Thursday, October 19, 2006
New York Dolls - S/T ( Mercury Records 1973 )
Classic Proto-Punk Debut From New York "Transvestites"! The original "Over The Edge" Rock n Roll.
The New York Dolls are a rock band formed in New York City in 1971.
They found little success during their existence, but the New York Dolls prefigured much of what was to come in the punk rock era and even later; the Dolls' over-the-top crossdressing influenced the look of many glam metal groups, and their shambling, sloppy but highly energetic playing style set the tone for many later rock and roll bands.
They got their big break when Rod Steward invited them to open for him at a London concert. Shortly thereafter, Murcia died of accidental suffocation (after he passed out from drugs and alcohol, groupies put him in a cold bath and forced coffee down his throat). He was succeeded by Jerry Nolan, though future Richard Hell and Ramones drummer Marc Bell (Marky Ramone) later claimed he auditioned to take Murcia's place.
The band was influenced by vintage rhythm and blues, the early Rolling Stones, classic American girl group songs, and anarchic post-psychedelic bands such as the MC 5 and the Stooges, as well as then-current glam rockers such as Mark Bolan and David Bowie. They did it their own way, creating 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 kitch that retains a menacing, malevolent edge."
Johansen's energy made up for what was then a not-too-strong voice; Thunders's fuzzy guitar sound became a near-instant band trademark, as did Sylvain's minimalistic rhythm guitar, Arthur's bouncing basslines and Nolan's tom tom-heavy drumming style. Sartorially, the Dolls looked like a Halloween party gang of transvestites who had broken into the Rolling Stones' and Marc Bolan's wardrobe trunks and made it even more androgynously exaggerated. Musically, their repertoire---mostly written by Johansen (he spelled his name JoHansen at the time) and Thunders, occasionally by Johansen and Sylvain---was a series of unapologetically high-energy, demimonde expressions of the seamy New York underground from which they emerged, particularly through their legendary shows at the Mercer Arts Center. Songs like "Personality Crisis," "Trash," "Frankenstein," and "Jet Boy" were seminal squalls of guitar abuse, making up in attitude what they lacked in musical ability. But for all their squall the Dolls didn't entirely lack for subtlety; "Subway Train," for one, was as striking a piece of songwriting and even musicianship as the band could execute.
Those and six others (including a speedballing cover of Bo Diddleys "Pills") turned up on their eponymous debut album, 1973's New York Dolls, on the Mercury label. Produced by Todd Rundgren, some critics think he laid too dense a hand on the band's raw thrust while others think he gave them precisely the guidance they needed to let the best of their singular snarl step forth. The album received mostly positive reviews, but sales were sluggish. In any case, a Stereo Review magazine reviewer in 1973 compared the Dolls' guitar playing to lawnmowers!