Saturday, February 22, 2020

Stranded in the Jungle - Jerry Nolan's Wild Ride by Curt Weiss

Although he had already played in a number of bands previously, Jerry Nolan rose to prominence as the drummer for the infamous New York Dolls and even more illicitly infamous Heartbreakers. After the untimely drug-related death of the Dolls initial beat master, Billy Murcia, Nolan was recruited away from Wayne County's combo to join the rising stars. Of course, the Dolls were a bit too New York and too extreme in every way for the still fairly conservative, pre-punk, early 70's teen audience. But their legacy and influence has been massive and continues to this day.

Growing up with a fixation on Gene Krupa, which he shared with childhood chum Peter Criss and which continued but grew into a love of rock'n'roll music and its accompanying style. While moving around the country before settling in New York, Jerry played in numerous bands with varying degrees of non-success and bad luck. But, his life was never dull or boring - he dated Bette Midler in her pre-fame days, he played in a later version of the Pleasure Seakers (now called Cradle) with Suzi Quatro before she set off on her solo career and of course, various other combos before backing Wayne County and then joining the Dolls.

The Dolls rise'n'fall have been chronicled endlessly, which then mutated into the Heartbreakers for Jerry and Johnny (borrowing Tom Petty's band name since they thought he wouldn't get out of Florida!) who considered such now underground luminaries as John Felice of the Real Kids for second guitar, as well as Rob Duprey from the Mumps, Chris Stein and Jonathan Paley, before deciding on the Demons' Walter Lure. Of course, the drugs overtook the band and Jerry and Johnny became slaves to junk - I have a hard time understanding how anyone managed to deal with them at all, as for the rest of their lives they were defined by smack and never rose above their addictions or overcame its stigma, which lead to lives of struggling to survive with minimal gigs. Of course, the drugs eventually caught up with both Jerry'n'Johnny although their legacy lives on.

It's a sad story of failed potential and one that would make any sane person never want to pick up hard drugs in any way, shape or form. Hopefully, some will learn from Jerry's tough lessons. But, we can still enjoy the power'n'majesty of the work that he did in his life.