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The New York Dolls

O.G. Glam Punk Returns

It wasn’t too long after their debut that fans and critics alike started using the phrase "The Only Band That Matters" when referring to the mighty Clash. The line reminds us that not only were the boys from Brixton (and other not so bad parts of town) the reigning kings of everything important and cool, but also that a band could actually "matter". You see, back in the day, rock and roll was important. It was something to be revered and fought for. If you were in a band in the late 70s, you meant it.

Very few bands meant it as much as The New York Dolls…unless you think you could also do a bunch of dope, dress up in women’s clothing and create some of the most outlandish racket thus produced. The Dolls led the charge down the dirty road that solidified New York City as the real birthplace of punk rock. Yeah we know that Malcolm and Vivian started the Kings Road clubhouse that dressed Siouxsie Sioux and brought Johnny Rotten and his pistol fuckers together, but that was later -- after they’d written the press release.

In 1973 the pop charts were wallowing in the muck created by overblown West Coast blow heads. The Eagles' "Desperado" and Steve Miller’s "The Joker" were big hits that year, but they shared the charts with Iggy and David. The Stooges had "Search and Destroy" and The New York Dolls had "Personality Crisis". Vocalist David Johansen and co. shared a lot with their mid-western partners in trash, but since New York had always been the fashion capital of the world, The Dolls decided to glam it up a bit. Meaning that glam, or at least adventure, was coming back to rock and roll.

A lot happened very quickly for The Dolls, and by 1976 drugs and breakups had decimated the group. The last three decades made an actor and lounge lizard out of Johansen and not too much else. The fact that, after thirty years, we’re witnessing a comeback -- of sorts, Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders won’t be making it unfortunately -- is a wondrously welcome treat. They have a great new record, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This, Johansen looks like he could go a few laps around the stage with Jagger, and the quintet, with ex-Hanoi Rocker Sami Yaffa on bass, burns it up. Too bad we’ll have to listen from the street; the gig’s sold out. Befitting for a band that still matters.

NY Dolls
at The Independent, Nov 8th