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Walter Lure, Guitarist With NYC Punk Legends The Heartbreakers, Dead At 71

The guitarist died from lung and liver cancer, with which he had been diagnosed last month.

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Walter Lure with The Heartbreakers @ The Music Machine, Camden Town, London in 1977. Photo: Erica Echenberg/Redferns

Walter Lure, former guitarist of NYC punk legends Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers, has died at the age of 71.

The news was confirmed in a Facebook post from Los Angeles club The Starwood. It read, “Walter Lure (April 22, 1949 – August 22, 2020) our dear friend has passed away. Walter was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer in July 2020, which spread rapidly and he died from complications related to the cancer at the age of 71, peacefully in the hospital, surrounded by family.

“He was much loved by all and respected for all he contributed to the world of music. He will be dearly missed. To his family, friends and fans our deepest condolences. May he RIP.”

Lure joined the Heartbreakers in 1975 and played on the band’s classic debut (and only) album L.A.M.F. album as the punk scene in New York began to explode.

“There was definitely a whole community thing going on,” Lure told Classic Rock in a 2014 interview. “It was the New York scene and we were a part of it, whether it was hanging out with Debbie Harry or David Byrne or whoever. There were rivalries later, but it was pretty diverse between bands like Talking Heads and Television, who were almost diametrically opposed to The Heartbreakers. We didn’t even have any management at that time.

“The main thing was that we’d all been brought up with – and ate, drank and breathed – solid, fast rock’n’roll. That’s what we all loved. I guess you could call us the only authentic rock band in the city, especially as it evolved from the Dolls, which to me was the primal New York band.

The Heartbreakers were also part of the infamous ‘Anarchy’ tour in the UK in December 1976, flying in to join a line-up that also included The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.

“The whole scene was madness,” Lure told Classic Rock. “Kids with safety pins and coloured hair, which reminded me of the [New York] Dolls. Johnny Rotten was trying to be a nasty little p_k on tour, to establish his persona as a scumbag. He was a great guy when we’d be hanging out in hotel bars, but as soon as somebody came in from outside, his whole personality would change.

“The first night that Steve Jones and Paul Cook met us in the lobby, they were hiding in the background. We thought they were trying to be obnoxious, but we found out later that they just didn’t know what to say to Johnny and Jerry [Thunders and Nolan, from The Heartbreakers], who were their idols.”

Walter Lure continued to play occasional shows with The Heartbreakers until Johnny Thunders died in 1991, and also worked with The Ramones, adding guitar parts on their acclaimed mid-80s albums Subterranean Jungle and Too Tough to Die. He was the last surviving member of The Heartbreakers, following the deaths of Thunders in 1991, drummer Jerry Nolan in 1992 and Billy Rath in 2014. (Richard Hell, who was an original Heartbreakers member but left to focus on the Voidoids before L.A.M.F. was recorded, is still with us.) Lure continued to play music over the years, and led his own band The Waldos.

He continued to play live while enjoying a parallel career as a Wall Street stockbroker, taking to the stage at New York’s Bowery Electric in 2016 to perform L.A.M.F. alongside Blondie drummer Clem Burke, former Replacements and Guns N’ Roses bassist Tommy Stinson, and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer. The show was later released as a live album.

“I went to see Walter Lure play L.A.M.F. a couple of weeks ago, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan told Classic Rock in 2019. “I went to this by myself in downtown LA. There’s five dollar parking across the street, and I parked my car. I went in and saw “Pirate Love”, “Born To Lose”, “Chinese Rocks”. That’s all I needed. It was great. This record made a huge impact on me.”

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