Johnny Thunder

Album: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

Songfacts®:

  • The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society album finds Ray Davies paying tribute to some of the colorful people he knew growing up in London ("Do You Remember Walter?," "Wicked Annabella"). On this rocker, he recalls "Johnny Thunder," a rebellious biker he once knew.
  • Johnny Thunder was inspired by the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One and also a cockney Ray Davies knew, whom he told Rolling Stone he saw "as a Neal Cassady type character."

    "All rebels look like Marlon Brando on a motorbike, but they don't wear a bowler hat," he added.
  • Ray's brother, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, has different memories of the inspiration for Johnny Thunder.

    "There was a guy that I knew that I thought Ray modeled Johnny Thunder after," he told Rolling Stone. "He was a loner, and he'd drive around and didn't say much. In the middle of Muswell Hill, there's a big roundabout, where you go 'round just before the hill itself. It's very steep. This guy used to sped on his bike 'round the roundabout and the story has it one day his footrest hit the road and he toppled and that was the end of Johnny Thunder. But Ray has different memories of that."
  • Ray Davies returned to the Johnny Thunder character in The Kinks' 1973 Preservation Act 1 song "One of the Survivors."

    See Johnny Thunder sitting on his motorbike
    Riding along the highway,
    Rock and roll songs from the 1950s
    Buzzing around in his brain

Comments: 1

  • Cee Gee Dee from Dallas, Texas, UsaThere is a variation of this song on "Preservation Act 1" called "One of the Survivors." In Mod vs. Rocker parlance in 1960s UK, Johnny was a Rocker who loved motorcycles. I watched a Kinks vid from late 2019 with Paul Weller, Andy Partridge, Noel Gallagher, and others of a younger than Kinks generation who commented on Village Green Preservation Society. One can see Johnny in Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, even British rockers like Johnny Kidd of the Pirates fame. However, one man also comes to mind, as in before he got big in America and just before he was murdered: John Lennon.

    I don't know if he ever rode motorcycles, but he loved early rock to his grave and greased up his hair ala the old Teddy boys even during that prophetic pic with Mark David Chapman. There is a very thin line between Johnny Thunder and John Lennon. Ray Davies, if you disagree, so be it! Long live The Kinks.

    An addendum from Quadrophenia. This may sum it up, although the rocker in the vid is probably a few years younger than Johnny, speaking of the film time sequence. John could be closer to Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley or maybe Dion Dimucci in age, as in born in the 30s. Lennon and Ringo were born in 1940. Carry on, Songfacts.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF1OktWB5og
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