New York Dolls
New York Dolls (1971-1976, 2004-2011): a Punk band from New York, New York, USA.
avid Johansen (vocals), Johnny Thunders (Real Name: John Genzale; guitar/vocals; who replaced original member Rick Rivets that left to form the Brats soon after), Arthur Kane (bass) and Jerry Nolan (drums; who replaced Billy Murcia who had died in his bath on 6 November 1972 - not of a drug overdose itself as was widely believed: see notes at end) and Sylvain Sylvain (Real Name: Sil Mizrahi; guitar/vocals; replaced Jack Rivits) were the founding line-up for influential punkrock rock act New York Dolls. After signing to 'Mercury' in 1973, they immediately began work on an eponymous debut with Todd Rundgren at the production desk that was ultimately released later that same year.
New York Dolls and their debut album was a successful proto-punk rock knock off of visceral rock n' Roll in the style of MC5 or Pretty Things. The Rolling Stones was another obvious reference point, with Johansen a near twin for Mick Jagger while in heavy make-up or audio styles; Thunder coming across as a glam-Rock Keith Richards. The 'Dolls glitter filled transvestite attire also borrowed heavily from 1966 Rolling Stones taking it to an almost cartoonish appearance. What they lacked in musical skill they gained in attitude with tracks like Personality Crisis and Trash. But the band was unhappy with the production and the album's lack of sales, and so Shangri-La's producer George Morton worked with them for the release of Too Much Too Soon (1974). Sadly, the band was still linked up with the wrong production and the resulting sound left the music press unimpressed. Their label, 'Mercury', dumped them soon after.
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The bad press further pushed the band's demise, a demise that came fast. But as the decision was being made, Sex Pistols buddy Malcolm McLaren stepped in with a last-ditch effort to save the act by revamping their image and failed.
After their return to New York, the band resumed playing shows in the US and Canada. Their show at the Beacon Theater, on New Year's Eve, 1975 met with critical acclaim. After a drunken argument with Sylvain, Robison was fired and replaced by pianist/keyboardist Bobbie Blaine.
Thunders left first in 1975 to form The Heartbrakers (and subsequently died of a drug overdose on 23rd April 1991), while Sylvain and Johansen sacked Kane before folding it up themselves.
Johansen went onto a solo career to record several albums with Staten Island Boys' Thomas Trask (guitar), Johnny Rao (guitar), Buzz Verno (ex-Cherry Vanilla; bass), Franki La Rocka (ex-Cheery Vanilla; drums) titled David Johansen (1978), In Style (1979), Here Comes The Night (1979) and Live It Up (1982) to return in 1985 with Sweet Revenge under the revised line-up of Joe Delia (keyboards), David Neilson (guitar), Brett Cartwright (bass) and Dennis McDermott (drums), not to mention his 1988 solo set of Buster Poindexter & His Banshees Of Blue with Buster Poindexter (1988).
Despite their short existence the New York Dolls proved to be a hugely influential act, especially with the glam metal bands of the 1980s.
Author, singer and songwriter Morrissey (Real Name: Steven Patrick Morrissey) was a longtime fan of the band and head of their 1970s UK fan club, and organized a reunion of the three surviving members of the band's classic line-up (Johansen, Sylvain and Kane) for the Meltdown Festival in London on June 16, 2004. The reunion led to a live LP and DVD on Morrissey's 'Attack' label, as well as the documentary film, New York Doll, on the life of Arthur Kane. Future plans to capitalize on this and the band's new found fame were halted by Kane's sudden death from leukemia one month later on July 13, 2004.
In July 2005, the two surviving members announced a tour and the new album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This (2006). Along with the album, the new membership of Steve Conte (guitars), Sami Yaffa (ex-Hanoi Rocks; bass), Brian Delaney (drums) and Brian Koonin (keyboards) was introduced.
September 2007, would see New York Dolls removed from their label, 'Roadrunner Records' roster. That's OK, for they were picked up by 'Atco' for the follow-up, Cause I Sez So (2009) and Dancing Backward in High Heels (2011).
On March 1, 2011, New York Dolls would embark on what would be their last major tour. That summer tour would see them as the opening act for Motley Crue and Poison with a new lineup of Earl Slick (guitar, who held previous stints with David Bowie and John Lennon), and Kenny Aaronson (bass, who had toured with Bob Dylan, and drummer Jason Sutter, formerly of Foreigner). The act split soon after, possibly for good this time.
Footnote: Billy Murcia's death:
While on a brief tour of England in 1972, Murcia was invited to a party, where he passed out from an accidental drug overdose. He was put in a bathtub and force-fed coffee in an attempt to revive him. Unfortunately due to a moment of inattetnion, it resulted in asphyxiation/drowning. He was found dead on the morning of November 6, 1972, at the age of 21.
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The New York Dolls in 2006
Photo by: Jay Rusnock
CC BY 2.0
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