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New York Dolls

The New York Dolls created punk rock before there was a term for it. Building on the Rolling Stones' dirty rock & roll, Mick Jagger's androgyny, girl group pop, the Stooges' anarchic noise, and the glam rock of David Bowie and T. Rex, the New York Dolls created a new form of hard rock that presaged both punk rock and heavy metal. Their drug-fueled, shambolic performances influenced a generation of musicians in New York and London, who all went on to form punk bands. And although they self-destructed quickly, the band's first two albums remain among the most popular cult records in rock & roll history.

All of the members of the New York Dolls played in New York bands before the band formed in late 1971. Guitarists Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets, bassist Arthur Kane, and drummer Billy Murcia were joined by vocalist David Johansen. Early in 1972, Rivets was replaced by Syl Sylvain and the group began playing regularly in Lower Manhattan, particularly at the Mercer Arts Center. Within a few months, they had earned a dedicated cult following, but record companies were afraid of signing the Dolls because of their cross-dressing and blatant vulgarity.

Late in 1972, the Dolls embarked on their first tour of England. During the tour, drummer Murcia died after mixing drugs and alcohol. He was replaced by Jerry Nolan. After Nolan joined the band, the Dolls finally secured a record contract with Mercury Records. Todd Rundgren -- whose sophisticated pop seemed at odds with the band's crash-and-burn rock & roll -- produced the band's debut New York Dolls, which appeared in the summer of 1973. The record received overwhelmingly positive reviews, but it didn't stir the interest of the general public; the album peaked at number 116 on the U.S. charts. The band's follow-up, Too Much Too Soon, was produced by the legendary girl group producer George "Shadow" Morton. Although the sound of the record was relatively streamlined, the album was another commercial failure, only reaching number 167 upon its early summer 1974 release.

Following the disappointing sales of the Dolls' two albums, Mercury Records dropped the band. No other record labels were interested in the group, so the Dolls decided to hire a new manager, the British Malcolm McLaren, who would soon become famous for managing the Sex Pistols. With the Dolls, McLaren began developing his skill for turning shock into invaluable publicity. Although he made it work for the Pistols just a year later, all of his strategies backfired for the Dolls. McLaren made the band dress completely in red leather and perform in front of the U.S.S.R.'s flag, all of which meant to symbolize the Dolls' alleged communist allegiance. The new approach only made record labels more reluctant to sign the band and members soon began leaving the group.

By the middle of 1975, Thunders and Nolan left the Dolls. The remaining members, Johansen and Sylvain, fired McLaren and assembled a new lineup of the band. For the next two years, the duo led a variety of different incarnations of the band, to no success. In 1977, Johansen and Sylvain decided to break up the band permanently. Over the next two decades, various outtakes collections, live albums, and compilations were released by a variety of labels and the New York Dolls' two original studio albums never went out of print.

Upon the Dolls' breakup, David Johansen began a solo career that would eventually metamorphose into his lounge-singing alter ego, Buster Poindexter, in the mid-'80s. Syl Sylvain played with Johansen for two years before he left to pursue his own solo career. Johnny Thunders formed the Heartbreakers with Jerry Nolan after they left the group in 1975. Over the next decade, the Heartbreakers would perform sporadically and Thunders would record an occasional solo album. On April 23, 1991, Thunders was found dead in his room at the St. Peter House in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nolan performed at a tribute concert for Thunders later in 1991; a few months later, he died of a stroke at the age of 40.

In 2004, former Smiths vocalist Morrissey -- who was once the president of a British New York Dolls fan club -- invited the surviving members of the New York Dolls to perform at the 2004 Meltown Festival, a music and cultural festival that was being curated that year by the singer. To the surprise of many, David Johansen, Syl Sylvain, and Arthur Kane agreed to the gig, with Steve Conte (from Johansen's solo band) standing in for Thunders and Gary Powell from the Libertines sitting in on drums. The group's set was well received by critics and fans (and was recorded for release on DVD and compact disc), which led to offers for other festival appearances, but only a few weeks after the Meltdown show, Kane checked himself into a Los Angeles hospital with what he thought was a severe case of the flu. Kane's ailment was soon diagnosed as leukemia, and he died only a few hours later, on July 13, 2004, at age 55.

With Sam Yaffa (of Hanoi Rocks) on bass, the remaining Dolls played a hometown tribute to their fallen brothers at Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival in New York City on August 14, 2004, reuniting again (this time with Brian Delaney on drums) in 2006 for the all-new CD/DVD One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. The Todd Rundgren-produced 'Cause I Sez So appeared on Rhino in 2009. A fifth studio album, Dancing Backward in High Heels, featuring both Johansen and Sylvain and produced and mixed by Jason Hill, appeared from 429 Records early in 2011. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Private World: The Complete Studio Demos 1972-73

Disc 1
Disc 2
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Track List: From Here To Eternity - The Live Bootleg Box Set

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3

Comments

Part of the trifecta of what would become known as the punk aesthetic (the other key bands being MC5 and The Stooges), each bringing a key component to the table (New York Dolls being the most glam of the three). Amazing band, and criminally underappreci a t e d (mainly by radio stations) when they initially recorded.
When I say I'm in love you best be leave I'm in love, luv
I think, New York Dolls, are a must have in anyone's collection. They are a Classic, Historic, Underground Punk Band. Right there with Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop back in the day. New York Dolls will stay on my Pandora<><
Buster Poindexter? I hardly knew'er.....
Along with the Ramones and Dead boys the best punk bands EVER !!
What about the fugs
claricentp91 7
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shawnnavuz71 1
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i grew up in NY and this girl in high school would only let me be intimate with her after a show.We saw them 17 times.One night twice.Saw them with the dictators,De a d boys even KISS.They were awesome and still are
micmock
Love them dolls!
eugenekrauss 9
dolls and the dictators at cbgbs the good old days
And Elvis and Eddie Cochran were punk long before that. And the Dolls have seen enough drama right on the subway train. They were never boring and never mediocre and they played real rocknroll. Posing as what?
The New York Dolls created Punk before there was a term for it ? Who writes these reviews ? The Standells, The Seeds and other groups were Punk in 1965. And the New York Dolls are mediocre and boring poseurs.
Always been one of my favorite groups, always will be
cobra136
Was crazy for the Dolls in High School! I am the original fan from the start .
t.walls1
You are answer
Wish I appreciated this music more when I was young.
kapnkevman2
Thunders did not die from an overdose of heroin. He shot what he believed to be smack, but was instead something like PCP (toxicology tests were inconclusive ) . His corpse was found in a position indicating he was trying to hide under the couch of his seedy hotel room. Sad death of a iconic figure.
I think Poison ripped off The New York Dolls' image.The New York Dolls were dressing in women's clothing and makeup long before them.
wjspitt
Not going to get into all the Stones and Ramones comparison discussion. Just want to say I like NYDs for their own music and style. I Ain't Got Nothin' more to say.
ha ha ! ! Buster Poindexter.
One of the best debut albums of all-time.
AHHHHHHHHHHH H H H H H H ! ! !
Seen them with the Motley Crue tour here recently---T h e y put on a Great Show.....Sli t c h .
milosdad
When I was 13 and, not too educated musically, I bought tix to what I thought was a NYD show. It was Queen. I never got to see the NYD but b/c of them I witnessed one of the best bands and singers in rock history. (No need to argure the last point. That's the way I feel about Queen) Openers Al Stewart and Brownseville Station weren't bad either.
Good stuff!
...."THE prototype for all the punk bands that followed"... . h e l l o ? JJTM. I totally agree with you. Ramones had nothing to do with NYDs. Both great bands from different backgrounds/ p e r s e p e c t i v e s and a few years apart.
jasonjohnsto n e m u s i c
To say that the Ramones are better is stupid, it's apples and oranges.
...."all the punk..." ? Well, many, but not all punk bands were into the queen side....
Godfathers of glam punk.
Check out the book I, Doll. Good stuff!
The Dolls were THE prototype for all the punk bands that followed. My favorite band of all time!
Pretty good. The Ramones are better, but these guys set the stage for them.
they have nice shoes. i want those shoes.
flynnbm4
All Rock n Roll is fat and bloated compared to these gods. New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders and The (better) Heartbreaker s , and even some David Johansen solo(Buster Poindexter the exception)gi v e you the spirit of Rock N Roll.Aw hell I even like some Buster P.
msheydayi
excuse me "endtimes4u" , just because they were some 19 year old kids having fun doesn't mean they were gay. They did get serious recognition and then their drummer died the night before they signed to the Rolling Stones' label. Then Todd Rundgren produced their record. They were in the same sphere as Iggy Pop and David Bowie at Max's. You're just jealous that they had such style and balls and got women you couldn't dream of wearing clothes you only wear behind closed doors....
real punk right here
The New York Dolls are probably my favorite rock band of all time. They compete in my heart with David Bowie, The Psychedelic Furs, Morphine, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Tubes, Betty Blowtorch, The Ramones, The Runaways...A n d they stomp all of them.
I Agree they did represent a new age of music and they may have only cut a couple of albums but they rocked harder then any around...and they were def cooler then warpig!!
don1983
I Love them "poor little faggots sealed with a KISS" Damn the Dolls were cool.
Much cooler than YOU anyways.
Uhh, put on some guy clothes. No wonder they didn't get any serious label recognition. There is always San Fran-Siko for you "Dolls"
I like the Dolls, but I would hardly call them America's answer to the Stones.
They recorded only two studio releases, would not even mention the two in the same breath.
N.Y. Dolls were true rock'n'roll, no question about it. They were OUR answer,(over here in America)to the UK's Rolling Stones. Those few songs they recorded in the 70's still sound good today,(compa r e them to Greenday's stuff).But Rock Music was created to be party music, or feel good music-not the kind of stuff YES, ELP, ELO...ect,(s y m p h o n i c / m u l t i - n o t e stuff),that those bands do. N.Y. Dolls ? They were the REAL DEAL !
I purchased "Too much too soon " in 73 - boy that added to my record collection, of course those not understandin g the music scence thought I was a pillow chewer - The N.Y. Dolls opened up a genre of punk / glam - not many bands went that route. These guys were a true club band - drunk, raw, f'd up, and underground not even collage stations would play them. Anyone got lipstick?
hey, pandora! i just tried to add wayne/jayne county and the electric chairs to my dolls station and stumped you guys. get on it.....essen t i a l nyc proto punk
msheydayi
the dolls should be everyone's favorite band
New York Dolls great f**king band, I saw Jonny Thunders at the Peppermint Lounge on 47st early 80's, saw S.Sylvan at a club called Network in the mid 80's and saw Buster a couple of times at The Ritz so I feel I got to see most of them although not together but at least I have that!
drutledg
Are the Feederz on here at all?
i saw the documentary as well before id ever heard any of theyre music. after watchin it i got the two albums and was impressed.
I love the Dolls, even though "buster" really creeps me out. I stumbled on them through Pandora (Thanks!!) The I saw the documentary on IFC. GOD that is so sad about Arthur. I hope he does better in the next life. If David ever sees this I was really moved at the end when you played for Arthur. Thumbs up!

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