In the lyrics of "Johnny Thunder", a rebellious biker named Johnny Thunder can't be reached by anyone in the town, but sweet Helena only blesses him. "He's the local hound - a real swine," Kinks guitarist Dave Davies said of Johnny, "but he's inside at the moment!" The Johnny Thunder character returns in The Kinks' Preservation Act 1 song "One of the Survivors" in 1973.
The song's main character was, in fact inspired by the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One. "It's about a rocker. I wrote it after Wild One was released." Ray Davies said of "Johnny Thunder."
Kinks member Dave Davies claimed that "Johnny Thunder" had an influence on Kinks fan and fellow musician Pete Townshend of the famous rock band The Who. Davies went on to say that Townshend, who had previously written a song ("I Can't Explain") which was meant to sound like The Kinks, used the opening riff of "Johnny Thunder" in his own work. He also thought that a friend of both Ray Davies and Pete Townshend, Barry Fantoni, had been "conveying our ideas to Townshend." Author Andy Miller speculates that this riff was used in The Who's songs "Overture" and "Go to the Mirror!"
Ray Davies has also said that "It would be nice to hear The Who sing it."