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A Very Punk Rock Thanksgiving

Punk Rock Thanksgiving at Johnny Thunders Mother’s Home

Do punks have Thanksgiving? Duh, everyone does Thanksgiving in America, you brat. For proof, I have the excerpt or passage below from Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982 by Philippe Marcade. Rocker Jerry Nolan nodding off, childhood photos of legendary guitarist Johnny Thunders, a new song, and plenty of food – it’s a very punk rock Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! Enjoy.

For those who don’t know, Philippe Marcade is the lead singer for The Senders, a punk rock band from the 1970s. The women Risé mentioned is his wife. “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” is one of Johnny Thunders most popular songs that he wrote, and it’s been said that Bob Dylan wished he wrote it within the documentary Looking for Johnny: the Legend of Johnny Thunders. And if you don’t know Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan – f**k off. I mean, happy Thanksgiving.

Johnny invited me and Risé to Thanksgiving at his mother’s place.

He and Jerry picked us up, and we all left for Queens. Mama Thunder’s house was typical of New York’s Italian suburbs: thick carpeting, clear plastic covers on velvet sofas lined with little pom-poms all around. You could easily imagine Al Pacino coming out of the bathroom at any moment. I discreetly took a little peek at her bedroom and admired the ultra-kitsch ornate Roma furniture. My favorite part was the gold frame above the bed, which held a picture of Johnny onstage circa ’73 or ’74, with his skin-tight Frederick’s of Hollywood Toreador stretch pants, tons of makeup and hair teased two feet high. Hahaha!

We ate in the basement that looked like it had once been a kids’ playroom. At the bottom of the stairs, you were greeted by a painting of Johnny when he was about twelve or thirteen, dressed as an altar boy and reading the Bible. The album cover, I told myself! We all sat around a big table, with Johnny’s statuesque sister, Marianne, and her tattooed husband, Rusty, as well as his mom and uncle. There was so much food: a huge turkey, tons of stuffing, mountains of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce forever! So delicious. His mom and sister were especially nice. They went to every possible effort to make me and Risé comfortable. Everybody was chatting and the atmosphere was jovial. I was sitting next to Jerry, who kept nodding off. I figured maybe he had taken a bit too much dope before coming; he looked like he could use a nap! More than once, I had to discreetly pull him back up from falling headfirst into his mashed potatoes. He would look at me and say. “Eh?” before eating a little more and starting to nod off again. Everyone was looking at him. Oh no! After we finished eating, he fell asleep right away in an armchair in the living room. Johnny found an acoustic guitar somewhere and started playing a new song he was very proud of: “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.” It was a gorgeous slow song, with a hypnotic melody and the lyrics were absolutely perfect. It blew me away.

I asked him, “Where did you get that phrase, ‘You can’t put your arms around a memory?’ I’ve never heard that before – it’s great!”

“I got that from The Honeymooners,” he laughed. He was talking about the fifties comedy series with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. I actually saw that episode a few months later. In it, Ralph tells his wife Alice, “If you don’t give me the money I’m going to walk out this door, and once I’ve walked out this door it’s for good. I will never set foot in this house again. You’re gonna be awful lonely all by yourself, Alice. And remember: You can’t put your arms around a memory.”

To which she snaps right back to her fat husband: “I can’t even put my arms around you, anyway!”

They still show reruns of The Honeymooners every now and then, and I saw that episode again last month. Although I’d seen it at least thirty times already, I still got goosebumps.

Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982 by Philippe Marcade
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