Heroin-Punk-Drag-Queen-Glam Band? Where Do I Sign?
Is there anything sadder than a bunch of old rockers dusting off the leathers for one last embarrassing stab at glory? Or is there anything more insulting than a formerly great band putting together a semi-original line-up for hand full of quick-change cash grabs? Nope. Not if the band is still half insane.
New York Dolls were influential. Like, Velvet Underground influential. Everyone from the Ramones to the Smiths to the Darkness owes something to 1973's New York Dolls. Swagger above skill, fast above clear, hard above everything, the Dolls came to encapsulate the new 1970s rock and roll ideal: fuck the 60s, fuck social consciousness, music is about junk, violence, and getting off.
When New York Dolls stormed onto the American music scene in the early 1970s, everyone with eyes could guess that this wasn't going to be a long tenure. With their balls-out riffs, drug referenced lyrics, and cross-dressing predilections, the Dolls were certainly too much too soon (to borrow the title of their sophomore and final Lp.) Critics adored their self-titled debut. The Dolls sound took Rolling Stone chords, sucked all the estrogen out, put in more attitude than MC5, and cranked the mixer in semi-perfect time. It's one of those things that you aren't sure if it's retarded or brilliant.
After some successful tours and a critically unsatisfying second studio outing, New York Dolls disbanded. Guitarist Johnny Thunders went on to form the marked unglam Heartbreakers. Singer David Johansen honed a sufferable lounge act that sharpened up into becoming his alter-ego "Buster Poindexter" in the 1980s. You might remember "Hot Hot Hot".
Then in the 1990s two original members died. Johnny Thunders overdosed in a New Orleans hotel room. Bass player "Killer" Kane died of cancer. And, presumably, the notion of a reunion.
Then long-time fan and biographer Morrissey started making phone calls in mid-2004. He asked the surviving Dolls to do one last gig: Britain's unmatched Reading Festival. New York Dolls agreed. The gig was a success, a tour ensued, and now New York Dolls are coming to Toronto.
Now, with two dead members, one good album (thirty-two years ago), and a proven inability to balance the rigors of touring and private demons, chances of live excellence seemed less-than-slim, right? Wrong. Johansen and the boys have been cock-strutting through Europe and North America with Live At Leeds caliber reviews obediently following them.
No one knows exactly why a bunch of aged, chewed up, junky, pervy geezers got hungry again. But be bloody thankful they did.
New York Dolls sleaze their way into The Phoenix on Saturday June 11th. Tickets are $29. Make your record collection proud of you for once.
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