needle in his arm he stared death in the face and death laughed back at him. In a way, every junkie is not so much like a ‘setting sun’ like Neil Young once sang in Needle and the Damage Done, but more a universal soldier going to battle with himself, society as a whole, the law and the drug they need to simply be ‘well’. In a way, Thunders sang this song so passionately because he had been the veteran of a thousand psychic wars.
We all want peace, whether it is an inner peace, world peace, a peaceful society. Actually that isn’t quite right, is it? There are plenty of powerful people who are rubbing their hands together with glee at the thought of the money that can be made from a widespread conflict, and it is not love that makes this ailing world go round, it is money and power. It feels as if we can’t change that, as if we are children dragged into danger by abusive parents who do not care if we live or die, but the fact is, we are many and these warmongering bastards very few. I say we all just say fuck it, forget it, and refuse to fight for their luxurious dacha, Italian villas, football clubs, and gucci shoes. Fuck it, and fuck them, they can’t have our blood, sweat and tears any longer.
There would be no war or struggle if we all simply decided to tell the old rich white men to stick their fucking annihilation up their collective shrivelled assholes. They have had their lives, they are old. I truly believe Putin is terminally sick in some way or another, staring his mortality in the face, and instead of being even a fraction of the man Thunders was, has decided to take us all out with him. Putin, may his name die with him, is like some school shooter scum on a far vaster scale with bigger weapons and more crazily insane delusions of grandeur. He is a man with skin so thin that he starts threatening nuclear attacks on the west because our leaders were critical of his genocide, his attacks on hospitals and kindergartens and civilians, and we put a freeze on his country and crony’s financial dealings! We are on the eve of destruction because some Russian snowflake got his dictatorial feelings hurt. And I thought Kim Jong (wrong) Un was a babyish whining brat. Putin is far worse, and moreover, he is a criminal and a murderer of innocent Ukrainians, holding them hostage out of some wierdo desire to prove he is as big a tyrant as Stalin. I would say it makes me sick, but there is no time for that on the Eve of Destruction.
In Thunder’s hands, Sloan’s song becomes as fragile a beauty as the life of a solider facing down death because some Russian imbecile of a boss-man has lost his mind. Whereas McGuire’s version is a rough tough explosion of anger and frustration, Thunders makes it as delicate as a flower. We have been on the edge ever since we as a species cracked the nuclear code and decided to unleash it on human beings. When America nuked Japan, we as a species lost a little of our humanity and a lot of our possibilities. Before The Bomb, we worried about boys joining up, too young to fight, we worried about the old wars – the bodies floating down the Jordan. After the bomb, our total annihilation became a real and present forever danger. The atomic genie we could not put back in the bottle, “But you tell me over and over and over again my friend/Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction?” Don’t pretend to me that it is going to be ok, that it is going to all blow over, instead of blow up, because I simply don’t believe that to be true.
Johnny doesn’t sing the second verse, but McGuire sings “If the button is pushed, there’s no running away/There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave/ Take a look around you boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy.” Anyone who has a heart and a soul is scared for us all right now. It is the children I am worried for, those who have yet to have a chance to fuck it up, to live, love and experience the infinite variety of life. Those right wing commentators and politicians coming down on the side of Russia are traitors to democracy, they never were decent in the first place. It is only those who think they will survive, who have bunkers and fat fingers in arms selling pies who want this war.
There is hatred between even those of us who should be united by national ties, we are deeply divided from within. Johnny exhorts us to “love your neighbor and don’t forget to say grace,” but we are so far down the line towards destruction, I fear it is too late for any deep and meaningful understanding and healing to take place. We, as a nation, as a species, as a group of sentient beings have wasted so much time, life, resources and effort in hurting each other, in destroying instead of creating. I would pretend that I hate all of you, but what good would that do, and besides it is simply not true. I love humanity, even if I don’t trust us, and trust ME, I really don’t trust anyone except my immediate family.
I get told that it is all going to be ok, that it is just men waving dicks around to feel like they are packing a little more than a sad little choad in their undercrackers. I get told I am paranoid. I get told to chill out, to relax, it will all be ok, but I have felt like I have accidentally got mixed up with the herd of lambs heading for the slaughter, and am being conveyor belted towards the meat grinder. …”But you tell me over and over and over again, my friend/ Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.” I fear my sense of danger has been fine honed by years of survival.
I think it is already past that time. I think we are almost there. Chip chop. Chip chop…the last lamb’s dead….
I hope I am wrong. I hope we can back away from the edge, and turn back the clock, and flip the calendar to a previous better time. Call me a hippy, but I would rather be protesting death and destruction than trying to survive it. I don’t want war, but then it isn’t my choice. I suppose it is not up to any of us unless all of us decide that we have no interest in the games these powerful men play, seemingly for kicks.
I am not religious, but heaven help us all.
I like The Pogues’ version the best, just because MacGowan sounds like he’s drunk off his arse and that seems so appropriate given the subject matter.
I love Shane, he is the most glorious pisshead! How are you holding up?
Ok I guess. Drinking mulled wine and listening to 80’s thrash and death metal.
Feeling that positive, eh! I think it is all going to be ok. It is ridiculous. We can’t possibly end up in a nuclear war with Russia. Cheers, sweetie. Raising a joint to ‘peace’…