Johnny Thunders used to say everyone in New York City claimed they wrote Chinese Rocks at one time or another. Then he took credit for writing it.
Dee Dee Ramone said the punk ode to heroin was all his own work. Richard Hell told people he was responsible for half of it. At different times Jerry Nolan, Sid Vicious, and all four members of The Ramones appeared in the songwriting credits.
Chinese Rock was the street term for heroin out of Vietnam, strong stuff that saturated New York during the punk era. The song named after it captures the sordid reality of scoring dope in the late 70s: the trip to Alphabet City, the dark hallways, money in one hand and a 007 knife in the other, a paper packet of heroin, scrambling home to lock the door and get out the works.
They’re still arguing over who wrote it.
On 7 December 1980 Darby Crash, lead singer of Los Angeles punk band The Germs, pumped $400 worth of heroin into his arm. He nodded out in the arms of punk groupie Casey Cola, who thought she was part of a suicide pact.
Casey woke up the next morning in the embrace of a corpse. Darby had prepared both their hits and intended to go out alone. The singer wanted immortality. He wanted, he once said, fans to worship a statue of him after he died. Bad timing messed up that plan. A few hours after Darby was found by paramedics at Casey Cola’s mom’s house, ex-Beatle John Lennon was shot dead in New York City.
The movers and shakers of the LA punk scene paid tribute to the dead Germs vocalist; Rodney Bingenheimer’s Rodney On The Roq radio show alternated Beatles and Germs tracks all night long. Everyone else in America was mourning a much bigger star.
The last of Darby Crash’s plans to lead the people had failed.