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New York Dolls

New York Dolls

Fame is fleeting. Cult status lasts forever. Of course, it helps to be ahead of your time. It was nearly a decade before the rest of the world caught up with the New York Dolls. Though their two studio albums won critical praise, they were commercial failures. Efforts at media manipulation failed miserably even though some heavy talents were involved. Original members split and were replaced. But the new blood didn't alter the group's fortunes. Less than six years after they started, the Dolls were gone with outtakes, live tracks and compilations surfacing regularly.

As veterans of the New York music scene, the Dolls formed in '71 with guitarists Johnny Thunders (a notorious drug abuser in the Keith Richards vein) and Rick Rivets, bassist Arthur Kane and drummer Billy Murcia.

Vocalist David Johansen rounded out the original line-up as the group worked the lower Manhattan club scene. Syl Sylvian soon replaced Rivets but despite building a cult following the Dolls couldn't land a recording contract. Their Glam-Punk, cross-dressing, expletive-laced approach was just too far ahead of the curve. A U.K. tour was completed in '72 before Murcia died from a drug/alcohol overdose. With Jerry Nolan taking over on drums the Dolls finally signed with Mercury Records. A self-titled debut ('73) and follow up "Too Much Too Soon" ('74) sat on store shelves causing Mercury to abandon the group.

The Dolls further compounded their misery by hiring future Sex Pistols guru Malcolm McLaren as their manager. He dressed them in red leather and had them perform in front of a Soviet flag which not only made the group look silly but killed any chance another label would pick them up. McLaren was fired, but not before Thunders and Nolan departed. Johansen and Sylvian kept the group functioning until '77.

All the ex-Dolls later embarked on individual projects, including Thunders work with the Heartbreakers, but Johansen was the only one with any measure of success. Practically turning himself inside out, Johansen became his cocktail alter ego Buster Poindexter.

Both Thunders and Nolan reached the end of the line in the early '90s. A heroin overdose took Thunders ('91) while Nolan succumbed to a stroke ('92) at the ripe old age of 40.

Is there something in the water? In '06, The Who, or at least the last two members still breathing, release their first studio album in 24 years. Not to be outdone, the Dolls issued "One Day It Will Please Us To Remember This" after a 32 year hiatus. Sami Yaffa and Steve Conti accompany the group's surviving members (Johansen and Sylvian).

New York Dolls Discography


1973 New York Dolls
1974 Too Much Too Soon
2006 One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This
2009 Cause I Sez So
2011 Dancing Backward In High Heels

With the classic drag cover and thrash Rock of "Personality Crisis," "Frankenstein" and "Jet Boy," the New York Dolls' debut is their best original album though "Too Much Too Soon" is not far behind. Their sophomore effort features the hilarious "Stranded In The Jungle" with an early '60s retro sound and female backing vocals. "Rock 'n' Roll" culls the best and is a good place to start. If the early stuff knocks your socks off, check out the live material and other compilations.

"One Day It Will Please Us To Remember This" is far from brilliant but at this stage of the game about all anyone can reasonably hope for is something that isn't an embarrassment. From start to finish "Remember This" is a solid effort with the irresistible "Dance Like A Monkey" and the bouncy "Rainbow Store." Johansen is at his best when he plies his "what the hell" attitude.

In an unexpected move, the set ends with the Bluesy harp/guitar "Gimme Luv And Turn On The Light" and "Take A Good Look At My Good Looks," which could almost pass for a modern Country song.


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