The Waldos’ “Rent Party”
Walter Lure’s a guy who always gets short shrift in the annals of rockaroll. While he didn’t have the name recognition that ex-New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan or Television refugee Richard Hell did when he joined the Heartbreakers in ’75, “Waldo” wound up doing half of the singing, songwriting, and lead guitar playing in the band’s mature (post-Hell) incarnation. His ebullient bark, no-frills toonage, chunky chording and ragged-but-right solo action take a back seat to no one.
While I grew up on Long Island, an hour outside New York City (everybody on the Island says that they’re “20 minutes from the city,” which is bullshit – Brooklyn is “20 minutes from the city”), I didn’t “get” punk until I moved to Texas and got to see and hear the Nervebreakers, the Huns, and the Big Boys. When I was working at Record Town in Austin’s Dobie Mall (a UT dormitory with built-in shopping center), the Heartbreakers’ Live At Max’s Kansas City was a favorite in-store spin. Sure, those guys weren’t really part of the “new breed thang” that was punk; rather, their sound was a harder-edged refinement of the Dolls’ blend of Brit Invasion R&B, Brill Building pop, and wiseass Noo Yawk attitude. The rough, raucous Live At Max’s is a better way to hear them than their musically-great-but-sonically-challenged studio album L.A.M.F., and a big part of its appeal is Lure’s lovable-lug/hail fellow well met persona – the perfect foil to Johnny’s iconically out-of-control dissolution.
Post-Heartbreakers, Lure worked as a stockbroker on Wall Street – as he told an interviewer for the UK-based Uber Rock website, “One of the main reasons I probably survived was the fact that I had to go out and get a job to survive” – and his death was erroneously reported in the wake of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. At Johnny Ramone’s request, he contributed guitar to three latter-day Ramones albums (Subterranean Jungle, Too Tough To Die, and Animal Boy), and he fronted his own band playing mostly Heartbreakers repertoire with a revolving cast of personnel as the Hurricanes and the Heroes before settling on the Waldos rubric in the mid-‘80s.
The Waldos released an album, Rent Party, on Sympathy for the Record Industry in 1994. These days the CD goes for big bucks online, and I recently discovered that SFTRI had the decency to reissue it on vinyl (with new cover art) back in 2009. Produced by Dictators mastermind Andy Shernoff, Rent Party includes Lure originals old and new, including “Flight,” his one vocal feature from the Hell-era Heartbreakers; a previously-unreleased Jerry Nolan song, “Countdown Love;” and covers that include Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Seven Day Weekend” (a Dolls/Heartbreakers favorite), Ray Charles’ “Busted” (kind of ironic in light of Waldo’s checkered past), and Claudine Clark’s “Party Lights” (also covered to good effect by Sonic’s Rendezvous Band). It’s a solid slab of rock that cements Lure’s credentials as one of the most consistently entertaining musos to emerge from the ‘70s New York punk claque.
As my pal Geoff Ginsberg points out in his All Music Guide review, there’s an undertone of tragedy lurking beneath the surface of Rent Party’s good-time ambience. Walter Lure’s a survivor in the truest sense of the word; his rock ‘n’ roll past is littered with fallen comrades: Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, original Waldos drummer Charlie Sox, bassist/mainstay Tony Coiro, and saxophonist Jamey Heath. He recently resumed touring and released a good live CD that includes Rent Party songs alongside Heartbreakers classics. Long may he run.
(For further Lure archaeology, read this interview from the Greek blog White Trash Soul.)