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Copy Cats – Johnny Thunders & Patti Paladin

March 13, 2012

First published December 2007

A welcome re-release on CD for a record that makes more sense now than when it first came out in 1988. Thunders’ first solo record ‘So Alone’ had received good reviews and lousy sales – it’s successor ‘Que Sera Sera’ just managed the lousy sales. So by third LP ‘Copy Cats’ Thunders was under pressure to deliver some professional product that would sell. His response was a covers collection, in the vein (sorry) of John Lennon’s 1975 collection ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

Crucial to the success of ‘Copy Cats’ were long-term Thunders associates Patti Palladin (ex-Snatch) and John Perry (ex-Only Ones). Patti helped select the songs, shared the vocals and acted as producer. The arrival of John Perry some weeks into the sessions salvaged the project, as he assumed the role of musical director as well as contributing extensive guitar and synth strings and brass.

The resultant record is a triumph, a loving recreation of the soundtrack to Johnny and Patti’s teenage years. Thunders trademark overdriven guitar is absent here, and his vocals are carefully underpinned by others, including Patti and Chrissie Hynde (the latter guesting on a sensuous version of the Shirelles ‘Baby It’s You’). Only a shrill take on Screaming Jay Hawkins ‘Alligator Wine’ fails to convince. Covering less obvious songs had me combing second-hand record shops for the original versions of ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ (Seeds) and ‘He Cried’ (Shangri La’s).

Reviews were positive – Sounds called it the best Thunders project to date, NME gave it 9/10 and even John Peel described ‘Copy Cats’ as “one of those rare albums of covers where the versions are actually better than the originals”. The record ended up wildly over budget, didn’t sell and that was the end of Thunders studio career. However the love and respect that infuses the music throughout ‘Copy Cats’ shows that there was much more to Thunders than his wild-man-of-rock schtick and for that it is a welcome addition to his canon.

 

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