New York Dolls

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New York Dolls

New York Dolls in 1973.
Background information
OriginNew York, United States
GenresRock and roll, glam punk, glam rock, protopunk
Years active1971–1976, 2004–present
LabelsMercury, Roadrunner, Atco, 429
Members
David Johansen
Sylvain Sylvain
Brian Delaney
Kenny Aaronson
Earl Slick
Past members
Johnny Thunders
Arthur Kane
Billy Murcia
Rick Rivets
Jerry Nolan
Peter Jordan
Blackie Lawless
Chris Robison
Tony Machine
Bobby Blaine
Steve Conte
Gary Powell
Sami Yaffa
Brian Koonin
Frank Infante
Jason Hill
Jason Sutter
 
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New York Dolls

New York Dolls in 1973.
Background information
OriginNew York, United States
GenresRock and roll, glam punk, glam rock, protopunk
Years active1971–1976, 2004–present
LabelsMercury, Roadrunner, Atco, 429
Members
David Johansen
Sylvain Sylvain
Brian Delaney
Kenny Aaronson
Earl Slick
Past members
Johnny Thunders
Arthur Kane
Billy Murcia
Rick Rivets
Jerry Nolan
Peter Jordan
Blackie Lawless
Chris Robison
Tony Machine
Bobby Blaine
Steve Conte
Gary Powell
Sami Yaffa
Brian Koonin
Frank Infante
Jason Hill
Jason Sutter

The New York Dolls is an American rock band, formed in New York in 1971.[1] The band's protopunk sound prefigured much of what was to come in the punk rock era; their visual style influenced the look of many new wave and 1980s-era glam metal groups, and they began the local New York scene that later spawned the Ramones, Blondie, Television and Talking Heads.[2]

In 2004 the band reformed with three of their original members, two of whom, David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, continue on today and have released three records of new material. The original bassist, Arthur Kane, died shortly after their first reunion concert.

Contents

History

Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, who went to junior high school and high school together, started playing in a band called “the Pox” in 1967. After the frontman quit, Murcia and Sylvain started a clothing business called "Truth and Soul" and Sylvain took a job at "A Different Drummer",[3] a men's boutique that was across the street from the New York Doll Hospital, a doll repair shop. Sylvain claimed that the shop inspired the name for their future band. In 1970 they formed a band again and recruited Johnny Thunders to join on bass, though Sylvain ended up teaching him to play guitar. They called themselves the "Dolls." When Sylvain left the band to spend a few months in London, Thunders and Murcia went their separate ways.

Thunders was eventually recruited by Kane and Rick Rivets, who had been playing together in the Bronx. At Thunders' suggestion, Murcia replaced the original drummer. Thunders played lead guitar and sang for the band known as "Actress". An October 1971 rehearsal tape recorded by Rivets was released as Dawn of the Dolls. When Thunders decided that he no longer wanted to be the front man, David Johansen joined the band.

Initially, the group was composed of singer David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets (who was replaced by Sylvain Sylvain after a few months), bass guitarist Arthur "Killer" Kane and drummer Billy Murcia. The original lineup's first performance was on Christmas Eve 1971 at a homeless shelter, the Endicott Hotel.

The band was influenced by vintage rhythm and blues, the early Rolling Stones, classic American girl group songs, and protopunk bands such as the MC5 and The Stooges, as well as glam rockers such as Marc Bolan. In synthesizing this wide variety of influences they created something which critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote "doesn't really sound like anything that came before it. It's hard rock with a self-conscious wit, a celebration of camp and kitsch that retains a menacing, malevolent edge."[4] The band's sound was also influenced by blues and soul, as evidenced by Johansen's blues harmonica and their choice of cover versions. Their two Mercury albums contain their covers of songs originally performed by Bo Diddley, The Drells, Sonny Boy Williamson, The Coasters and the Jay Hawks. The CD "Private World: The Complete Early Studio Demos 1972/3" includes their versions of songs by Otis Redding, Gary US Bonds, Chuck Berry, The Shangri-Las and Muddy Waters. The jazz influence was particularly important for Johansen, whose subsequent career included work with jazz man Big Jay McNeely and blues man Hubert Sumlin. Johansen is an accomplished trumpet player.

After getting a manager and attracting some music industry interest, the New York Dolls got a break when Rod Stewart invited them to open for him at a London concert. Shortly thereafter, Murcia died of accidental drowning, at age 21, after he passed out from drugs and alcohol.

Once back in New York, the Dolls auditioned drummers, including Marc Bell (who would go on to play with Richard Hell and Ramones under the stage name "Marky Ramone") and Jerry Nolan, a friend of the band. They selected Nolan, and after US Mercury Records' A&R man Paul Nelson signed them, they began sessions for their debut album. New York Dolls was produced by former The Nazz guitarist Todd Rundgren, who had become a successful pop singer and producer, with his No. 5 Billboard hit, Hello It's Me. In an interview in Creem magazine, Rundgren says he barely touched the recording; everybody was debating how to do the mix. Sales were sluggish, especially in middle US, and a Stereo Review magazine reviewer in 1973 compared the Dolls' guitar playing to the sound of lawnmowers.

America's mass rock audience's reaction to the Dolls was mixed. In a Creem magazine poll, they were elected both best and worst new group of 1973. The Dolls also toured Europe, and, while appearing on UK television, host Bob Harris of the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test derided the group as "mock rock," comparing them unfavorably to the Rolling Stones.

For their next album, Too Much Too Soon, the quintet hired producer George "Shadow" Morton, whose productions for the Shangri-Las and other girl-groups in the mid-1960s had been among the band's favorites. Mercury dropped the Dolls not long after the second album. In 1975, foundering in drug abuse and interpersonal conflicts, the band split up. During their last weeks together Malcolm McLaren helped with management. He got the band red leather outfits to wear on stage and a communist flag as backdrop. The Dolls did a 5-concert tour of New York's five boroughs, supported by Television, which included Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell. Their last show in New York State was at The Shoram, in Quogue, New York, with Spider on drums.

The original New York Dolls were captured in a live set, recorded at the Little Hippodrome and released by Fan Club records in 1982 as Red Patent Leather. It was originally a bootleg album that was later remixed by Sylvain, with former manager Marty Thau credited as executive producer. Due to Kane being unable to play that night, roadie Peter Jordan played bass, though he was credited as having played "second bass". Jordan had played with the Dolls often, when Kane was too inebriated to play. Jordan was the Dolls' bass player after Thunders and Nolan left, until their final dissolution.

Break-up

Thunders and Nolan left in 1975, while on tour in Florida. Blackie Lawless replaced Thunders for the remainder of the Florida tour. The period immediately following this was documented on the album Tokyo Dolls Live (Fan Club/New Rose), from a show in Japan in August 1975, in which Johansen, Sylvain and Jordan were joined by keyboardist Chris Robison and drummer Tony Machine. The material is similar to that on Red Patent Leather, but notable for a radically re-arranged "Frankenstein" and a cover of Big Joe Turner's "Flip Flop Fly." The album is undated and has no production credit, but was issued circa 1986.

Soon after their return to New York, the Dolls played at the Beacon Theater, on New Year's Eve, 1975, which met with great critical acclaim. Shortly thereafter, they did a follow-up show at Max's Kansas City. Johansen, Sylvain and company continued on as the New York Dolls for a few years, with the band rounded out by Jordan, Machine and Robison. Robison was then replaced by Bobbie Blaine, on piano and keyboards. The group played its final shows in 1977, after which Johansen began a solo career and Sylvain formed The Criminals, a popular band at CBGB.

Thunders and Nolan formed The Heartbreakers with bassist Richard Hell, who had left Television the same week that Thunders and Nolan left the Dolls. After a few shows they added guitarist Walter Lure, Shortly thereafter, Hell was replaced by Billy Rath. They participated in the "Anarchy Tour" with the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned in Britain in 1976. The Ramones and Talking Heads had also been on the tour, but left early. The Heartbreakers recorded one studio album, L.A.M.F. in London in 1977, and a few live sets (including one from a Max's Kansas City show) before splintering.

Thunders continued to tour and record throughout the 1980s, releasing one solo album So Alone, on which Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook guested, among others. During this period he briefly teamed up with ex-MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer in the group Gang War, which later altered its name.

Thunders died in New Orleans in 1991, allegedly of an overdose of both heroin and methadone. It also came to light that he suffered from t-cell leukemia. Nolan died in 1992 following a stroke, brought about by bacterial meningitis.

Immediately after the New York Dolls' breakup, Johansen began a solo career. Several Johansen/Sylvain compositions didn't make it to vinyl until the first two Johansen solo albums: e.g., "Funky But Chic," "Girls," "Lonely Tenement" and "Frenchette." His fourth solo album, a concert set called Live it Up, contained a medley of The Animals songs; "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", "Don't Bring Me Down", and "It's My Life" with the video of the 'Animals Medley' performance becoming a hit on MTV.

Johansen had his greatest commercial success portraying the fictional lounge lizard, Buster Poindexter, who mixed comedy with a kitsch hybrid of soul, calypso Latin Jazz and Pop. As Buster Poindexter, Johansen finally made a chart-topping single: one of the 1980s' biggest dance hits, "Hot Hot Hot." He also hosted a variety show on VH1 as Poindexter, then moved on to folk and blues with David Johansen and the Harry Smiths. A posthumous New York Dolls album, Lipstick Killers, made up of early demo tapes of the original Dolls (with Billy Murcia on drums), was released in a cassette-only edition on ROIR Records in 1981, and subsequently re-released on CD, and then on vinyl in early 2006. All the tracks from this title – sometimes referred to as The Mercer Street Sessions (though actually recorded at Blue Rock Studio, New York) – are included on the CD Private World, along with other tracks recorded elsewhere, including a previously unreleased Dolls original, "Endless Party." Three more unreleased studio tracks, including another previously unreleased Dolls original, "Lone Star Queen," are included on the Rock 'n' Roll album. The other two are covers – "Courageous Cat" theme from the original Courageous Cat Cartoon series, and a second attempt at "Don't Mess With Cupid," a song written by Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd for Otis Redding and first recorded independently for what was later to become the Mercer Street/Blue Rock Sessions.

Sylvain formed his own band, The Criminals, then cut a solo album for RCA, while also working with Johansen. He later became a taxicab driver in New York. In the early 1990s he moved to Los Angeles and recorded one album Sleep Baby Doll, on Fishhead Records. His band for that record consisted of Brian Keats on drums, Dave Vanian's Phantom Chords, Speediejohn Carlucci (who had played with the Fuzztones), and Olivier Le Baron on lead guitar. Guest appearances by Frank Infante of Blondie and Derwood Andrews of Generation X were also included on the record. It has been re-released as New York A Go Go,.

Influence

The band influenced a wide range of musicians and bands across multiple generations, initially hard rock bands like Kiss and Aerosmith, followed by the American and British punk rock movements, and a huge wave of "hair metal" bands of the mid-1980s. They inspired various members of The Sex Pistols, especially guitarist Steve Jones, who later said that looking back at his movements on stage, he was embarrassed by how much he copied Johnny Thunders' style.[5] The Sex Pistols' manager, Malcolm McLaren, worked with the New York Dolls towards the end of their career, though he never officially managed them,[6] he had been a UK contact and supplier of glam clothes & boots stretching back to the time of the Dolls first UK visit.

The New York Dolls were first and foremost a major influence on the rock music scene in New York City, having accumulated a devoted cult following during their career. By the time the New York Dolls had disbanded, Ira Robbins wrote that they "singlehandedly began the local New York scene that later spawned the Ramones, Blondie, Television, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Dead Boys, Talking Heads and others.[citation needed] A classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, the Dolls were much more than just a band.

The Smiths' Morrissey and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe are both fans of the New York Dolls. Morrissey was the president of the Dolls' UK fan club as a teenager, wrote a book about them, and produced their comeback show; Stipe was a guest on One Day....

Reunion

Morrissey, having been a long-time fan of the band, and head of the UK fan club (in the 1970s), would go on to organize a reunion of the three surviving band members (Johansen, Sylvain, and Kane) for the Meltdown Festival in London in 2004. The reunion led to a live LP and DVD on Morrissey's Attack label, and a film, New York Doll, showing Kane's point of view of the genesis of the reunion contrasted against the backdrop of his conversion to Mormonism. However, future plans for the Dolls were affected when the news came of Arthur Kane's death on July 13, 2004, from leukemia. They played several festivals in the UK during 2004

New York Dolls in 2006

In July 2005, the two surviving members announced a tour and a new album, titled One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. Released on July 25, 2006, the album featured guitarist Steve Conte, bassist Sami Yaffa (ex-Hanoi Rocks), drummer Brian Delaney and keyboardist Brian Koonin, formerly a member of David Johansen and the Harry Smiths. On July 20, 2006, the New York Dolls appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, followed by a live performance in Philadelphia at the WXPN All About The Music Festival, and on July 22, 2006, a taped appearance on The Henry Rollins Show. On August 18, 2006, the band performed in a free concert at New York's Seaport Music.

In October 2006, the band embarked on a UK tour, with Sylvain taking time while in Glasgow to speak to John Kilbride of STV. The discussion covered the band's history and the current state of their live show and songwriting, with Sylvain commenting that "even if you come to our show thinking 'how can it be like it was before,' we turn that around 'cos we've got such a great live rock 'n roll show".[7]

In November 2006, the Dolls began headlining "Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents the Rolling Rock and Roll Show," about 20 live gigs with numerous other bands. In April 2007, the band played in Australia and New Zealand, appearing at the V Festival with Pixies, Pet Shop Boys, Gnarls Barkley, Beck, Jarvis Cocker and Phoenix.

On September 22, 2007, New York Dolls were removed from the current artists section of Roadrunner Records' website, signifying the group's split with the label. The band played the O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park, London on July 4, 2008, with Morrissey and Beck and the Lounge On The Farm Festival on July 12, 2008. On November 14, 2008, it was announced that the producer of their first album, Todd Rundgren, would be producing a new album, which will be followed by a world tour. The finishing touches on the album were made in Rundgren's studio on the island of Kauai.[8] The album, Cause I Sez So, was released on May 5, 2009 on Atco Records.[9]

The New York Dolls, performing at the Burlington Sound of Music festival in 2010

The band played at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 21, 2009, and a show at London's 100 Club on May 14, 2009 supported by Spizzenergi. On March 18, 2010, the band announced another two concert dates at the KOKO club in Camden, London and the Academy in Dublin on April 20. In December 2010, it was announced the band would release their fifth album. The album, Dancing Backward in High Heels, featuring new guitarist Frank Infante (formerly of Blondie) was released on March 15, 2011.[10][11]

On March 1, 2011, it was announced the New York Dolls would be the opening act for a summer tour featuring Mötley Crüe and Poison. They announced a new lineup for the tour, featuring guitarist Earl Slick, who held previous stints with David Bowie and John Lennon, Bassist Kenny Aaronson, who toured with Bob Dylan in 1988. Formerly of Dust and since the early 1990s and on hiatis, The John Eddie Band...drummer Jason Sutter, formerly of Foreigner and Smash Mouth. Both Slick and Aaronson came to the band through their participation with David Johansen on the album Take It Or Leave It – A Tribute To The Original Queens of Noise: The Runaways. Coincidentally, Aaronson was once a member of Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.

In October 2011, the New York Dolls play 5 dates in Australia. Once the summer tour of the US had finished the Dolls embarked on the tour of Australia for which Brian Delaney returned on drums, he sat out the summer tour for family reasons, the band are also to support Alice Cooper on a short tour of the UK in late October 2011

Members

Current members
  • David Johansen – vocals, harmonica (1971–1976, 2004–present)
  • Sylvain Sylvain – guitar, bass, piano (1971–1976, 2004–present)
  • Brian Delaney – drums (2005–2011, 2011–present)
  • Kenny Aaronson – bass (2011–present)
  • Earl Slick – guitar (2011–present)
Former members
  • Johnny Thunders – guitar, vocals (1971–1975; died 1991)
  • Arthur Kane – bass guitar (1971–1975, 2004; died 2004)
  • Billy Murcia – drums (1971–1972; died 1972)
  • Rick Rivets – guitar (1971)
  • Jerry Nolan – drums (1972–1975; died 1992)
  • Peter Jordan – bass (1975–1976)
  • Blackie Lawless – guitar (1975)
  • Chris Robison – keyboards (1975)
  • Tony Machine – drums (1975–1976)
  • Bobby Blaine – keyboards (1976)
  • Steve Conte – guitar, vocals (2004–2010)
  • Gary Powell – drums (2004)
  • Sami Yaffa – bass (2005–2010)
  • Brian Koonin – keyboards (2005–2006)
  • Frank Infante – guitar (2010–2011)
  • Jason Hill – bass (2010–2011)
  • Jason Sutter – drums (2011)

Discography

[1]

Demo albums

Studio albums

Live albums

Compilation albums

Singles

References

External links