New York Dolls
Formed in New York City in 1971, the New York Dolls are an American Rock group whose proto-punk sound was to not only inspire such great punk-rock acts as The Ramones, The Clash and the Sex Pistols, but many more diverse bands from Kiss to Guns N’Roses to The Smiths. Their visual style was to become the basis of many new wave and 1980’s glam metal, and they also began the local New York scene that later gave bloody birth to Blondie, Television and Talking Heads.
The band in its original form was created by Sylvian Sylvian (so good they named him twice) and Billy Murcia, two school friends who used to play in a band called ‘The Pox’ together who recruited Johnny Thunders to play bass. The band called themselves ‘The Dolls’, a name which apparently was inspired by a doll repair shop called the New York Doll Hospital which was opposite Sylvian and Murcia’s clothing business. The band soon dis-banded when Sylvian left to spend some time in London.
Thunders was then recruited by Arthur Kane and Rick Rivets who had been playing together in The Bronx. He suggested replacing the original drummer with his old band-mate, Murcia. After a turbulent few months of twisting and turning, the band settled into its unsettled primary form, consisting of singer David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets (soon to be replaced by Sylvian Sylvian), bass guitarist Arthur Kane, and Billy Murcia on drums. They played their first gig on Christmas eve, 1971 at a homeless shelter.
Although their rock influences were obvious, early Rolling Stones, MC5 and The Stooges – they blended this with a heady cocktail of rhythm and blues, Marc Bolan-esque glam rock, and a few shakes of something indefinably original. The band was characterised by a certain self-conscious wit, Johansen’s on-stage aggression and energy carried through their records, giving depth and thoughtfulness to what has otherwise been considered a relatively bland vocal range.
Their songs were predominantly short vignettes about life in the New York underground; songs like Bad Girl and Who Are The Mystery Girls perfectly captured the vital energy seething below the city. Although they self-destructed fairly quickly, their two albums New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon created Punk Rock before the term even existed. In 2004 former Smith's vocalist Morrissey, who was former president of a British New York Dolls fan club, invited the band to reform at the Meltdown festival which he was curating that year. The set was well received and resulted in a live DVD being released, along with a number of offers for other festival dates. Unfortunately Kane had to check himself into hospital with what he thought was a bad case of flu, her turned out to have Leukemia and died only a few hours after. The band have since recorded new material which was released in 2006 entitled One Day it Will Please Us To Remember Even This.
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