The New York Dolls
“New York Dolls” (1973)
This album’s cover photo of five tawdry looking men in outrageous drag was designed to stir controversy and curiosity. But only a few of the most adventurous rock fans were willing to give this pioneering group a chance.
It is one of rock’s great injustices that more people haven’t heard this historic album--or even know of the Dolls’ brief existence. Brimming with a sloppy insouciance, their debut album often is cited as one of the building blocks of the late ‘70s punk movement. The irreverent “Bad Girl” and the sassy “Vietnamese Baby” careen along with the sort of unpolished vigor that was becoming increasingly rare when “New York Dolls” appeared more than 20 years ago. And there’s no denying David Johansen’s bratty vocalizing on the punky pop-rock anthem “Trash.”
But unlike the MC5--fellow revolutionaries who more directly presaged the hard-core aspects of the coming punk rebellion--the Dolls had clearer roots in the rock mainstream. With its boogie-woogie piano textures and raunchy twin guitars, the hooky “Personality Crisis” is more apt to recall a mid-period Rolling Stones track than anything by the Dead Boys or the Ramones. Ditto with the blues-rock rumblings of “Looking For a Kiss.” There’s even an attractive acoustic ballad on the album, “Lonely Planet Boy,” that could pass for an early David Bowie number.
After “New York Dolls,” the band released one more studio album, “Too Much Too Soon,” which was given favorable reviews in 1974. But sales figures remained dismal, and the group (managed late in its career by Sex Pistols’ Svengali Malcolm McLaren) broke up in 1977.